Summarized by Cindy Perras, M.Ed., OCT
Educational Consultant, LDAO
ADHD [i] stands for “Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder”. When considering a diagnosis of ADHD, professionals and clinicians refer to the criteria outlined in the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly known as DSM-5, which was developed by the American Psychiatric Association.
According to DSM-5, ADHD is characterized by a pattern of behaviour, present in multiple settings (e.g., school and home), which can result in performance issues in social, educational, or work settings.
Symptoms are divided into two main categories:
- hyperactivity and impulsivity
The symptoms include behaviours such as:
- failure to pay close attention to details,
- difficulty organizing tasks and activities,
- excessive talking,
- fidgeting or an inability to remain seated in appropriate situations.
3 types of ADHD
Based on the types of symptoms, three kinds (presentations) of ADHD may occur:
Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
- if enough symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for six months prior to diagnosis
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation
- if enough symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, but not inattention, were present for six months prior to diagnosis
- if enough symptoms of both criteria, inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for six months prior to diagnosis
With respect to prevalence, Tannock (2007), indicates that ADHD, as a neurobiological condition, affects between 5 and 12 percent of children worldwide, with impairing levels of inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive behaviour.
What Might ADHD Look Like in the Classroom?
Based on diagnostic information in DSM-5, the CDC provides an illustrative summary of how ADHD might present in the classroom:
The student often:
- fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities;
- has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities;
- does not seem to listen when spoken to directly;
- does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, gets side-tracked);
- has trouble organizing tasks and activities;
- avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework);
- loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones);
- is easily distracted;
- is forgetful in daily activities.
Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
The student often:
- fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat;
- leaves his or her seat in situations when remaining seated is expected;
- runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless);
- is unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly;
- is"on the go" acting as if "driven by a motor";
- talks excessively;
- blurts out an answer before a question has been completed;
- has trouble waiting for his/her turn;
- interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).
Is ADHD a Learning Disability?
ADHD and learning disabilities (LDs) are not the same thing, although there are similarities. ADHD can impact learning and behaviour and according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), approximately one-third of individuals with LDs have ADHD too, which causes confusion for teachers, parents and students.
Both ADHD and LDs are neurological disorders affecting how the brain receives and processes information; however, with respect to treatment, ADHD is often treated with medication and therapy, and LDs with educational and behavioural approaches.
Resources and Strategies for Teaching Students with ADHD
Numerous organizations, through print and online means, provide instructional strategies and suggestions for teaching students with ADHD. This section of the summary highlights some Canadian resources; additional suggestions are included in the Resource section of this summary.
What Works? Research into Practice
In Ontario, the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, in partnership with the Ontario Association of Deans of Education, produced, “What Works? Research into Practice”, a research-into-practice series of monographs. Dr. Rosemary Tannock (a researcher at OISE/University of Toronto) authored one of the monograph series, “The Educational Implications of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder”, which provides a review of the research on ADHD and outlines educational implications, including suggestions on how teachers can support and improve executive functioning. Click here to open the monograph, "The Educational Implications of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder".
According to Tannock (2007), there is a need to reconceptualize ADHD, looking beyond difficult-to-manage behaviour, and viewing ADHD as a learning disorder, though one that differs from currently recognized reading or non-verbal LDs. In Ontario, twelve categories of exceptionality have been developed to assist in the identification and placement of exceptional students. Although ADHD is not named as a specific category of exceptionality, students with ADHD may present with characteristics that can be identified in the various categories such as Learning Disability or Behaviour. Reconceptualizing, or reframing a view of ADHD, may assist educators in providing appropriate programming and accommodations for students with ADHD.
TeachADHD is a collaboratively developed program, involving the following organizations: Hospital for Sick Children, TV Ontario, the Bluewater DSB, the York Region DSB, the Toronto Catholic DSB and York University's ABEL project. The mission of TeachADHD is to provide teachers and other educational professionals with resources and materials that have been developed specifically to bridge the substantial gap between the current neuroscientific understanding of ADHD and classroom practice. TeachADHD materials include a DVD, a Teacher's Resource Manual, and the TeachADHD website. According to the TeachADHD website, these resources and materials are relevant to teaching and supporting students who are inattentive, off-task, fidgety, restless, disorganized and have problems remembering and following instructions regardless of whether they have received a diagnosis of ADHD.
The TeachADHD website provides information and resources covering the following areas:
- ABCs of ADHD:
- Myths and Facts
- Rethinking ADHD from a Cognitive Perspective
- Rethinking ADHD in the Classroom
- Teaching Children with ADHD:
- Rethinking the Classroom
- Behaviour Support Strategies
- Home and School Connection
Teaching Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder: A Resource Guide for Teachers
The British Columbia Ministry of Education developed a comprehensive resource guide for teachers, entitled, “Teaching Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder: A Resource Guide for Teachers”. This guide addresses a number of key areas, including:
- What is ADHD? Click here to open the section of the resource guide, "What is ADHD?". Note: The definition of ADHD in the resource guide is based on the DSM-IV criteria; the guide was written before the DSM-5 was published.
- Addressing Learning and Behavioural Differences in the Classroom: Some General Considerations Click here to open the section of the resource guide, "Addressing Learning and Behavioural Differences in the Classroom: Some General Considerations".
- How Can ADHD be Effectively Managed? Click here to open the section of the resource guide, "How Can AD/HD Be Effectively Managed?"
- Planning for Success at School Click here to open the section of the resource guide, "Planning for Success at School".
- Case Studies for students in grades 1, 3, 5, 8 and 11 Click here to open the section of the resource guide on "Case Studies".
Focusing on Success: Teaching Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
Similar in scope, Alberta Education developed a resource guide for teachers entitled, “Focusing on Success: Teaching Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder”, for students in grades 1 through 12. This resource guide includes chapters on:
- Introduction to ADHD
- Building Home-School Partnerships
- Understanding Approaches to Managing AD/HD
- Creating Supportive Classroom Environments
- Choosing Instructional Strategies
- Building Connections and Creating Hope
- Moving to Independence
- Keeping Informed
- Appendix A: Sample Tools
- Appendix B: Recommended Books
Take Ten Spotlight Series
Another Canadian resource is “The Take Ten Spotlight Series”, a bilingual, online resource developed for teachers by the CanLearn Society (formerly Calgary Learning Centre) with funding from Alberta Education. The strategies modelled are of universal benefit to all students and are particularly effective as targeted supports for students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD. The Take Ten Spotlight Series includes 5 videos and 6 complementary tip sheets, which are available in English and French. The videos feature narration and interviews with secondary students, teachers and professionals, such as psychologists and staff from the CanLearn Society. Each video is a 10-minute tool that:
- Explains specific learning difficulties
- Shows what these difficulties look like in the classroom
- Provides proven strategies and tools that work
Related Resources on the LD@school website
American Psychiatric Association. Accessed from:http://www.psych.org/practice/dsm
National Center for Learning Disabilities.Accessed from: https://www.ncld.org/
Tannock, R. (2007). The Educational Implications of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. What Works? Research into Practice. Research Monograph #3. The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat: Toronto, Ontario.
[i] According to the NCLD, ADD is considered one of three subtypes of ADHD. The term ADD is still used by many parents and teachers, but since 1994, doctors have been calling it by its formal name: ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type.