ADHD and Your Child: ADHD Experts Address Your Questions

"ADHD and Your Child" webinarFollowing our free “ADHD and Your Child” webinar last spring, we received a number of questions from parents and teachers alike on understanding and supporting persons with ADHD. For National ADHD Awareness Month, we wanted to revisit a number of these questions and invite you to watch the archived webinar with ADHD experts Doug Bouman, S. Psy. S. and Robert Bulten, M.D. This webinar, hosted by Christian Schools International, covers the symptoms and treatments of ADD/ADHD.

Q: Is ADHD hereditary?

Dr. Bulten: Very much so. It the second most heritable condition in the human genome.  The first is height.

Q: Are there similarities between teenage boys and ADHD?  When should we seek testing and treatment for ADHD?

Dr. Bulten: It used to be thought that ADHD in boys far outnumbered that in girls. But we’ve now realized that this is no longer true, and ADHD is common in both boys and girls. During the teen years, the hyperactive component (which is so common in younger boys) tends to become less noticeable. Testing and treatment should be looked into when the symptoms become a functional impairment.

Q: How much does a child’s diet help or hinder a child with ADHD?

Dr. Bulten: Diet does not usually have much positive or negative effect on a child with ADHD. Now and then, someone will find a particular food (e.g. dairy, gluten, dyes, etc.) that they believe helps to a degree, and then they take that out of the diet. But the return is so small that I don’t recommend that to start treatment. By the time my patients get to me, they will have tried all the non-medical options.

Young Boy PhotoQ: What are some particular gifts kids or teens with ADHD possess?

Mr. Bouman: ADHD in and of itself provides zero benefits to the student with ADHD.  For example, the gift of creativity or artistic ability and ADHD are not linked. However, just like students without ADHD, students with ADHD possess incredible gifts, strengths, and abilities.

Q: Are students with ADD/ADHD more likely highly intelligent and gifted than not?

Mr. Bouman: Students with ADHD are not more gifted and talented than those without ADHD.  ADHD impacts the entire range of abilities.  In fact, highly intelligent children with ADHD frequently experience more frustration since they are painfully aware that their performance and output is markedly below their intellectual abilities and peer performance.  How frustrating and painful for a bright student to “know” what to do, yet are unable “to do what they know”.

Q: Do you see the emotional issues, such as loss of confidence and “self prosecution” (especially in newly diagnosed teenagers) improve over time?

Mr. Bouman: Yes, for sure.  The first step is for the teenager and the significant adults (parents, school staff, etc.) to understand and accept ADHD, and how it is impacting this student’s daily functioning.  Once effective strategies and medication are in place, the student experiences authentic success (i.e. they can now “do and produce what they know”).  This frequently buoys their confidence and eliminates their self-persecution.

Q:  What is one thing you wish parents knew about ADHD?

Mr. Bouman: There is a tremendous amount of misinformation in the media, trade magazines, etc.  Parents need to know ADHD hugely impacts a student’s learning and productivity in school even though their child is not hyperactive or impulsive.  Quiet, hidden (inattentive type) ADHD is more dangerous since it is easily missed or misinterpreted as not trying or a bad attitude.  Complicating things is the remarkable inconsistency observed in a student with ADHD, sometimes called a “picket fence” up-down functioning.  Children, adolescents and adults with ADHD are frequently able to focus and sustain concentration if what they are doing is preferred, highly stimulating, high interest (think video games, legos, T.V., even reading high interest books).  The real test of an individual’s attention is when they must complete tasks that are important yet boring.  Another important parent “tip”, is to watch for limited improvement (e.g. learning, producing, grades, behavior) when individuals, student, teachers, and school support staff have honestly tried their best to overcome the problem using methods that work for most kids.

Dr. Bulten: Probably that they are not the cause of their kid’s ADHD – unless you consider the genetics. It’s not bad parenting–more discipline will not change things—it will probably make things worse.

Students learningQ: What is one thing you wish teachers knew about ADHD?

Mr. Bouman:
(1) All of what I wish parents knew (see above)

(2) Please be careful to simply and thoroughly report to parents what you notice in class and avoid saying a student has or does not have ADHD.

Dr. Bulten: Again, that they are not the cause of the student’s ADHD. “Carrot and stick” discipline will not change anything.

Q: What are a few practical strategies a teacher can use in the classroom to support a student with ADHD?

Mr. Bouman: Move the student close to the teacher. Having the student in close physical proximity to the teacher affords closer monitoring of the student and increased accountability.  Teachers can cue the student that important directions are coming their way (e.g. “students the next two instructions are really important” – sometimes referred to as “verbal highlighting”).  Close proximity also allows ongoing accountability with high frequency feedback (e.g. “do this first row of math computations and then check back with me”).

