It’s no wonder teachers in schools want to drug or segregate some kids. Sometimes I want to drug AND segregate my A.D.D. kid and I’m not dealing with 20+ kids all at once. So how can you deal constructively with a kid whose attention span is shorter than your patience?
Characteristics of Kids With A.D.D.
Here are some of the characteristics of an A.D.D. type personality. They are smart, with their brains flitting from one subject to another, from one thought to another, in rapid fire. Talking a lot is a common characteristic. They know so much that they just HAVE to share. They fidget when required to stand still, literally being unable to maintain a stationary position for more than about .05 seconds without bursting. But if something absorbs and involves their minds or their bodies enough they can focus on it almost indefinitely.
A.D.D. kids are the dandelion pickers on the baseball field. They are the kids stuck in resource math because they freeze at the thought of a whole page of figures staring at them. Their handwriting and spelling are awful because they can’t be bothered to spend the time to get it right. They are the kids who remember every fact ever told them (and they’ll remind you of it often.) A.D.D. kids tend to constantly get in trouble for talking out of turn. They are the kids who can’t focus long enough to hear all the directions, but who can focus on a video game or a book for hours on end.
Many ADD kids struggle with every school subject. They never learn to read well, they never learn the basics of math and these two failings hold them back in every other subject, yet their minds are exceptionally quick and bright and retentive. There’s a solution though.
The Key To Success
One on One
A.D.D. kids need one-on-one tutoring. It’s time intensive and taxes the patience of the angels themselves, but the payoff is worth it. Since I have five other kids who also need my attention, I have my A.D.D. kid read during our regular time ( a subject he has no problem with) and I do actual school with him in the evening after the other kids are in bed. If your kid is having trouble in school, you might plan on spending extra time in the evening doing homework with your child to help get over those bumps.
Incremental Learning, A Small Bit At A Time
I thought my son would never learn to read. When he finally learned to read well, his Grandpa commented that it was a miracle, and it was. It took years, while his older brother had picked it up instinctively and quickly, and for a long time I was worried. He did learn though. I taught him incrementally, a little at a time, only about 20 minutes a day for around three years, with very few breaks. We used the Explode the Code series and easy readers. By the time he hit third grade he was reading at a high school level and would sit for hours pouring over a book. Reading is still his favorite subject, and he remembers everything he reads.
One Task At A Time
Math has always been easy for him, unless I make the foolish choice to hand him the book and expect him to work the problems independently. From time to time I try this and I always regret the wasted time. He looks at that full page of problems and shuts down. He doesn’t freak out or get upset, he just gets distracted. He’ll sit in front of the book for a half hour and I’ll come to check the work and perhaps he’s gotten the page numbered for his answers. He’s been thinking about his plans for a spaceship or why the icicle hanging from the eaves is exactly that shape (oh, and he’s gotten up to sharpen his pencil twice and go to the bathroom three times).
What does work is for me to sit with him every day and write one or two problems at a time on a white board while he works them. He does them fast and accurately and I correct mistakes as we go along.
Celebrate the Strengths and Scaffold The Weaknesses
He’s eleven, a fifth grader and doing pre-algebra already. So smarts isn’t the problem, it’s attention. Often he skips several steps in his homework. I chastise him, thinking he’s done it all wrong, and then he explains it to me. He’s just got all that in his head. I’d have to write down every step.
Since I took the time to make him a proficient reader, subjects like science and history are easy. But if there’s writing to do, I have to help him again. For some subjects I write while he dictates, if the actual physical act of writing is getting in his way and is not important to the assignment. In other cases I have him do just one sentence at a time.
For grammar and spelling we correct as we go. We also keep a running spelling list which we practice every day. I read the words and he writes them on the white board. We correct them using phonetic clues and mnemonic tricks to help him remember the correct spelling. A misspelled word doesn’t leave the list until he’s got it, whether it takes a few days or several weeks.
He studies Latin as well and we do the work sheets together. A bit of prompting from me keeps him on track. He really likes Latin. We were doing Spanish, formal grammar, and piano as well, but the amount of time he needs to spend made it too difficult to keep up with all those subjects so we dropped the less essential ones.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are any short cuts to making an A.D.D. kid suddenly compliant, focused, and obedient like his/her peers, short of drugging them. But A.D.D. isn’t a disease, it’s a personality type and a personality type that I believe indicates smarts. To help A.D.D. kids I recommend patience, patience, patience. Did I mention patience?