Students diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are likelier to experience lower academic achievement than their peers without ADHD. However, the exact reasons for this are not one hundred per cent certain. The disorder's symptoms and executive functions can negatively influence learning behaviours such as motivation, attitude toward learning, and persistence, which are vital aspects of the learning process.
A study on school-aged children showed that executive functions have greater power than the typical symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity in predicting the learning behaviours of children with ADHD. This emphasises the importance of developing executive functions early to improve learning behaviours and highlights the significance of addressing executive function deficits in children with ADHD.
Executive function is a cognitive process that helps us manage ourselves and our resources to achieve set goals. It's like the manager of our brain, overseeing our ability to plan, organise, remember details, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Whether starting a project, paying attention to details, or managing time effectively, executive function keeps us on track. It's the command and control centre of our cognitive abilities, directing our actions, emotions, and even our concentration.
Firstly, to clarify things, ADHD is not the result of poor parenting or an intake of too much sugar. It's a biological condition that affects the brain's structure and, thus, its functions. It often results in difficulties socially and can affect a student's ability to focus.
While these traits can impact any area of life, they're particularly noticeable in learning and education. Anyone struggling with ADHD can find the day-to-day demands of the classroom a real challenge. On second thought, "challenge" might be too polite a term for it- it's more like participating in a three-ring circus while doing algebra on a unicycle.
One fundamental struggle lies in forming positive relationships with teachers. Some instructors may view an ADHD student as disruptive, uncooperative, or lazy. This is, of course, a misunderstanding. The reality? Their brains work differently, and they often need different approaches to be successful learners.
Have you ever tried listening to a lecture or reading a book while your favourite song's playing loudly in the background? It's tough. Well, for people with ADHD, these distractions are par for the course. It can be challenging for them to focus and even more so to sustain that focus over time. They might start tasks enthusiastically only to lose interest halfway through, as though the fuel in their mental tank goes from full to empty in the blink of an eye.
Throw executive function issues such as struggling with organisation and time management into the mix; there can be real issues. Remembering timelines, organising thoughts into considered responses, and even keeping track of all bags and homework can feel like climbing Mount Everest without a map, boots, or a suitable coat.
If you think ADHD only crawls under the learners' skin, think again as it extends beyond impacting educators. Imagine trying to run a lesson while one student can't keep still, constantly interrupts, or acts impulsively. These things pose significant hurdles to classroom harmony and effective teaching. Learning executive function skills is incredibly valuable not only for the student but for the classroom as a whole.
Well, it doesn't have to. Education professionals who understand the impacts of ADHD can adapt their teaching strategies to cater to these students. Just as importantly, effective treatments and coping strategies are available to help manage the symptoms of ADHD.
So, bear in mind that while ADHD presents unique challenges in a learning environment, it also rewards us with unique perspectives and creativity. After all, Einstein, Picasso, and Richard Branson had (or are suspected to have had) ADHD.
Remember, different isn't necessarily bad. To all educators and parents reading this, recognise and celebrate the diversity of the learners in your life. To anyone with ADHD, remember you're not on your own, and there are many strategies to help you navigate through the maze of education. Keep going – you've got this!