Students with ADHD need understanding and empathy from their teacher; their teacher needs to recognize that they are fighting upstream against a roadblock that their peers are not.  Teachers can create a “prosthetic classroom” by externalizing (making visible and permanent) instructions, requirements, rules, and steps (e.g. use of post-it-notes, lists, pictures).

Q: What is one thing you wish kids/teens knew about ADHD?

Mr. Bouman: Kids really like the truth about how ADHD is negatively impacting the use of their gifts.  Many students have conjured up something far worse (e.g. “I’m stupid”, “I’m dumb”) than ADHD.  Kids need to understand ADHD is not their fault any more than it is their fault for having brown eyes. Kids need to know there are effective interventions that can ‘even the playing field’ for them. They need to know that things will get better and there is great hope for the future.

Dr. Bulten: I wish kids with ADHD knew they were not lazy. As I interview adults with ADHD and ask them what one comment they remember their parents and teachers said was, “If you would only try harder. You have so much potential and you just don’t apply yourself.” If we could measure “effort”, especially in young kids, we’d find they are trying harder than other kids and the results are poorer. As they get older, they start to give up and they stop trying altogether.

Q: What are some practical strategies persons with ADHD can use to accomplish tasks in their daily life?

Mr. Bouman: First, make sure any prescribed medication is at optimal levels.  Students and adults with ADHD are ideally completing a one or two page symptom reduction form each time they meet with their physician.  Other strategies include:

(1) Writing down your top three non-negotiables for taking good care of yourself.

(2) Enlisting accountability supports – a trusted friend or life coach.

(3) Use technology as a work-around.

Q: Do you have any recommended books or websites to learn more about ADHD?

Mr. Bouman: The best organization with incredible resources is CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyeractivity Disorder.

The best book for adults is Reaching for a New Potential: A Life Guide for Adults with ADD From a Fellow Traveler by Oren Mason.  Also check out Dr. Mason’s blog, Attentionality.

At CLC Network, we daily evaluate and create plans for struggling students based on their strengths and areas of need. Learn more about our perspective in this video and visit our website to learn more.

And of course, Dr. Bulten at Behavioral Medicine Clinic does an incredible job monitoring and supporting patients.

 Doug Bouman photoDoug Bouman, S. Psy. S. is the director of evaluation services at CLC Network (Christian Learning Center) in Grand Rapids, MI, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and a Licensed Master’s Social Worker. He is a graduate of Calvin College and Central Michigan University.

 

 

Dr. Bulten photoRobert Bulten, M.D. previously practiced general pediatrics for 12 years and has been practicing behavioral medicine (including ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and mood disorders) for the past 30 years. He is a graduate of Wheaton College and the University of Michigan Medical School.

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Why Inclusive Education Requires More than Head Knowledge

Today we asked disability advocate, author, and emeritus professor of special education David Anderson, Ph.D. to share why inclusive education requires not only practical knowledge for Christians, but also a transformed view of who we believe our students to be.


Photo: True inclusion begins not with the head, but with the heart. - David AndersonI’ve found that most programs designed to promote inclusive education build from what Amos Yong (2011) called a normate bias: an unquestioned worldview that views able bodies and minds as the ideal, causing people to hide their own weaknesses and limitations, and view disability as tragedy. Research has found that efforts to include children with impairments in the general education classroom are beneficial to students with and without disabilities. Using the concepts of universal design for learning (UDL) and differentiated instruction (DI), response-to-intervention (RTI), and collaborative teaching, educators are able to provide an appropriate education to all students—culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse as well as diversity in ability from impairment.

Nevertheless, there remains an unspoken belief that impairments need to be “fixed,” or disabilities “remedied,” in order for students with unconventional minds or bodies to fit in with others in the classroom. Many teachers, while agreeing in general with the idea of inclusive education, feel they are being asked to do something for which they have not been prepared, nor had they envisioned when deciding to become an educator.

Inclusion Involves Head — Heart – Hand

Diagram that shows synthesis of head, heart, and hands toward inclusive praxis.

Synthesis of head, heart, and hands toward inclusive praxis (Pudlas, 2009).

Ken Pudlas of Trinity Western University spoke of a head–heart–hand linkage as necessary elements of inclusion (Pudlas, 2009). Head refers to what we know—about disability, about teaching methods, about how children learn, etc. This would include the practices of UDL, DI, RTI, and collaboration skill. But “head knowledge” does not guarantee that teachers or schools are truly inclusive. True inclusion begins not with the head but with the heart.

Successful inclusion is not built from what we know, but from who we are, and who we believe our students to be. Heart principles that should inform our Head and guide our Hands (praxis) include biblical concepts of interdependence, community, hospitality, and justice and reconciliation (cf. Anderson, 2012).

