ADHD is a misunderstood disorder. Many people associate it with hyperactivity or with a child who fidgets, is constantly moving or talking, and has trouble participating in quiet activities such as silent reading time. Conventional classroom settings ask children as young as 3 and 4 years old to sit still, listen, follow directions, and work quietly. Montessori tells us that movement is crucial to learning. Sitting still at such a young age is difficult for all children, but for children with ADHD, it is almost impossible.
How do we tell if a child has ADHD or if this is just a child who has a lot to say, has more energy than most, or is less socially mature than his/her peers?
And we need to remember that the inattentive subtype (ADHD-I) has very little, if anything, to do with hyperactivity. There are some strong indicators that teachers and parents should be aware of in order to make a referral to a medical professional.
Indicators for Referring for ADHD
|Short attention span||Immature social skills||Easily angered, moody, irritable|
|Hyperactive motor behavior||Relates better to younger children||Unable to control impulses|
|Poor control of impulses||Difficulty developing friendships||Highly anxious|
|Excessive talking||Difficulty with complex games||Immature social skills|
|Disturbing others||Plays too aggressively||Frustrated|
|Daydreaming||Poor decision making skills||Low self-esteem|
|Seldom sits still||Difficulty with siblings||Rapid/drastic mood changes|
|Frequently distracted||May not have to follow house rules||Outbursts of temper|
|Difficulty following/ understanding directions||Parents have difficulty accepting child’s difficulties|
|Difficulty completing & turning in work||May be punished often|
|Frequently misplacing personal items|
Referring children to a medical professional can help diagnose or rule out ADHD. As we learned in the previous blog, children do not outgrow ADHD. However, appropriate behavior can be learned. Punishment for inappropriate behavior does not work. And behavioral correction without constructive feedback negatively impacts a child’s self-esteem and emotional health. Without help, it is very common for children and adults with ADHD to become anxious and depressed.
Strategies for helping children with ADHD in the Montessori environment
The Montessori environment should be a safe place for children with ADHD to learn and grow, both academically and socially. Learning in the Montessori environment can be very beneficial for a child with ADHD. Giving the child the ability to make choices and work at his/her own pace removes the pressure of measuring his/her progress against that of others. The Montessori environment does not use timed tests and deadlines are developed with the teacher and student working together. Individualized lessons and attention are the norm rather than the exception. Keen observations by the teacher quickly help ascertain when strategies are working and the teacher is quickly able to make modifications in the environment.
Here are some additional strategies to employ when working with children with ADHD.
Difficulty on staying task
Above all else, remember to exercise great patience and respect when working with children with ADHD. Behavioral corrections should be fair and consistent. Children with ADHD are extremely sensitive to correction. For example, limit the number of times you use the child’s name when correcting behavior so they don’t become sensitive or adverse to it.
Children with ADHD have many amazing and remarkable positive traits. They are often your outgoing students who make great classroom greeters when you have guests. They are energetic and like to get everyone involved in games and playground activities. They are always up for an adventure. They are imaginative, creative, inventive, and able to think on their feet. They usually have a great sense of humor and can engage most people. They are sensitive, empathetic, and often understand the needs of others.
A diagnosis of ADHD is not the end of the world. Patient, supportive adults can help students reach their full potential by seeking help from medical professionals and modeling and teaching skills the child needs to become a fully functioning, independent adult.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.