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“I have been using BehaviourOnline with students throughout the term with great success. It gets across important points about their behaviour and attitudes.”

Francis Johnson,
Gladesmore School,
London (8th Dec 2018)

26 Jun 2008

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Do you have a difficult pupil in your class who is unable to keep still or concentrate? Science has a name for it: ADD/HD’

If the pupil in your classroom is constantly restless, behaves impulsively and finds it hard to concentrate, it may be a sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/HD).

The behaviour that characterises this disorder is usually first noticed at the age of three to four years, and boys are four to five times more likely to be affected than girls. Children are often irritable, aggressive and emotionally immature and may show no sense of danger, despite repeated warnings and explanations.

A number of conditions that affect the brain may be associated with this disorder, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and poor mental development. A difficult or traumatic childbirth may also be a contributing factor.

In some cases, tests will show no evidence of abnormal brain function and the behavioural disturbance may be caused by difficulties in the child’s social environment. Starting school often highlights the problem, or makes it worse.

The condition can have a severe impact on a child’s learning ability and make it difficult to work with classmates and make and keep friends.

As children suffering from ADD/HD get older, they may develop antisocial behaviour, such as swearing at visitors, without being aware of the consequences. They may grow to be more clumsy than their peers and have problems developing adult language skills.

There are no specific tests for ADD/HD, and a diagnosis is made based on reports of the child’s behaviour. The most successful results seem to be achieved by a combination of medication and counselling.
An educational psychologist may also be able to help you teach the pupil techniques for behaving in a structured and orderly manner within your classroom.

You can learn techniques to help you support the pupil in learning to modify behaviour patterns. There should be close liaison with the child’s parents who may want to investigate medication including methylphenidate (Ritalin), dextroamphetamine, chlorpromazine and diphenhydramine. These may be prescribed and can be dramatically beneficial.

The effect is greatest in children younger than five years old. Long-term use of some of these drugs has resulted in slowing of growth, so height and weight must be checked regularly.

Some parents believe that certain foods, in particular those containing artificial food colourings such as red candy-coated sweets, are responsible for their child’s behaviour. Complicated special diets are unlikely to be of benefit, but avoiding selected suspect foods may help.

Almost all children with this disorder improve on their own in later childhood, with the first positive signs usually beginning at the age of seven or eight years.

However, sufferers may continue to lack social skills, which may cause the behaviour patterns to return in later life in high stress situations. For the teacher, it is important to work closely with the parent of such a pupil and to put in place the most helpful strategies to benefit the child. Teachers will need to recognise that some pupils who are restless and lacking certain behavioural skills may not necessarily be lacking in discipline but may have the recognised condition of ADD/HD.