Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity — which may sound a lot like almost all young children at any given time. While neurotypical kids can certainly struggle to sit still in school and focus on schoolwork, ADHD is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that consistently interferes with functioning, learning, or development day after day.

It’s not uncommon for a neurotypical child’s behavior to be misdiagnosed as ADHD, especially in grade-school. Most kids have a surplus of energy, can be easily distracted, and become agitated when overstimulated. It’s best if parents and educators seek a professional’s opinion if they see a child having problems in school to figure out what’s really going on.

How Do You Know If Your Child Has ADHD?

Though ADHD is classically considered a behavioral disorder, some experts are starting to view it as a cognitive condition, a disorder of thinking, involving the executive function of the brain. There are two types of symptoms that a child with ADHD regularly displays, in the classroom and at home: inattentive and hyperactivity/impulsivity.

Every child is different, and every case of ADHD is going to be somewhat different. Most children with ADHD have a combination of the two types of symptoms, but some may exhibit one or the other category more predominantly. Also, many children with ADHD have at least one coexisting mental health condition, such as an emotional or behavioral disorder (anxiety, oppositional defiance, autism, etc.) or a developmental disorder.

Inattentive Symptoms:

    • Trouble staying focused, easily distracted, gets lost in thought;
    • Does not seem to listen when spoken to;
    • Problems finishing tasks, gets sidetracked;
    • Trouble staying organized;
    • Difficulty following instructions, makes careless mistakes;
    • Often loses or misplaces things, forgetful.

Hyperactivity/Impulsivity Symptoms:

    • Constantly fidgets, squirms, can’t sit still;
    • Trouble remaining seated;
    • Moves excessively, constantly in motion;
    • Talks nonstop, blurts out answers, interrupts others;
    • Difficulty waiting for his/her turn;
    • Quick temper or short fuse.

All children are going to show some of these behaviors from time to time. For children with ADHD, the behaviors are so severe and persistent, lasting more than six months, that they interfere with their everyday lives and relationships.

3 Ways ADHD Affects Learning in School

Classrooms Have Too Many Distractions

School classrooms are designed to be colorful, stimulating, and bustling with activities to engage young minds — which is usually a good thing. However, the frontal lobes of the brains of children with ADHD have a hard time filtering out the distractions and can easily become overstimulated and overwhelmed by all the busy-ness. In today’s modern classroom, children are often asked to use technology, which adds even more distractions.

Teachers and parents can minimize distraction challenges by turning off notifications on computers and tablets, providing quiet areas of the classroom or home with little noise and sensory stimulation where children can retreat when needed, and allowing frequent breaks with the opportunity for physical activity throughout the day.

The ADHD Brain May Have Problems Communicating

While ADHD doesn’t usually impair a person’s ability to speak, children with ADHD are more likely than their neurotypical peers to exhibit disruptions in speech flow, including pauses, repetitions, and revisions. ADHD can also affect their ability to communicate by making organizing thoughts and following conversations difficult.

People with ADHD often have issues with working memory that influence regulating attention, including switching from one thing to another. They may launch into a new story halfway through another one, because they’ve learned if they don’t, they’ll forget the new story by the time they finish the first one.

Parents and teachers can help children with ADHD communicate by following these practices:

  1. Be patient. Give them extra time to express their thoughts.
  2. Maintain eye contact to help them stay engaged and focused on the conversation.
  3. Use clear and concise language. Be specific when communicating your instructions or requests.
  4. Minimize distractions. Choose a quiet and distraction-free environment for important conversations.
  5. Break information down into smaller, manageable pieces. This can make information easier to process and remember.
  6. Use visual aids, such as charts, diagrams, or written instructions, to reinforce verbal communication.
  7. Be an active listener. Show that you’re actively engaged in what they’re saying by nodding, making encouraging sounds, and asking questions, which helps them maintain focus.

Children with ADHD Need to Move

Children with ADHD may need to move around to help them focus and learn. Fidgeting in the classroom may be disruptive to others, but it can actually boost cognitive performance in someone with ADHD. Movement can help children with ADHD maintain alertness and improve their focus and social skills for several reasons:

  1. It can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters, like dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a role in the brain paying attention and focusing.
  2. Children with ADHD often have excess energy, which can be channeled through movement and exercise.
  3. Regular exercise can reduce stress and anxiety, which are often co-occurring conditions with ADHD.
  4. Movement can help children with ADHD manage emotions and improve mood.
  5. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which can improve cognitive function.

While movement and physical activity can be helpful for children with ADHD, it’s essential to find the right balance. The type and amount of physical activity most beneficial is going to vary from one child to another. For times when a child does need to stay in one place, fidget spinners, standing desks, and wiggle seats can be helpful.

Other Ways Parents and Teachers Can Help

Here’s how any adult interacting with a child with ADHD can help them be more successful in school and life:

Stick to a schedule

Children with ADHD need structure. When possible, keep a consistent daily routine, including specific times for doing homework, going to bed, and other activities. Display a daily schedule on the refrigerator at home or posted in the classroom.

Stay organized

At home, keep items used everyday organized and in the same places every day, including clothes, school materials, backpacks, and toys. In the classroom, it can help to have designated areas or work stations for specific activities. This cuts down on the need for individual decision-making and organization.

Be clear and consistent

Children with ADHD need well-defined instructions and rules to follow so they know what is expected of them. Make the rules simple, clear, and be consistent about following them.

Provide a healthy diet

Guiding a child with ADHD to eat the right foods can help significantly. Certain foods have been shown to make ADHD symptoms worse, like sugar, caffeine, and artificial ingredients and dyes. Parents, learn about a healthy ADHD diet, talk with your child’s doctor, investigate a diet that eliminates certain foods and additives to see if it makes a difference in your child’s symptoms.

Promote exercise and sleep

ADHD kids need to move a lot, so give them ample opportunities to run, play, and get their energy out. They will do better sustaining attention if they’re given frequent breaks for physical activity at school and home. On the flip side, it is also crucial to make sure they get sufficient sleep. Adequate sleep can reduce ADHD symptoms.

Encourage and reward

As parents and educators, it’s all too easy to focus on the disturbances and behavior issues that come with ADHD. We will do ourselves and any child, especially one with ADHD, a favor by looking for, pointing out, and praising good effort and behavior. This will help reinforce healthy brain and behavior patterns. When possible, provide rewards whenever rules and routines are followed, and give appropriate consequences when they aren’t.

Try mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness can help any brain learn to focus and settle down. Over time, mindfulness can physically change the brain’s form and function so that the brain’s frontal lobe has more control over concentration and behavior.

It Takes a Village

Like all kids, children with ADHD need a nurturing environment filled with support, encouragement, and love. When ADHD is addressed in positive ways, children can thrive. You’ve heard the saying before, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This is especially true when it comes to raising kids with ADHD, autism, apraxia, or any other learning or mental disorder.

Grey Matters of Carmel neurofeedback studio is here to support you and your child and wants to be part of your village. Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback therapy where a person’s brain learns to alter their activity to guide the brain toward more optimal functioning. Research confirms that neurofeedback training can specifically balance brain waves in the ADHD brain for an observable reduction in symptoms in as little as eight weeks.

At Grey Matters of Carmel, we are passionate about helping people live their best lives, including optimizing their brain’s health and function. Contact us or call (317) 215-7208 today to find out how we can help you.

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