Invisible Disabilities: The ADHD Edition

The term ADHD is a common one these days, but for all of the recognition the term has, so many misunderstandings about the condition exist. It is so important to uncover the myths and incorrect “urban legends” surrounding ADHD and the impact these narratives have on the way our students with ADHD access curriculum.

  1. ADHD is not made up. It is a clinical condition wherein the brain is developmentally different than the average brain. In fact, the common medications given to treat ADHD/ ADD are stimulants, not sedatives as many think. There is a lot of evidence to support that the ADHD brain responds differently to stimulants than a brain that is wired in a neurotypical way.
  2. Medication is not a one and done treatment. While medication may be a part of a treatment plan (and for some it is not), there are many additional things that families may implement. Some children appear to do better without particular ingredients in their diet, while others may have difficulty managing their reaction to technology. In any case, there are many moving pieces to managing the ADHD brain and, like with other conditions, there is a spectrum. Even if a child is having behavioral challenges, it by no means implies that the family is not parenting that child. In fact, I have referred to parenting ADHD children as EXTREME parenting! Other aspects of treatment for ADHD may include cognitive behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, hippotherapy (horses), and working with a specialist who understands the dynamics of a family that is raising an ADHD child (or two).
  3. Attention deficit is actually a very misleading term. ADHD children can actually pay attention very well! Sometimes a little too well as they tend to perseverate on topics that are of high interest. And sometimes their brain is just overwhelmed by all that is around them and they have a hard time compartmentalizing. This is where giftedness behaviors often overlap with the ADHD brain. And thank-goodness for brains that are wired like this because I promise that we have many breakthroughs and advances in science and other areas thanks to brains that function like this. On the flip side, it is important to help a child who is wired this way to learn to balance this so they may develop proper executive functioning skills.
  4. Children with ADHD cannot just try harder…and tough love isn’t necessarily going to help them improve. Since the ADHD brain is wired differently it also reacts differently to common behavior management strategies such as reward and consequence driven programs. These programs do very little in helping the child with ADHD overcome their challenges. I highly recommend the book “Lost at School” by Dr. R. Greene in which collaborative problem solving structures are discussed. These strategies are amazing and not only do they help unravel the mystery of some of the most challenging behaviors, but also simultaneously teach executive functioning, communicating, and thought processing.
  5. ADHD/ADD is not necessarily more common in boys. While this may be statistically correct, it is likely that boys are simply more often identified because the present with behaviors that are noticeable or disruptive. Often times children, boys or girls, who are quieter and fly under the radar may have their ADHD/ADD ignored. While some may be noticeably hyper, sometimes ADHD presents itself in a student that daydreams or get hyperfocused on preferred activities and cannot transition easily. This means that students like this are at higher risk of falling through the cracks.

For more ways to understand and provide access to curriculum for our ADHD children, contact me at deanna@deannawestedt. I offer consulting and coaching services to walk along side teaching practitioners and provide accessible learning environments for students of all overlapping characteristics.

When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

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