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The Tip of the ADHD Iceberg

This last week I’ve discussed the challenges of invisible disabilities, including ADHD. Today, I want to touch on the misconception that ADHD is simply about hyperactivity and maladaptive behaviors such as fidgeting and not completing work. These are, of course, stereotypical behaviors associated with ADHD and due to the challenges the present in parenting and teaching an ADHD child they probably garner the most attention. However, if the Titanic is any indication, it is what lies beneath the surface that can be incredibly impactful.

Although not every child who has this diagnosis experiences every single symptom or attribute, it is incredibly important for caregivers to understand the underlying challenges. Doing so can completely change the lens of the adults caring for children who have ADHD, once again changing their behaviors from being “naughty” or “incorrigible” to being part of their differently wired brain. And while we very much want to address these challenges for students ( I mean, we don’t want to say not being able to to keep a job potentially is just a symptom), understanding the the child is not trying to struggle and make life difficult can be a breath of fresh air, take out the personal feeling that the child’s behavior feels like (yes, we are human , too), and relieve the frustration.

The ability to identify the specific and lesser known ways that ADHD may affect your child or a student can help you provide scaffolding (think a step ladder) to help them build the skills they need to function successfully in a world, that will not necessarily bend to their unique challenges. Our goal is to create a human that has the skills to be healthy, happy, and successful out in the world and this is a VERY attainable goal for the child with ADHD. Not only can the child with ADHD be able to survive they can be successful in whatever pathway they choose. In fact, if tapped into properly, I would venture to say they have the chance to be incredibly successful in their chosen path because the way their brain is wired often makes them incredibly passionate about their interests, often working leaps and bound beyond their nuerotypical peers. It is our role to help them identify their passions, give them the tools, and help them develop the skills that do not come naturally to them. This IS a big ask. You will get frustrated. You won’t handle every situation textbook. But, the process of raising and educating our children is to also model resiliency and most of all communicating that they will not be given up on.

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

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Inclusivity for the Invisible Disability

When we think of disabilities, those that are visible on the outside are often what comes to mind. When the need is in plain view, why certain accommodations are needed is much easier to explain. But within the disability community, exists a subcategory of those who have what is known as an “invisible disability.” When the disability is not visible from the outside, the territory of making assumptions is all too often entered. For example:

  • A child with spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder (or any other disability that affects the development of the child) displays behavior not in line with their chronological age and the Judgey Mcjudgersons of the world make sure the mom knows their disapproval, because clearly it must be the parent’s fault (it’s not).
  • A person with an invisible illness or disability that affect their mobility receives a back-handed comment from a passerby for parking in the handicap spot.

These are just two examples of the biases that are experienced by individuals with invisible disabilities and their loved ones.

Within the classroom, it is especially important to make space for children who present with developmental or medical differences due to an invisible disability. It is 100% the responsibility of the adult to make sure that the classroom is not only accessible, but is a safe place for children to learn in all ways. In some cases, depending on whether or not the disability directly affects the child’s ability to learn, they may be placed on a 504 or IEP. 504’s generally apply toward a medical disability such as a food allergy or even ADHD, if it does not affect the child’s ability to learn ( truly, there are some cases of ADHD where the issues are more behavioral and do not affect the student’s access to the curriculum, but I advise parent to really reflect on what is best for their particular child if they are diagnosed with ADHD). An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a plan that addresses what accommodations and/ or modifications will be made for a child in order to allow them to access the learning. Both are legally binding; however, an IEP tends to be seen as more rigorous. All such diagnoses or conditions are covered by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

For more ideas on how to make sure your classroom is accessible for all students, contact me at deanna@deannawestedt.com. I would love to walk alongside you or your staff in ensuring that all children have access to that depth of knowledge equity I am so passionate about!

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