Essentials: ADHD Explained: What Every Teacher Needs to Know

Essentials: ADHD Explained: What Every Teacher Needs to Know

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In this Essentials episode, we give you a clear and concise explanation of what ADHD is, how it commonly affects children, and what behaviours teachers can expect to see in the classroom from students with ADHD.

All with the aim of helping you support your students successfully in the classroom... and use proactive strategies that respond to the individual needs of your students.

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Click here for the full interview from episode 13.

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Show notes / transcription

Emma Shackleton  0:00  

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And what's interesting is that ADHD is actually an umbrella term that encompasses more than one condition. So people can have ADHD, or a DD without the hyperactivity, and it's all referred to as ADHD. So the in your face hyperactive element doesn't need to be present for somebody to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Simon Currigan  0:32  

Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course students. When classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural Special Needs whole school strategy and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear their latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast. Hi there, Simon Currigan here and welcome to this essentials episode of school behaviour secrets. In these mini essentials episodes, I'm going to share with you a key bite sized piece of information from a previous episode that will help shape your understanding of the kids that you work with in school, and offer insights into how you can support your students with their emotions and behaviour. Now normally in these essentials episodes, I share a snippet of a conversation from an interview episode. But this week, I want to share the episode where my co host Emma and I condensed and simplified some key facts about ADHD giving you the knowledge you need to support the pupils in your classroom affected by ADHD. By the end of this essentials episode, you should have a very clear picture in your head about what ADHD is, and how it affects your students.

Emma Shackleton  2:06  

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And what's interesting is that ADHD is actually an umbrella term that encompasses more than one condition. So people can have ADHD, or a DD without the hyperactivity, and it's all referred to as ADHD. So the in your face hyperactive element doesn't need to be present for somebody to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Simon Currigan  2:38  

And it's surprisingly common. In fact, it's the most common brain based disorder in children and adolescents. If you look on the NHS website, they talk about three to 5% of kids being affected by ADHD. So that's about one in 20. But that's based on the numbers of families and kids that were walking through psychiatrists doors, the CDC in America did a screening to 1000s and 10s. And what they found was when they looked at the entire community, and they screened loads and loads of kids to see, you know, who would qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, whether or not they had a referral, they discovered that it affects 11% of kids. So that's about one in 10. So in an average class of 30 kids, we're talking about three kids per class. Now, that doesn't mean they've got a diagnosis, but it means they would qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD. And I think what's the most surprising statistic about ADHD is there was a study by the British prison service that was screening their prisoners to find out possible causes for difficult and challenging behaviour. They found one in four inmates screened positive for a childhood history of ADHD. And another interesting statistic is that ADHD is more than twice in common in boys as it is in girls.

Emma Shackleton  3:54  

Ah, so let's look at the cause of ADHD then. So some people are quite surprised to learn that ADHD is not caused by poor parenting. It's not related to food or food sensitivities or poor diet. It's not caused by too much screen time. Those are all actually myths. Sure, they might influence behaviour in a negative way. But true ADHD has only one cause it's genetic. So ADHD is a condition that babies are born with

Simon Currigan  4:28  

and it affects your prefrontal cortex. So your prefrontal cortex deals with things like planning ahead, emotional regulation, impulsivity, attention, and in terms of attention there that can be focusing your attention down to a task, and blocking out sensory information. Things like breaking a task down into its constituent parts, learning to link cause and effect. With kids with ADHD. The prefrontal cortex is wired differently. So when you look at scans, it has fewer brain cells in it. It's literally Really lighter and has less blood flow going to it, we can think about the prefrontal cortex as being responsible for our executive functions. When we speak about executive functions. Here we're thinking about executive in terms of a government or the people in charge of a company, the people that boss us around in Thomas the Tank Engine analogy, your prefrontal cortex is the Fat Controller, who organises and manages our thoughts and actions.

Emma Shackleton  5:24  

Who doesn't love a Thomas the Tank Engine analogy, you're talking about

Simon Currigan  5:27  

ADHD, you've got to reach for a Thomas the Tank Engine analogy.

