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Identifying Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in the Classroom: Eight Things Teachers Should Ask Themselves

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the phrase that is used to describe children who have significant problems with high levels of distractibility or inattention, impulsiveness, and often with excessive motor activity levels. There may be deficits in attention and impulse control without hyperactivity being present. In fact, recent studies indicate that as many as 40% of the ADD kids may not be hyperactive.

Research shows that there are several things happening in the brain of the ADHD child which causes the disorder. The main problem is that certain parts of the Central Nervous System are under-stimulated, while other brain regions may be over-stimulated. In some hyperactive kids there is also an uneven flow of blood in the brain, with some parts of the brain getting too much blood flow, and other centers not getting as much. Certain medications, or other forms of treatment can be used to address these problems.

Often the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder child has special educational needs, though not always. Most Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder kids can be successful in the regular classroom with some help.

As a teacher you cannot diagnose a child, but you can ask yourself these questions:

1. Can the child pay attention in class?

Some ADHD kids can pay attention for a while, but typically can't sustain it, unless they are really interested in the topic. Other ADHD kids cannot pay attention to just one thing at a time, such as not being able to pay attention to just you when you are trying to teach them something. There are many different aspects to "attention," and the ADHD child would have a deficit in at least one aspect of it.

2. Is the child impulsive? Does he call out in class? Does he bother other kids with his impulsivity?

These kids often cannot stop and think before they act, and they rarely think of the consequences of their actions first. Impulsivity tends to hurt peer relationships, especially in junior high school years.

3. Does he have trouble staying in his seat when he's supposed to? How is he on the playground? Can he wait in line, or does he run ahead of the rest of the class? Does he get in fights often?

4. Can he wait? Emotionally, these children often cannot delay gratification.

5. Is he calm? They are constantly looking for clues as to how they are doing. They may display a wide range of moods, which are often on the extremes: they act too sad, too angry, too excited, too whatever.

6. Is the child working at grade level? Is he working at his potential? Does he/she stay on task well? Does he fidget a lot? Does he have poor handwriting?

There are at least six different types of ADHD. Most ADHD kids have trouble staying on task, staying seated, and many have terrible handwriting.

7. Does he have difficulty with rhythm? Or the use of his time? Does he lack awareness about "personal space" and what is appropriate regarding touching others? Does he seem unable to read facial expressions and know their meanings?

Many children with ADHD also have Sensory Integration Dysfunctions (as many as 10% to 20% of all children might have some degree of Sensory Integration Dysfunction). SID is simply the ineffective processing of information received through the senses. As a result these children have problems with learning, development, and behavior.

8. Does he seem to be immature developmentally, educationally, or socially?

It has been suggested by research that children and teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may lag 20% to 40% behind children without ADHD developmentally. In other words, a ten year old with ADHD may behave, or learn, as you would expect a seven year old to behave or learn. A fifteen year old with ADHD may behave, or learn, as you would expect a ten year old to behave, or learn.

There is a lot to learn about ADHD. Both teachers and parents can learn more by visiting the ADHD Information Library's family of web sites, beginning with for hundreds of classroom interventions to help our children succeed in school.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity in the Classroom: Hints for Classroom Teachers

Since one out of twenty children have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it is important for teachers to understand both the myths and realities of the disorder. Here are some thoughts that teachers should consider:

1. Don't buy into the line, "He'd behave if he wanted to."

That may or may not be true. He may behave just fine from time to time, and if you encourage him, he may do well for long periods of time. But his problem is not that he does not want to behave, rather his problem has a medical basis which makes it hard for him to sustain self-control.

2. Understand that of all of the kids with ADD, about 60% or so are hyperactive, and that 40% or so are not hyper at all. Also know that about 60% are male, and about 40% are female. Not all kids with ADD will cause problems. The rest will just sit and stare. Only one out of three with the Attention Deficit Disorder will ever get help from a professional.

3. Don't dismiss the behaviors as either poor parenting or poor classroom management.

4. Before talking to the parents, get a second opinion from another teacher, the school psychologist, etc. When you do meet with the parents, make a list of the behaviors that you are concerned about. Don't try to diagnose the child yourself, as this will simply make the parents defensive. Instead, just report the observed behaviors and ask the parents to get it checked out.

5. Invite the parents to come in to your class and observe. More than one visit may be required, as often having the parent present the first time creates a "unique" situation which stimulates the child to do better than normal.

6. Be aware that the ADHD child often does very well in unique or novel situations, or in one-to-one situations. This would include a visit to a physician or a therapist to diagnose a problem. Also be aware that the worst place for an ADHD child is in the classroom setting. There are dozens of distractions, pressures, and rules that can be difficult for the child. And teachers, please be sure to visit us at to find over 500 classroom interventions to help children with ADHD be more successful in school. Good luck to you and your ADHD kids!!!



Sharing Your Tips, Tricks, and Experiences with Others...

This website served 94,007 professional educators and parents who read over 400,000 pages of information in 2004 alone. We're trying to make the site better with this revision, and we would like your help.

Ultimately we would like to build this site as a CMS site where teachers and parents can log on and add content directly to the site. However, because this is a fairly old site with existing and indexed web page titles, we cannot make that change easily. If any of you know how to make the transition easily, we'd sure like to know how. But it looks to us at this point that the best way to do that is just to start over and build a completely new site using CMS technology.

The best in-between solution is to add a Forum section to this site. We hope to have that running by the end of 2005. In the Forum section teachers and parents would be able to add content, share ideas, ask questions and get answers.

But until then, please be patient. And please share your tips, tricks, and experiences with us by sending them in an email to us. We will then manually add them to the web site, and of course, give you credit for the contribution. Just click here and we will generate the email form for you. Thanks!





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Information is presented by and the ADD ADHD Information Library's family of web sites. The information presented is for educational purposes only, and is not meant to replace appropriate medical advice. Always consult your physician or health care provider.

The information on this site may be printed and distributed to teachers and parents without obtaining the permission of the owners, as long as you refer to this web site specifically, and mention that the interventions are from our staff, and from other teachers.

Not one word on this site may be used for any commercial purposes without express written permission of the owners of the site: ADD ADHD in School.



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