By Shelbi Johansen
High School Junior Kristian Kellogg was Diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 10. Kellogg said he got tested because he ‘drove his mom insane’ and it didn’t make him feel better or worse to find out he had ADHD.
¨I didn’t really feel anything, I just didn’t know that much about it,¨ Kellogg said.
Diagnosing a child with ADHD can change how they learn and grow as a student, affecting their future. Teachers, mentors, and guardians play a big role in the diagnosing process because they observe how a child learns and acts.
Mindy Johansen, 5th grade Elementary teacher from Pu’u Kukui school in Maui Hawaii, said some of the signs she notices in a child with ADHD is the lack of impulse control, lack of awareness, and hyperactivity (which is less likely to appear in females with ADHD).
¨ The older elementary students become aware of their symptoms , and in addition to the other behaviors, may develop self esteem problems, difficulty maintaining friendships, and may start acting out verbally or physically,¨ said Mindy.¨I believe that more research is needed on females and ADHD. Many female students are overlooked as they may not have the hyperactivity element.¨
Most children start to show symptoms of ADHD from the ages 3-6, and are diagnosed at about the age of 7. Mindy said that she noticed kids at a young age often feel embarrassed to have ADHD.
¨I believe that students with ADHD have a difficult time with self esteem,¨ said Mindy.¨Students may see themselves as not being as “smart” as their peers, even though this is not true.¨
Both Linda Johansen, Former kindergarten and 1st/2nd grade teacher of Valley Park Elementary school, and Mr. Peter Stanton, highschool French/History teacher said they thought people who are diagnosed with ADHD might have a sense of relief especially after struggling through the frustration at school.
¨For some it’s probably a relief to know what is causing their behaviors and feelings. The diagnosis can now be addressed and help be given,¨ Linda said. ¨ I know of two adults who were recently diagnosed with ADHD and were distressed that they had suffered as children when they could have had help.¨
Girls are diagnosed with ADHD on average five years later than boys—boys at age 7 and girls at age 12. There are also many girls who never get diagnosed. In fact, research indicates that up to 75 percent of girls with attention problems are undiagnosed.
Stanton said the large number of medical discrepancy issues between men and women that result in an unfair result. One trend Stanton said he notices is females tend to have an easier time of ¨playing the game of school¨ than boys when it comes to assignments and grades.
¨However, regardless of the extent to which the trend of girls earning higher GPAs exists, it shouldn’t detract from the possibility that there are more girls in need of support in dealing with ADHD,¨ said Stanton.
Linda said that it is past time for research on women’s health issues to be addressed, especially because it will have an affect on them for life.
¨It’s a shame that young girls have to suffer the results of not having a proper diagnosis. This will affect their learning and behaviors for life,¨ said Linda.
Talk Therapy and medications are the 2 most common treatments for ADHD. About 30% of people with ADHD were treated with medication alone. About 15% received behavioral treatment alone. About 32% children with ADHD receive both medication treatment and behavioral treatment.
ADHD medication works in about eight out of 10 people. But it’s not a “cure” for ADHD. It can only reduce symptoms while it’s active in the body. Keep in mind that ADHD medication can cause side effects (this is true for stimulants and non-stimulants).
On the other hand Therapy is an option for those who do not want to take medication. Therapists—typically clinical psychologists—work with clients to create a plan to help change behavior. The plan is designed to replace negative habits and actions with positive ones. Therapy doesn’t always work for everyone.
Both Linda and Mindy agreed that therapy should be explored to help compensate for the effects of ADHD before taking medication. Stanton said he is grateful as a highschool educator that most of his students who experience ADHD seem to understand and manage it well at the highschool age.
¨Whatever struggles and treatment decisions they went through in previous years tend to be resolved by the time they make it into my classroom,¨ said Stanton.
Kellogg said when he was diagnosed with ADHD that his mom made the decision for a treatment. Originally Kellogg started with therapy and moved to medication and is now off of medication.
¨I stopped taking my medication a few months ago because I felt like it wasn’t helping,¨ said Kellogg.
How Teachers Adapt
Teachers play a very important role in a child’s development. They can help with the process of diagnosing a child with ADHD, but how they adapt to kids with ADHD can be just as important. Stanton said he thinks that it is just as important what he doesn’t do as a teacher when it comes to interacting with students with ADHD.
¨I try never to shame or embarrass students who may be distracted, and I try to be as gentle and understanding as possible in redirecting students toward the tasks they need to focus on,¨ said Stanton.
Linda who started teaching in the 70’s said there is much more information now than there used to be even later in her teaching career she would break down lessons into small steps so her students wouldn’t get discouraged.
¨That way they did not feel overwhelmed and could find success as they worked through the lesson. I also tried to keep them on a known routine so they felt safe and secure,¨ said Linda. She said the kids were bright and creative. They just need more time and somebody to believe in them.
¨They just needed more time, more frequent reminders, and more active breaks between sessions. A teacher who encourages, understands their challenges and wants their student to succeed is what an ADHD child needs,¨ said Linda. Mindy said it is also just as important to troubleshoot anticipated problems while keeping a safe and calm environment.
Math teacher Jennifer Karlik said when she finds out that one of her students has ADHD she tries to figure out what can help them focus.
¨When I find out that one of my students has ADHD, I take special care to find out what kinds of interventions help them out. For example, if I see a student getting antsy, I may remind them that they are welcome to take a quick trip to the drinking fountain, take a stretch break, or stand up and work,¨ said Karlik.