Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder
Definitions, Prevalence, and Characteristics
Robert has an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and both his family and teacher could benefit from suggestions as to how to best work with him. Robert’s disruptive behaviors and his inability to sustain attention could put Robert at risk for failing in school (Maag & Reid, 1994). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) refers to a “persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and more severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 85). Observations made in the classroom will identify these students as those who often say “Huh, what?” immediately following directions; often appear to be daydreaming; act before they think; blurt out answers; interrupt; and constantly fidget, wiggle, and move around. compares the sharp contrast between commonly noted behaviors on elementary school report cards with students with ADHD.
From 1.35 to 2.25 million children—3% to 5% or more of all school-age children—may have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [American Psychiatric Association (APA), 2000;.Barkley, 1998; Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), 1992]. Most students with ADHD are served full time in general education classrooms, with only about half of them qualifying for special education services under IDEA (CEC, 1992).
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV–Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2000) describes criteria for classification as ADHD. The symptomatic behaviors must be maladaptive and must be present for a minimum of six months to warrant a classification as either inattentive ADHD or hyperactivity-impulsivity ADHD. Some symptoms should have been present before 7 years of age. Furthermore, a child must display a minimum number of identifying characteristics before ADHD is diagnosed. For example, students must meet six of nine characteristics under Inattention, or six of nine characteristics under Hyperactivity/Impulsivity. There also must be evidence of impairment in social, occupational, or academic functioning, and some impairment from the symptoms must be present in at least two settings.
Any inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity must be observed across settings (APA, 2000). Or, as in the case of Robert, the teacher and parents must observe similar behavior patterns at school and at home. Although some symptoms change over time, ADHD is now considered potentially a lifelong disorder (APA, 2000). Males outnumber females about 3 to 1 in the disorder (Barkley, 1998; Bender, 1997).
Students with ADHD are thought to be more likely to have a learning disability than other children. In a sample of students with ADHD, Barkley (1990) identified 21% with disabilities in reading, 26% in spelling, and 28% in math (see also Barkley, 1998).
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