Teaching English to ADHD Learners
(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a common disorder that often results in learning difficulties. People with this disorder act impulsively and are easily distracted. They may also exhibit hyperactive behaviour. While some specialists consider ADHD a behavioural disorder, others call it a cognitive disorder. Research suggests that ADHD is a neurological disorder stemming from inefficiencies in the brain.
The cause of ADHD is unknown, however brain scans indicate that it may be caused by abnormal size, function, and form of the brain’s frontal lobe. There may also be an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. ADHD is believed to be inherited in most cases, however, it is also prevalent in premature babies and children who have experienced head injuries.
How ADD Differs from ADHD
The disorder ADD (attention deficit disorder) was renamed ADHD to account for the “hyperactivity” that is often one of the major symptoms found in people with the disorder. The disability can exist without the presence of hyperactivity, in which case it is referred to as a subset of ADHD called ADD. Both terms are often used to describe the same disorder.
Myths About ADHD
- ADHD is caused by poor parenting.
- ADHD is caused by poor diet (though poor diet may worsen symptoms).
- ADHD is caused by too much exposure to technology.
- ADHD symptoms can only be treated with medicine.
- Children grow out of ADHD.
- Only boys are born with ADHD. (It is more commonly diagnosed in boys.)
Symptoms and Warning Signs of ADHD
Children can exhibit ADHD symptoms at a very young age, and are often diagnosed before the age of seven. On the other hand, some adults do not realize they have this disorder until their own children are diagnosed with it. Some symptoms, such as hyperactivity, may be less severe as a child ages and learns coping mechanisms. Parents and teachers who recognize a number of the following symptoms in a child may want to consider having the child formally tested for ADHD by a medical professional.
- has short attention span
- tunes out easily if not interested in subject matter
- doesn’t follow instructions.
- speaks out inappropriately (no inner censor)
- can't wait one's turn in a group setting
- lacks empathy
- has difficulty completing a task
- doesn't properly assess dangers or consequences
- has difficulty engaging in quiet activities
- is forgetful when it comes to daily routines
- has difficulty filtering irrelevant information
- speaks louder than peers
- often speaks with false starts, repetition, and grammatical errors
- takes lots of breaks when writing and forgets the task
- has difficulty making friends
It is also common for children to exhibit additional symptoms and emotions, such as depression and anger, from related behavioural or learning disorders.
Strategies for teaching students with ADHD
If you have a student who has been diagnosed with ADHD in your classroom, you may be eligible for extra help from a tutor or aide. Whether or not you have help with your special needs student, you will need to explore a variety of strategies to help your student cope in a classroom environment. Keep in mind that a traditional classroom is often very stressful for an ADHD student who finds it difficult to sit still, remain quiet, and concentrate on a task. Here are some strategies that teachers recommend:
- provide special seating at the front of the class
- reduce distractions
- encourage students to make to do lists
- encourage the use of daily planners
- provide activity breaks and exercise to boost dopamine and serotonin (some teachers place a stationary bike at the back of the class)
- give warning before calling on a student for an answer
- determine personal learning styles (visual, auditory, print)
- provide ways for student to see his/her improvement
- discourage self-deprecation
- be patient while waiting for responses
- help the student and his/her classmates and parents learn about ADHD
- teach the student how to apologize for impulsive behaviour
- provide a calm environment for assessment
ADHD and Language Learning
ADHD is often associated with deficiencies in the frontal lobe of the brain. This area is responsible for language processing and memory. While ADHD is not always classified as a learning disability, people with ADHD often require extra help from speech pathologists and other language specialists. Many foreign language teachers find that a multi-sensory approach works best when teaching learners with ADHD. ADHD students may find it difficult to focus on listening in a distracting environment. Certain accommodations, such as providing learners with scripts can be helpful for improving listening skills. Mneumonic devices, interactive computer programs, and private tutoring sessions may also help. ADHD students may qualify for exemption from the foreign language credit if they are diagnosed with a learning disability.