Having asked all the questions to professionals of the mind in numerous Emotional Literacy training courses, as an ESL teacher in Adult Education I would now like to share with my colleagues this very wise statement that was made at one point:
Teachers can be great «mediators» when it comes to students with special educational needs
As it happens, we were not taught how to deal with diversity and inclusion when we were first getting trained at college. We learnt about functional language, phonetics, poetry and literature, history and culture, and so on and so forth. However, once we are actually in the classroom we teachers can find ourselves rather lost when other than «the subject» itself needs dealing with. What is interesting is that although we are not specialists in neurodiversity we can certainly be mediators. So in this SEND field that is new to us the best thing we can do may be to show an open and respectful attitude to the person we have in front of us and do some basic research to find out how to help these students in their learning processes.
The Unfocused Mind
The first thing that needs to be said is that a person with ADHD can be very TALENTED and SKILLFUL in one particular field. Their difficulty to focus is non-existent when there is special interest in the subject itself. So you may find that this person is unable to focus on your English lesson and on the other hand is second to none at one particular discipline. So TALENT is there. We just need to try and help them give it to us.
The difficulty has to do with the executive functions and we can assist our ADHD students by helping them
- organise and prioritise homework
- process speed
- manage their learning frustrations
- modulate their emotions
- sustain and shift attention to tasks
- regulate alertness
IMAGE FROM The Unfocused Mind by Ph D Thomas Brown
A student with ADHD may forget the detailed instructions to do a task and sometimes will not finish tasks or will need some help to complete assignments. They may overreact when getting corrected. Easily distracted, as if their mind is attracted by many many things at the same time, they might seem to waste time. Failing would be the teacher’s responsibility in their thinking.
The difficulties to sustain their attention may alienate them from other classmates who do manage to follow the learning process, which results in them losing interest and isolating themselves. The teacher may, for instance, ask a direct question that will have a disconnected answer thus provoking laughter in the classroom. Therefore, their cognitive, emotional and motivational abilities need addressing with special care.
Adults with ADHD
The first studies on adults who were never diagnosed as children as having ADHD, but showed symptoms as adults, were done in the late 1970s by Drs. Paul Wender, Frederick Reimherr, and David Wood. Typically, adults with ADHD are unaware that they have this disorder – they often just feel that it’s impossible to get organized, to stick to a job, to keep an appointment. The everyday tasks of getting up, getting dressed and ready for the day’s work, getting to work on time, and being productive on the job can be major challenges for the ADHD adult.
STORYTELLING: My ADHD students get tremendously motivated when there is a story being told. So the more interest and emotion we can add to the contents we are trying to teach the better.
ACTION: Circumlocutions are «not their cup of tea» if you allow me the expression. So do not waste time in long speeches and go as straight to the point as possible or they will lose interest.
VISUALS: Unless they choose their own topic of interest to which they will pay full attention, of course, contents will be preferably presented in small doses and in video format. They may not follow long written paragraphs so try to avoid that.
ENCOURAGEMENT: These students can handle compliments and praise much better than negative criticism. So reinforcing and encouraging their abilities rather than criticising their lack of skills may work well.
ANNOYANCE: Being restless and perhaps fidgety, these students may make others nervous. So as teacher it is of extreme importance that we remain patient, and try to Respond, not React.
AGREEMENTS: Having special difficulties to focus on tasks it might be a good strategy to find out what are those that they are willing to do and redirect the tasks. After all, it is helping them with their achievements that we are after not making it even harder for them to reach goals.
RULES: When it comes to rules it is most advisable that they are very descriptive and easily presented in a positive manner. So instead of describing the Dont’s you may prefer to choose suggesting the Do’s.
STAY CALM: When correction is needed keep away from raising your tone of voice or making a rough comment as they might feel easily attacked. Avoiding sarcasm, rage and ridicule always helps. Be kind [some kindness facts here].
TRUST: They may only ask from you to just «put an idea in their head» that they can develop on their own. So show them you are there to help. Trust them and trust the process.
LEADERSHIP: Once they feel comfortable and secure, and more focused they can produce brilliant projects and ideas. And they can become great leaders.
GENDER: ADHD are normally male students.
four stories told in the 1st person
Brown, T. PhD (2005) Attention Deficit Disorder
LD Online Adults with ADHD
Jornadas TDAH Santa Lucía (2019)
Guía Necesidades específicas de apoyo educativo CREENA NAVARRA (2013)