Learning Disabilities–ADHD, Dyslexia, and Dyscalculia
During these first years of formal schooling, there are a few learning disabilities that can manifest themselves. Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder, dyslexia, and dyscalculia are three that can have an impact on how children learn mathematics. The growing emphasis on formal education requires close attention to the teacher, or to the educational task or activity (Rosselli, Matute, Pinto, & Ardila, 2006). These learning disabilities can make this difficult for the affected child.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) results when the portion of the brain that processes attention and self-control is less active than it should be. Therefore, these children can exhibit hyperactive behavior, inattention, poor impulse control, or any combination or these factors (Monuteaux, Fraone, Herzig, Navsaria, & Biederman, 2005). ADHD is most often diagnosed in boys, but recent evidence suggests that the incidence in girls may be underreported, as girls tend to exhibit mainly inattention, without hyperactive or impulsive characteristics (Gurian, Henley, & Trueman, 2002; Gurian & Stevens, 2005; Pollack, 1999). Children with any form of ADHD will have trouble staying on task or paying attention. The more demands on their attention that are made, the more this problem becomes evident.
While the primary treatment for ADHD is medication to stimulate the portion of the brain that is underfunctioning this is usually only a partial solution; there are a number of things teachers can do to help children with ADHD during mathematics lessons.
- Individual attention—ADHD children benefit from having a teacher to keep them on task. This may not be possible for the entire mathematics activity, but the teacher should know which children may need special help.
- Games—Many ADHD children do well with games due to the fast-paced nature of the activity. Incorporating math games as much as possible will help give these children an active way to achieve mathematics goals.
- Computers—For many ADHD children, computer activities and games can be a great benefit. As with math games, the changing graphics and fast-paced nature of many of these games help keep children on task and attending to the mathematics concepts.
- To-Do lists—To help keep them on task, it is sometimes helpful to make lists of tasks these children need to complete within a specific time limit. Timers can be very helpful during these activities.
- Limit distractions—The more distractions there are, the harder it is for the ADHD child to work. Many times, the very things that make the classroom more appealing to students are the things that make it hard for the ADHD child to focus. Find a quiet place in the room that has limited visual and auditory distractions for the child to do his mathematics work. The teacher should be careful not to make this seem like punishment.
- Play to the child’s strengths—The ADHD child may have trouble attending in the classroom, but may have other skills that can be linked to mathematics. Try to find ways to use his strengths to teach mathematics concepts. (Monuteaux et al., 2005)
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