Interdependence

Interdependence leads to valuing and honoring each student, not because of what they can do or contribute, but because they are persons created in the image of God—regardless of ability or disability. Interdependence provides a model for the classroom ethos we desire, whether teaching in a Christian or a public school, and has definite implications as to how classrooms and educational instruction should be structured to encourage inclusion.

Community

An inclusive community is one which recognizes the gifts and talents, as well as the needs, of all the students. A community characterized by caring will be one in which everyone, students and teachers alike, plays a role in supporting others. Each student will experience an atmosphere of togetherness in the classroom and school.

Hospitality

Hospitality will be shown by making appropriate accommodations and modifications for all students as necessary (recognizing that what is helpful to a student who has a disability will also be of benefit to others) and through promoting friendships among the students—true friendships, not those simply based on helper–helpee relationships. The classroom should display “activated kindness,” characterized by protection, emotional support, empowerment, and personal commitment on the part of the teachers(s).

Justice and Reconciliation

Biblical justice will be demonstrated in an interdependent, hospitable, classroom community which shows especial concern for those who are weaker and may feel powerless or oppressed by others and seeks to break down attitudinal barriers in order to promote reconciliation between those with and without disabilities.

With the Head being guided by these Heart attitudes, the Hands are enabled to consistently practice inclusion—something we do because of who we are. “Different” students are welcomed as an equal part of the classroom. They are not seen as a burden, but as a privilege and as an opportunity for teachers to further their professional development and all in the classroom to experience the “real” (though fallen) world in which disability is “normal.”

References

Anderson, D. W. (2012). Toward a theology of special education: Integration of faith and practice. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.

Pudlas, K. (2009). Head and heart and hands: Necessary elements of inclusive praxis. Journal of the International Christian Community for Teacher Educators (ICCTE), 3(1), http://icctejournal.org/issues/v3i1/v3i1-pudlas/.

Yong, A. (2011). The Bible, disability, and the church: A new vision of the people of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

 

David AndersonDavid W Anderson, Ed.D., is Emeritus Professor of Special Education, Bethel University, St. Paul, MN, where he served for 15 years as Director of Graduate Programs in Special Education. He is also President of Crossing Bridges, Inc., an international ministry focusing on issues of disability and special education, which seeks to promote inclusive practices in churches and schools.

Inclusive Education in Action

Kids holding hands

Credit: Grand Rapids Christian Schools

Disability and inclusion advocate, David Anderson, Ed.D. recently spoke at Calvin College on special education and inclusion. While he was in Grand Rapids, we invited him to tour Grand Rapids Christian Schools to see how schools can support and enable students at all levels of ability. After his tour, Dr. Anderson gracious agreed to share his thoughts and observations with us.

Interdependent

On January 21, it was my privilege to visit Grand Rapids Christian Middle and Elementary Schools to observe first hand how inclusion is being implemented. In my teaching and writing, I have expressed concern about typical attempts at inclusive programming and stressed a theology of interdependence to anchor inclusion practices (cf. Anderson, 2006; 2012). This approach helps create an interdependent community where every student has a sense of belonging.

Included

Knowing that there are many Christian schools that either do not enroll students with disabilities or limit that enrollment to students with learning disabilities or relatively mild impairments, I was encouraged to see how Grand Rapids Christian schools provide service to all students, incorporating students with various impairments as “regular” members of each grade/class. I witnessed students with more obvious disabilities—Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, visual or physical impairments, for example—participating in group activities with their non-disabled peers in what appeared to be a welcoming and safe environment.

Interconnected

The teachers, both “regular” and support services/inclusion specialists, modeled the collaborative, collegial relationship desired eliminating the “your kids/my kids” division that plagues many schools and limits the amount and success of attempts at inclusion. I saw children, with and without disabilities, actively engaged in peer-based learning, demonstrating that community does not refer to a group, but to the way of life at these schools,  making interconnections among students pervasive. Targeted enrichment services are provided to students and for those with more significant needs support services are available (e.g., 1:1 instruction, sensory stimulation, “quiet” time).

The supportive role of the administration is evident, and the commitment to make services available to all students without additional cost is more than commendable. Grand Rapids Christian Schools provide a working model for all Christian schools to emulate!

Works Cited

Anderson, D. W. (2006). Inclusion and interdependence: Students with special needs in the regular classroom. Journal of Education and Christian Belief, 10(1), 43–49.

Anderson, D. W. (2012). Toward a theology of special education: Integrating faith and practice.  Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.