Emma Shackleton  5:30  

So let's think about what ADHD might look like in terms of behaviour in the classroom. Well, if you've ever taught a child with ADHD, I bet they pop right into your head right now. behaviours that you're likely to see in school are things such as the pupil really struggling to sit still finding it hard to concentrate, maybe excessively Talking, shouting out, people with ADHD find it difficult to wait their turn, they often act without thinking through the consequences, and they have little or no sense of danger. So they are the children who if the football goes over the fence at play time, they're straight up and over to get that ball. They don't think about the consequences of climbing a fence or what might be on the other side. Or what could go wrong. The idea pops into their head, and they instinctively and impulsively follow that through if they've got the hyperactivity element, they are the ones who are often tapping, moving squirming. They're often described as constantly on the go, or as if they're driven by a motor. And these are the kids who might blurt out the answer before you've even got to the end of the question.

Simon Currigan  6:46  

Another classic behaviour for kids with ADHD is talking in a very loud voice, especially in classroom conditions where it's expected that the kids are to be working more quietly, maybe during a test or doing some silent reading. You might see kids with ADHD make careless mistakes. And they tend to dislike tasks which involve attention to detail, they're unable to stick at tasks that are time consuming. And also you may find that they get lost in the middle of tasks or instructions. So you might give them something to do. And they complete the first couple of steps. And then it will get lost and distracted in the middle of the task. They can also have difficulties with the organisation. So breaking a task down into its constituent parts or even fetching the resources they need in the right kind of order to complete a task. And also, when you're speaking to them, even one to one, you get the feeling that they're not listening to you that the words aren't sinking in, you might also find that they're forgetful or keep losing things. And they're constantly changing activity or task. I remember observing a child with ADHD and reception once and it was free choice activity time. And he had chosen to go and play with a Lego. And even though he had chosen to go there, he couldn't wrestle his attention down to the Lego and then he flipped it to doing some colouring in and he was there for about 20 seconds and he couldn't cope with colouring in then he moved to another activity and he was getting frustrated with himself. He was choosing these activities, but he just couldn't focus his attention. So he flitted from one thing to the next.

Emma Shackleton  8:11  

And I think what's interesting there Simon is that in reception, there might be quite a lot of children who were doing that flitting and that butterflying from one activity to another. But with ADHD, that would be every single day, every single activity all of the time. And that stays with them as they go through the school. So as their peers mature and learn to settle down and be able to concentrate for longer periods of time, a child with ADHD is still going to have that very fleeting nature and be wanting to move around and go from one task to another. The real big one to watch out for with ADHD is emotional regulation. ADHD affects the prefrontal cortex. It's like there's no handbrake, it's really difficult for them to pull their emotions back. Often people with ADHD really regret that the way that they behave, they really don't mean to be disruptive or offensive, but they just can't help it. Children with ADHD might make the same mistakes over and over again. So for example, maybe they find it hard to share or they spoil a game. They know that this is the wrong thing to do. And they feel sorry that they've upset others. But then the very next day, they go and do that all again. This, of course then can lead to low self esteem. Because the child engaged in an activity they knew it was the wrong thing to do, but they just impulsively did it. And then they regretted it afterwards.

Simon Currigan  9:40  

And of course we're comparing the kids to their peers here. So what looks like inattention in a seven year old is going to look way different to inattention and a 12 year old. Every child is different and the ADHD affects them in different ways. They're all individuals. But one characterization I've heard time and time again from teachers that we work with in schools is that holes like a bottle of pop, you know, they can't contain their energy, they can't contain their enthusiasm. And in terms of their emotional regulation, sometimes you just see them explode. And if you work with kids with challenging behaviour, and you suspect that they may have ADHD, we've got a download that can help. It's called the Sen. D handbook, and it will help you link the behaviours you've seen in the classroom with possible causes like autism or ADHD or trauma. The idea here isn't for us as teachers to make a diagnosis because we're not qualified to do that. But if we can link behaviours to possible causes quickly, that means we can get the right help from professionals and get early intervention strategies in place which we know make a big difference to the kids that we work with. It's a completely free download, go to UK, click on the free resources tab near the top, and you'll see the SCN D handbook near the top of the page and I'll also put a direct link to that in the episode description. And that is all we've got time for on this essentials episode. If you've enjoyed listening today, please remember to rate and review us It takes just 30 seconds. And when you do it prompts the algorithm to recommend school behaviour secrets to other listeners. And that helps us grow the podcast and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents. And while you've got your podcast app open, do remember to hit subscribe so you never miss another episode. Thanks for listening today. And I look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviour secrets

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)