Neurodevelopmental disorders affecting children include autism, conduct disorders, and impairments affecting hearing and sight. Out of all the neurodevelopmental disorders, ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed condition in childhood.
Around 1 in 10 children has ADHD, and this equates to about 6 million children in the US alone. ADHD can be hard to identify and diagnose, but there is more awareness and understanding today. This partly explains the rise in ADHD diagnoses over the last two decades.
ADHD can make it tough for children to concentrate and focus. The disorder also makes it hard for kids to develop behavioural skills and understand how to deal with emotions. A short attention span and lack of focus can lead to poor academic performance in a child also.
Why does ADHD cause poor school performance?
Symptoms of ADHD can be a short attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviour. This makes it difficult for any child with ADHD to learn from school lessons.
Impulsive behaviour displayed by some ADHD children will include interrupting others which means other students will have their concentration spans broken also. These children will often find it hard to sit still, listen, and have an urge to be in motion frequently.
There are ways though to help an ADHD child focus in school through the use of apps, games, coaching, and by limiting distractions.
What are the treatments for ADHD?
Typically, doctors may prescribe a combination of medicines for treating ADHD. These can include stimulants and non-stimulants with the former acting the quickest and showing good results in up to 80% of children with ADHD.
Behaviour therapy and support are also needed, and many people find natural supplements beneficial too. Vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and zinc, have been shown to relieve some symptoms of ADHD. Vitamin B6 and iron can help to raise dopamine levels, and zinc then regulates it.
Many children with ADHD often suffer from other disorders. These can include anxiety, behavioural and conduct problems, and an autism spectrum disorder. Some children may suffer symptoms of depression also.
How can you improve the academic performance of a child with ADHD?
Helping a child with ADHD learn to focus and develop necessary skills can be challenging. You will need patience and positivity, and determination. However, there are plenty of ways that children’s school performance can be improved.
- Break tasks down. If a child with ADHD is given a test with multiple questions, likely, they will soon lose focus, and become distracted. Large tasks can seem hopeless to many children but even more so to one who has ADHD. This can result in feelings of frustration, stress, and anxiety. 3 in 10 ADHD children have an anxiety disorder. Parents of an ADHD child will need to learn ways to help children with anxiety and stress. Breaking a task down into more manageable pieces will lead to greater success, and this will boost the child’s confidence. For instance, instead of setting 12 questions, set 4 lots of 3 questions with breaks in between.
- Reward positive behaviour. You can build a reward system to help teach good behaviour. Many believe that rewarding good behaviour sends the wrong message. This is because the child is getting a reward for doing something they should be doing anyway. However, ADHD children don’t misbehave on purpose. The disorder makes it very difficult for them to control how they act so a reward system can help them to connect good behaviour with a positive outcome. Rewards can be playing a video game or app or visiting the park, watching TV for 1 hour, or playing with a friend. Stickers or stars on charts can work, and some parents start a coin jar. ADHD can make it difficult to manage money, so this helps to introduce the importance of saving and how it can lead to a bigger reward later on.
- Limit distractions. Seating can play an important part in limiting distractions. Windows and doors offer the chance to see outside and watch other events away from the lesson being taught. Children with ADHD should be seated away from any distractions such as these.
- Use fidgeting to improve concentration. It may seem strange but you can use hyperactivity to improve focus in children with ADHD. These seemingly uncontrolled fidgets in ADHD children can be converted into controlled movements that aid focus. You can use fidget cubes for children who have hand fidgets, or resistance bands stretched over desk legs for those who tap their feet a lot. As long as the tool you use is not overly stimulating, the child can carry on fidgeting while focusing on the lesson. And using the right tool for each type of fidget can lead to fewer distractions for other students.
- Give feedback. Positive feedback can help in the same way that a reward system can. It encourages the child to keep learning and not to give up. If there are questions marked wrongly, then give feedback on these in a gentle way, but use positive remarks at the same time.
Enjoying a successful time at school can be difficult for children with ADHD. But, when support is given, and the tools available are used correctly, these children will have a better chance at academic success.
Giving feedback, introducing a reward system, limiting distractions, planning seating carefully, and addressing fidgeting and hyperactivity, can help a child focus, and encourage them not to give up.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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