Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a chronic brain-based disorder that is composed of two sets of symptoms: inattentive symptoms and hyperactive symptoms. This effects roughly 3-5% of children in America, making it likely that teachers will have one or more children in their classrooms with ADHD. There are three different presentations of ADHD: Predominantly Inattentive, Predominantly Hyperactive, and Combined presentations. Therefore, each child with ADHD will have a unique set of difficulties, which can impact their academic performance, interactions with peers, behavior, and mood.
Does my student have ADHD?
Teachers may be the first to notice a child’s problems with attention, and often play an important role during the diagnostic process. Teachers are crucial in identifying ADHD in their students. If you suspect a student has ADHD, there are a number of things you can do:
Consult with school psychologists, intervention specialists, or others in the school whom whom have a lot of experience with ADHD. They may be able to help you identify symptoms, as well as determine other factors that could be contributing to the child’s difficulties.
Before you approach a parent regarding their child’s possible ADHD, it may be helpful to begin recording specific instances (dates/times) that have alerted you to a problem. This includes information of difficulties with attention, overactivity or hyperactivity, social difficulties, and academic problems.
Once you have information suggest the child may have ADHD, setting up a conference with parents to explain your concerns should be the next step.
Formal evaluations for ADHD are often provided by school psychologists, pediatricians, and mental health specialists.
If the child’s symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity are affecting their ability to behave and achieve in the classroom, it may be necessary to develop accommodations. Informal accommodations (e.g., preferred seating, behavior management plan, reduced worksheets) can often be agreed upon by parents and teachers. More formal accommodations plans (i.e., 504 plan, IEP) often require formal evaluations.
What is my role during diagnosis?
Teachers play an important role in the diagnosis of ADHD. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that in order for a diagnosis of ADHD to be made, information must be obtained from home and another environment, such as at school. Additionally, a child's behavior may be very different in the unstructured home setting than in the structured school setting, where parents are unable to observe their own child's attention and behavior. For that reason, teachers are often more reliable reporters about their student's behavior and attention at school than than parents are. During diagnosis you may be asked to:
Complete rating scales to assess a child’s symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity
Provide a verbal or written description of the child’s in-class behavior and academic functioning to a parent or an evaluator
Allow an in-classroom observation of the child to collect behavioral data
Track a child’s behaviors to see how often a child is engaging in certain behaviors
Work collaboratively with a school psychologist to attempt to improve a child’s inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive behavior