Friday, March 13, 2015

Understanding & Working with Students with ADHD in the Montessori Environment

boy looking into camera, understanding and working with montessori adhsd

My son was diagnosed with ADHD-I (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-Inattentive) when he was 18 years old. In high school, he struggled as math classes became more and more complex and abstract. A true Montessori student, he was able to explain the big picture ideas and theories, but he had difficulty with step-by-step application. After a series of events that led to psycho-educational testing, we were all surprised by the ADHD diagnosis. How could we have missed it?

ADHD is a common developmental and neurobehavioral disorder affecting at least 50 genes and affecting the prefrontal and parietal lobes of the brain. (Comings, 2005) In short, this means that the brain cells and neurons have difficulty communicating with each other.

Prevalence of ADHD across Cultures (2003)

  • UK 16.6%
  • India 11.2%
  • The Netherlands 9.5%
  • US 9.1%
  • Germany 6.4%
  • Hong Kong 6.1%
  • Canada 5.8%
  • China 5.8%
(Faraone, 2003)

It is estimated that 5–10% of the global child population (Faraone, 2003) and 1–6% of the global adult population (Kessler, 2009) are affected by ADHD. People with ADHD have an increased awareness of sensorial stimuli, specifically related to sight, sound, and touch, and are unable to filter things such as background noise and distractions. (Blum et al, 2008)

There are three subtypes of ADHD:


Inattentive (ADHD-I):
predominately inattentive with few or no hyperactive symptoms
Hyperactive-impulsive (ADHD-H): predominately hyperactive or impulsive with few or no inattentive symptoms. This is the rarest form.
Combined inattentive/hyperactive-impulsive (ADHD-C)
(Chaban & Tannock, 2009)

ADHD is not caused by:

  • Excessive TV/ screen time
  • Food allergies, sugar or chocolate
  • Poor parenting
  • Brain damage
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Prenatal substance abuse
  • Inadequate schooling
(The Hill Center, 2015; Blum, 2008)

Additionally, individuals with ADHD are at greater risk for developing a secondary behavior disorder such as ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), CD (Conduct Disorder), major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder), bipolar disorder, learning disorders, or substance abuse disorder including alcoholism and drug addiction. (Blum et al, 2008) There are many myths and misconceptions about ADHD.

Myth Truth
ADHD medication leads to later drug addiction. In fact, the opposite is often true. Left to cope on their own, people with ADHD face extreme frustration, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They may face other addictions such as drugs, alcohol, eating, gambling, and/or sex. (The Hill Center, 2015;Blum et al, 2008; Comings, 2005)
ADHD medication should only be used with very young children and should be stopped at adolescence. Treatment of adults with ADHD combines medication and counseling. (Kolar, 2008)
ADHD medication has a calming effect on individuals with ADHD while stimulating ‘normal’ individuals. Stimulants decrease activity level and increase attention in all individuals. Those with ADHD show a higher rate of improvement given their initial behavior. (Blum et al, 2008)
Individuals with ADHD outgrow it. While motor hyperactivity may decrease with age, the ability to concentrate and be attentive does not change. (Comings, 2005)
Children with ADHD are always underachievers. Many individuals with ADHD are highly intelligent. Poor concentration and inability to focus often result in underachievement. (Comings, 2005)

Understanding ADHD is the first step in living and working with individuals with the disorder. In our next article, we will focus on the signs and symptoms of ADHD as well as suggestions for home and classroom accommodations and assimilations.

Works Cited
Blum Kenneth, Amanda Lih-Chuan Chen, Eric R. Braverman, et al. “Attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and reward deficiency syndrome.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 2008, 4(5):893-918.
Chaban, Peter and Rosemary Tannock. About Kids Health. “Symptoms and subtypes of ADHD.” November 30, 2009.
Comings, David E., Thomas JH Chen, Kenneth Blum, et al. “Neurogenetic interactions and aberrant behavioral co-morbidity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): dispelling myths.” Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, 2005, 2(50). doi:10.1186/1742-4682-2-50.
Faraone Stephen V., Joseph Sergeant, Christopher Gillberg, and Joesph Biederman. “The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: is it an American condition?” World Psychiatry, 2003, June, 2(2):104-113.
The Hill Center. Understanding learning differences: An introduction to learning disabilities. Chapel Hill. 2015.
Kessler R.C., M. Lane, P.E. Stang, and D.L. Van Brunt. “The prevalence and workplace costs of adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in a large manufacturing firm.” Psychological Medicine, 2008, 39(1):137–47.
Kolar, Dusan, Amanda Keller, Maria Golfinopoulos, et al. “Treatment of adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 2008, April, 4(2), 389–403.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, March 13, 2015.


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