One of the mistakes that educators unwittingly build into their practice is the notion that ADD/ADHD students should make every effort to behave and work as other students do. This overlooks the fact that students who are affected by attention deficit and hyperactive disorders simply cannot undertake strict and disciplined behaviours. It is as if they are asked to walk slowly on a treadmill that is going at a fast speed. Think of the danger a situation like that would cause. Yet, a combined physical and chemical conflict plays against the capacity these children have to act and behave at will, in expected and acceptable ways.
ADD/ADHD sufferers do not necessarily expect to be treated in markedly different ways from their counterparts. What they cry out for most, is for understanding, that amid the external manifestations of inappropriate behaviour, there are internal attempts to accept, adjust to, and comply with every expectation. And, if they could, they certainly would. The truth is, as hard as they may try, there is a danger of missing the mark; failing the grade. Understanding this is a first among principles to working successfully with these children.
Consider the classrooms in most schools today. The way that teachers set up their classrooms can help or hinder the teaching and learning experience of all students in general, and ADD/ADHD students in particular. In a general sense, bold steps should be taken to develop learning environments that support the children. There is no reason that classrooms continue to be rooms filled with desks and too much decorative paraphernalia. Every child does not need his or her own desk. We surely do not believe that excellence cannot be attained unless one is sitting at a desk! If we really think of ways that a greater impact can be made on the way students learn, educators may see the need to step outside the old, accustomed, and predictable ways of doing things (the old comfort zone). Allow the students to move about as they talk, consult, share, debate, question, observe, exchange ideas and do the many things that learning for this technological century demands. Surely, when they need to write, they will use the desk. And why should all of the students be writing at the same time,? We all know that is not true to life.
If the classroom resembles life in reality, ADD/ADHD students will have a better chance to improve their learning. The current hardship to comply with demands that are beyond their capability would be greatly diminished. For teachers, the teaching experience will undoubtedly be enhanced. For students, there will be less time lost from their learning experiences because of disruptions and other related factors. For parents, life itself will become less stressful. Parent/teacher relationship can be dramatically improved. So, all around, everyone will benefit from a bold move to adopt a different classroom layout that favours the children instead of a continuation of the old way.
It is quite academically unsound to approach children with ADD/ADHD challenges with the aim of helping them to “cope”. We do not have a similar approach to so-called “normal” children, nor would we take kindly to anyone who would take that approach to our biological children. ADD/ADHD are children who require approaches that are suitable to their learning situations. It is common knowledge that some of the brightest minds among us contend with the challenges brought about by ADD/ADHD. We do not need to help children to cope. We need to help them, like all other children, to learn. There is really no problem that exists in teaching our children. Rather, there is a challenge to teach them well; a challenge that lies with the professionals — the educators.
The power to make things better remains in the hands of the teacher. Change the way things are done and see the change in the children. It will be remarkable.