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International ADHD Awareness Week

Posted Oct 17 2011 8:33pm
This week is the official international ADHD Awareness week and I thought it might be appropriate to talk about the condition - especially since it's so common in children (and adults) with Asperger Syndrome. In fact, it's very common for people to be diagnosed with ADHD first.

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and it goes hand in hand with another disorder which was once called ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). These two disorders are now considered one, though it's quite common to distingish ADD as ADHD-I (ADHD - Inattentive).

Public Perception
If you don't have children with ADHD/ADD, you're probably imagining children who are literally bouncing off walls, throwing things and jumping across furniture. Like Aspergers, ADHD suffers greatly from stereotypes.

It's quite common for people to witness televised "extreme acts of ADHD" and blame it on the parents, red cordial, too much TV, poor discipline or any number of other things. Lots of people say that ADHD wasn't around when they were young. That children "behaved" and were harshly disciplined.

I beg to differ. ADHD was around years ago. ADHD is NOT about "extreme acts" it's about smaller everyday impulses. There have always been people who are easily distracted, impulsive or disorganised. It may not have been called ADHD in the past, perhaps they were simply "spirited" children but it was no different to the ADHD being diagnosed today.


Being Distractable
A person with ADHD may seem inattentive but the truth is that they are simply too easily distracted by their senses. A child with ADHD may find that other noises in the classroom constantly pull them off topic, that movement outside a window, or even within the classroom will constantly direct their gaze away from the board or that the smell of food in the classroom causes them to think about lunch rather than the topic at hand.

It's not all jumping around behaviour. Often it's just constant but little distractions which make it impossible to concentrate. These distractions can seriously impact the learning ability of the ADHD child.


Impulsiveness
Unlike the media portrayals, being impulsive isn't about walking up to people and hitting them. Most impulsive actions are far less visible. An impulsive child may start answering a question before it has been completely asked. In the classroom setting, this is simply annoying because it seems like an interruption but have you considered how this would affect a test?

In the classroom, the teacher can correct the child, "You didn't answer correctly because you didn't wait for the entire question". In an exam situation, the child is too busy answering the first part of the question to read the fine print. They might take three pages to answer a question that is supposed to be answered in 25 words. They may miss a vital part of the question or they may complete their test without knowing that there are more questions on the other side of the paper.

Children with ADHD already have enough issues in exams due to sensory issues and inattentiveness. Misreading questions makes it even more difficult. These are smart kids but even the best special exam considerations are simply not enough.

Of course, there are impulsive physcial actions too. A child may throw an object without taking the time to check that people aren't too closely grouped around them. They might chase a ball across a street without stopping to look both ways or they might snatch something off a friend without remembering to ask for it nicely. This isn't rudeness or deliberate endangerment, this is simply the ADHD child missing steps in a procedure.

Impulsitivty manifests at home too. It occurs when the child sits down to the table without having washed their hands. When they help to carry food to the table without being careful of spillage and when they are so eager to eat that they forget to use their knife and fork.


Being Disorganized
A child with ADHD will often live in either "the moment" or a "daydream". There's not a lot in between these states. They tend to react to things going on around them and they will often withdraw into their own thoughts. What they generally won't do is plan. Even when they do plan, their impusitivity prevents them from following a strict ordered list. They will rush out of a classroom, leaving their books still on the desk. It's not laziness, it's just steps in the procedure being missed.

They'll readily agree to go to an event but won't think to write down the date or the location. They won't consider potential clashes and chances are that if they do remember, they're going to be late. It all looks like complete disorganisation but really, it's just another way to look at impulsiveness.


Adults
Children don't grow out of ADHD. There are plenty of adults with the condition. Many of them have learned to use lists, plans and other methods to get by. Some are on medications (and some apparently swear by recreational drugs).

I'm not here to propose solutions. Today, I just want to sway a few opinions. Next time you hear about someone with ADHD, try to understand how difficult things that you take for granted are for them.

Lets try not to be so judgmental.
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