David AndersonDavid W Anderson, Ed.D., is Emeritus Professor of Special Education, Bethel University, St. Paul, MN, where he served for 15 years as Director of Graduate Programs in Special Education. He is also President of Crossing Bridges, Inc., an international ministry focusing on issues of disability and special education, which seeks to promote inclusive practices in churches and schools.

How to Recognize Bullying

Alone on the Bus

Credit: Woodleywonderworks http://flic.kr/p/5wx7Ta

Everyone wants to fit in and be accepted by those around them.  But for kids like Joey and Anita this remains a dream.  Anita, who has cerebral palsy, is taunted by classmates whenever she has to run in P.E.  And Joey, a second grader, is told every morning as he gets on the school bus, that there is no room for him to sit near his classmates.  The outcome of this bullying is that they are at risk socially, academically and emotionally; and through no fault of their own.

But how do we know it’s bullying and not just “kids being kids”?
Well, the four guiding principles are:

  1. Is the behavior occurring over and over?
  2. Is it aggressive?
  3. Is there intent to harm?
  4. And, is there an imbalance of power?

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that bullying can take many forms, such as excluding someone from a social group, physical harm, spreading rumors, or making verbal threats.  It can happen in the classroom, on the playground, in hallways, at home, or online.

But how can a parent or teacher recognize that the bullying is happening? 

Experts estimate that there is no intervention in approximately 85% of bullying incidences, often because adults are unaware that they are occurring.  However, there are signs to watch for; here are just a few:

  • Kids change their eating, or relational patterns.  Are kids suddenly ravenous when they get home from school?  Maybe someone is taking their lunch or interfering in their ability to eat during lunch time.
  • School performance plummets.  Assignments aren’t turned in, grades go down.  It‘s possible that someone is taking homework or repeatedly asking for “help” on their own assignments.
  • Personal property keeps getting “lost”.  Repeated destruction of personal property is also considered bullying.

The good news is that with parents and school personnel working together, kids can be safer and be ready to succeed academically and relationally.  We offer an in-service on how schools can create a proactive structure and atmosphere to reduce and address bullying incidences.  With everyone working towards the same goal, ALL students can be fully included. Later this week, I’ll share some tips on preventing bullying – stay tuned!

Beth HarmonBeth Harmon is a School Psychologist at CLC Network, where she enjoys the “ah ha” moment when a parent or teacher gains an understanding of why a child learns or behaves in a certain way. She loves being the advocate to help the adults in a child’s life appreciate the uniqueness of and love the child even more.  

Why Home-Based Reading?

Little did I know at the time Susan and I were approached by CLC to write a book about reading for parents who wanted to work with their children at home that I would be a home-schooling parent myself.  From a young age I knew I wanted to be a teacher.  While attending college I began to think more specifically about being a reading teacher after having taught in the classroom for a while.  The thought of home-schooling never crossed my mind.

Books

I set out to do what I had planned and wanted to do.  I taught at various schools in different grade levels for several years before leaving the classroom to become a reading teacher.  While pregnant with my fourth child, the idea of home-schooling was planted.  I thought it was something I might want to try with this little one at some point and time.  A few years later a fifth child came along and the seed that was planted started growing. I was working part-time as a Reading Recovery teacher at the same school my older three kids were attending.  I loved teaching reading and my older kids enjoyed school, so I put the idea of homeschooling on the back burner for a while. 

When CLC approached Susan and me about writing this book, both our interests were peaked.  Susan had been tutoring some home-schooled children and my heart was turning more and more towards home-schooling.  By the time we were finished and the book was published, I was homeschooling my youngest 2 children.

I still am a Reading Recovery teacher, but since I only work a handful of hours per week, I have the schedule and time to home school my own children.  My husband works from home so he is willing and able to fill in when needed.  I have a new appreciation for home-school parents.  It is busy!  There are many things I miss about my kids not being in school, but there are also many blessings I am finding while teaching them at home.

I don’t know what God has in store for me and my family in the future.  I am trying to take it one busy day at a time.  I do know that I will continue to have a heart for classroom teachers, homeschooling parents and children who struggle with reading.  This book is an attempt to be a guide for all those who work with children who need extra support with reading and writing.  Susan and I hope that as you work with your children, and the parents of your children, you will experience the same blessings we have over the years helping children learn to read.

Sandra Vroon IMGSandra Vroon has taught second grade, third grade and fifth grade.  She is currently a Reading Recovery teacher at Legacy Christian School.  She also serves as an adjunct professor in the area of Literacy for Calvin College and GVSU.  She continues to love teaching both in schools and at home.  In her spare time she reads children’s novels, drives her kids to their different activities and teaches Zumba.

 

For additional posts on home-based reading, check out these previous posts: 

Comprehension: A Key Component to Successful Reading

How to Introduce New Books to Your Child

Questions You and Your Child Should be Asking