A teacher’s concern for a student caught me to the quick today, and made me write a really long answer:
“Hi there. I work in a school with many GLD/2e children. There is one little chap I am currently working with who seems to be displaying many ADHD behaviours. The parents won’t have him assessed because they are fearful of the outcome. In the meantime this little chap is desperate to learn and is becoming more aware that everyone around him is staying on track, he can’t and he doesn’t seem to know what ‘on track’ is. I suspect that he is overwhelmed by the amount of ‘stuff’ out there and so cannot filter what he is supposed to attend to. He is driving his teacher and class to distraction. Does anyone here have any tips/strategies on helping children to concentrate. I do work with him one-to-one and even then he struggles to attend. I only work two days a week so there is limited time I can work with him. He is such a wonderful young boy, with so much potential and so willing to learn, it breaks my heart to see him struggle so much. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.”
My first reply:
Read up on overexcitabilities, and try to shield him from distractions as much as possible (ear protection, room dividers or other screens). Then provide him with some way to move. Something like this could make it easier for him:
To this, the teacher responded:
“I know the OE’s well – student of Dabrowski’s work. This presents differently to Psychomotor OE.”
I was so impressed with this person, I could hardly contain myself! Here is my loooong reply:
Glad to hear someone KNOWS the OEs and can spot ADHD in a gifted boy, you are a rare specimen! The boy is lucky to have you for a teacher, especially as the parents are more concerned with the stigma than their child’s suffering.
That may sound harsh against the parents, but as a gifted ADHD woman raising a gifted ADHD girl, there is no doubt in my mind that the boy in question is suffering! A part of him is always aware of his true abilities, and therefore every attention slip and every motivational challenge feels like him failing. A hundred times each and every day, he blames himself for not “just doing it”. Up to a hundred times during a single lesson he is aware og the ease with which the others remain calm and attentive, and blames himself for not being able to to something do simple.
The only times he gets to shine and let others see (some of) what he is truly good for, are short tests or, if he’s as troubled as my daughter, during discussions about subjects he’s passionately into.
You see, ADHD is not really an attention deficit disorder. It’s more if an attention overload disorder. On top of that, it’s a motivational disorder. People with ADHD are physically unable to make themselves do something unless 100% motivated.
Perhaps it is possible to show his parents this? I was diagnosed a year ago, at 43, and only when I started trying Ritalin last October did I realise how much I had missed out on, and how much I had been damaged by all those years camouflaged as a normal person with occasional spouts of brilliance.
On medication, it is actually possible to stay in a conversation without having three alternative dialogues going on in my head. On medication, I find myself able to actually listen to people before planning my response, and this makes a difference much larger than I ever thought possible. On medication, so many things all if a sudden become almost effortless, I no longer have to work so hard to find something, anything, that would motivate ne enough to finally get down to business and then repeat after the hyperfocus is gone due to some tiny disturbance.
If the parents had any idea how exhausting it is to live every day on maximum effort, they would not deny their son the possibility of relief. If they knew how deeply rewarding it is to finally get some recognition for how smart you really are, not to mention for all the effort you kept putting in (instead of constantly being scalded for not trying when really, he is trying as hard as he’s able to, and then some!), they would wish for their boy to have that opportunity.
I used to think that ADHD was equal to obnoxious boys with bad parents, as most people apparently do. Then I got to see the change in one of those obnoxious troublemakers. That tortured look on his face that used to define him disappeared, and he started smiling! After a while, I also noted that the their home no longer suffered from his rage, there were no more destroyed doors, walls or clothes. He started to get positive feedback, for the first time in his life, and his mother was finally getting a reprieve from all the concerned calls from school, authorities and other parents. After a while, he even started getting invites to birthday parties, and even sleepovers! He was no longer shunned, and began to make friends. Imagine that! Friends! People that actually preferred his company, instead of wishing him to disappear!
People who suffer from ADHD (and I really do mean suffer!) cannot help themselves get better. Even adults depend in someone caring enough to suggest doing some research. I scoured the Internet for a full four months before being able to sort the real information from all the bogus. I can spare others some time by telling them to search for the name Russel Barkley. His research and extremely well backed up presentations (easily found on YouTube) Brough the message home to me and got me started on the long and thorough examination that concluded with the diagnosis and an exoneration from all the guilt I had carried with me all my life.
It took my daughter’s teacher a year and a half to finally see that she might need at least an examination, as they just could not spare an adult to push her back on track every three minutes. As the girl is smart enough to easily compensate for any attention lapses, it still has not dawned on them that her performance level is really at least twice as high as the books and tasks given, they just see an extremely slow worker who rarely finishes anything, yet manages to score amongst top 20 % on every single test (often the beat or second best in class), and somehow seems to know something about everything.
In second grade, the teachers were more concerned that she did not manage to finish her two animals for the class’s Noa’s Ark, but they did not marvel at the effort she had put into carefully drawing, colouring and cutting out the very difficult outline of a…. Komodo Varan. She got a lot of negative attention throughout those three weeks, an no recognition for being the only kid in class who even knew about that animal.
In the early years, gifted children easily compensate for their ADHD, but school keeps getting more demanding for every year they age, and sooner or later they will no longer be able to piece together the information they catch in between paying attention to all kinds of other things. Refusing to refer a child for an evaluation guarantees that there will be a brick wall rising up to hit that child in the face at some point (it sounds as if that may have already started in his case?). Parents who know this will not sit idly by and hope for the best!