The number of children diagnosed as having ADHD is rising. It is the most common form of behavioural difficulty affecting between 3 to 9% of the school population. So, you are in good company. Having a child with ADHD is no longer unusual and open up a conversation in most staff rooms across the country and there will be someone who has a child with ADHD in some form in their class.
As with many specific difficulties, ADHD manifests itself in different ways. In some cases there can be significant, continuous disruption. In others it is more intermittent but persistent when it occurs. You will need to find out more specifically exactly what behaviour to expect and what strategies have been used previously to address it.
The behaviour to expect
Although every child is unique there are some general difficulties common to most children with ADHD. They might have difficulty paying attention, have a high level of activity and suffer from impulsive behaviour. They can be easily distracted and tend to skip quickly from one activity to another. They often have difficulty waiting their turn in games, conversation or in a queue and may chatter and interrupt people.
Hyperactivity and behavioural difficulties can be accompanied by learning difficulties too. For example, they might have problems with speech and language and struggle with literacy, numeracy and motor co-ordination. However, ADHD is not directly linked to intelligence and the learning difficulties are often a result of the behavioural ones.
Many children have similar symptoms to those having ADHD that they demonstrate occasionally or during certain periods of their lives. The difference with ADHD is that the behaviour is persistent and prolonged.
Why do they have it?
It is thought that ADHD is the result of a complex neurological disorder which alters the way in which the child’s brain works. However, environmental factors can have an impact too and it is thought that genetic factors can contribute to ADHD running in families.
There is no simple test for ADHD but a psychologist will look out for the length of time the child has had the symptoms, if they show symptoms in more than one setting and if there are any other factors that might be having an impact on the child.
There is no apparent ‘cure’ for ADHD. Research continues but there is unlikely to be any single cause, single treatment or single cure. Any treatment programme has to be tailored to individual circumstances and the changing needs of the individual as they grow and mature.
Issues for your school
To begin with, the presence of a child with ADHD is an issue for the whole school and not just you. Your first strategy should be to find out more through your year leader/ senior management team and SENCo. Your SENCo, in particular, should have more details and should be able to refer you to further sources of information and guidance.
It’s not just you who will be teaching the child. Whatever information you glean or are given will need to be circulated through other members of staff, including lunchtime, support and supply staff. Depending on how extreme your child’s behaviour is, they may quickly get to know who he is and need to have strategies to deal with his behaviour too.
I am presuming that the child is arriving at normal transfer time. In this case there should be special arrangements to enable you to meet with his previous teacher/ SENCo to share strategies and look at his pastoral support plan if he has one.
In some cases there might be medication. If this is the case your SENCO or other senior member of staff might be able to arrange for the school nurse to discuss the implications and side effects with you and other members of staff. You should have chance to meet with his parents. You may need to have a lot of contact with each other in future.
Issues for you
Many of the good classroom management practices that I’m sure you implement are even more important if your class includes a child with ADHD. Clear routines, a firmly, fairly and rigorously applied behaviour policy with clear rules, sanctions and rewards.
Where you place your child in the classroom is important and he should be kept away from distractions where possible. Close to you and away from general thoroughfares is a good guide.
Be clear when giving instructions and try to keep them short and not too many at a time. Try and incorporate opportunities in your lessons for pupils legitimately to move around. You might even give him a stress ball or something else he can fiddle with. ‘Time out’ may be necessary. Work out where he might go and who to and make sure that any additional staff working with you know what to expect and do if he leaves the classroom.
If his behaviour is causing difficulties he should have a pastoral support plan which provides a description of his behaviour, targets for improvement and strategies to help. This plan should be reviewed regularly and give all staff, parents and pupils a clear structure and guidance for working with him.
These are just some thoughts to help you. You need much more detailed information and, as mentioned above, should be given this by your school and his previous school. The links and articles below might help you in your own personal research.