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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that causes hyperactivity impulsivity, which is not consistent with the child's age. It is characterized by hyperactivity, impulsiveness and inattention (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Singh (2008) observes that ADHD is one of the most common childhood psychiatric disorders in the world, affecting higher number of boys than girls in ratio 3: 1 respectively. It occurs due to developmental failure in the brain circulatory responsible for monitoring self control and inhibition, a condition that leads to impairment of other significant functions of the brain that maintain attention (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Studies indicate that people often misperceive the high energy level and subsequent behavior of children suffering from ADHD as purposeful noncompliance, when it is indeed a manifestation of a disorder and needs immediate medical attention. Further research has shown that school performance of children suffering from ADHD is at least average (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).
According to U.S. Department of Education (2008), children suffering from ADHD exhibit characteristics such as difficulty staying in their seated position, they act as if driven by a motor, they have difficulty in participating in tasks that require taking turns, they blurt out answers to questions even when they are not asked and they never complete one task at a time but move from one task to another. Research has shown that inattention of ADHD students negatively affects their educational experience because they have difficulties in listening and following instructions, they are unable to sustain attention in class, they make careless mistakes and avoid or dislike tasks requiring mental effort (Singh, 2008). Statistics indicate that almost a third of children suffering from ADHD have learning disabilities (Nyman and Fuchs, 2002). Further studies reveal that forty to sixty percent of children suffering from ADHD exhibit at least one coexisting disability, with certain disabilities such as anxiety disorders, disruptive behavior disorders, tics and tourettes syndrome, mood disorders and learning disabilities occurring more frequently than others (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). The inability of children suffering from ADHD to control their own behavior may result to social isolation, which may in turn affect their self esteem (Singh, 2008). It is therefore important for parents of ADHD students and teachers as well as other stakeholders to work together with a common goal of improving educational and social performance of these students because they also have a right to receive education.
Education Rights for Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Statistics estimate that 3 to 7 percent of school age children suffer from ADHD in the United States, while at the same time, ADHD children account for 30 to 40 percent of referrals to child mental health specialists (Root II and Resnick, 2003).The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) are two federal Acts protecting the rights of children suffering from ADHD. These laws are implemented under 34 CFR sections 300 and 104, that demand for free appropriate public education to all students meeting eligibility criteria and hold teachers accountable for academic outcomes of students with disabilities (U.S. Department of Education, 2008, Root II and Resnick, 2003). IDEA further funds state education agencies to offer special education and appropriate services to children suffering from disabilities and in need of special education as well as other related services (Root II and Resnick, 2003). In reference to these two laws, ADHD is considered as health impairment and a disability resulting in limited alertness in educational environment, caused by acute or chronic health problems (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). IDEA regulations call for each school district to carry out full individual evaluation for each child in need of special education and related services so that the evaluation results can be used by child's individualized education program team (IEP) to determine the child's educational needs (Root II and Resnick, 2003). Furthermore, children suffering from ADHD may also be eligible for services under 'Specific Learning Disability" or "Emotional Disturbance" among others described in IDEA (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). In order to determine the level of assistance required for ADHD students, educational evaluation should be carried out.
Educational Evaluation of ADHD Children
Educational evaluation is done to assess the degree to which child's ADHD symptoms impair his/her academic performance (Root II and Resnick, 2003). It is only through evaluation that it can be ascertained whether the child exhibits developmentally inappropriate degree of inattention, impulsivity or overactivity that may not be explained by learning disabilities, stress, anxiety and trauma among others (Root II and Resnick, 2003).
Evaluation involves reviewing the child's academic performance and direct observation in classroom to identify problems of inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity and other challenging behaviors such as severe aggressive or disruptive behavior (Root II and Resnick, 2003). U.S. Department of Education (2008) highlights that classroom observations reveal the frequency of various ADHD symptoms and other target behaviors in comparison to other children of the same age and gender in the same class. Furthermore, the behavior of the targeted child is compared to that of other children suffering from ADHD in the same class to evaluate the child's level of needs in relation to those of other ADHD children. Examination of child's productivity in completing academic assignments and class work, which is then compared to that of the other students in the same class also forms part of classroom evaluation (Root II and Resnick, 2003).
How ADHD Affects School Performance
Research has shown that 22 percent of students with ADHD also exhibit learning disabilities. This is explained by the fact that students suffering from ADHD exhibit persistent academic challenges and difficulties in comparison to those without ADHD (Singh, 2008). Such challenges may lead to expulsions from school, low average marks, increased dropout rates, low grades and lower rates of undergraduate college completion (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). This makes school experience for students with ADHD to be quite challenging as in most cases they are only identified after consistent failure to follow instructions, rules and complete required assignments, poor academic performance and increased classroom disruptions (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).
Root II and Resnick (2003) observe that symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention associated with ADHD pose major challenges for students in executing daily school tasks as required. Such students often daydream during lessons, lose concentration and find it difficult to complete assignments. Further observations have revealed that ADHD students express hyperactivity through verbal or physical disruptions in class and their impulsivity may cause incomplete response to questions, result to being partially attention to teacher's instructions and making careless errors.
Education Interventions for Children with ADHD
To improve the performance of ADHD children in school, the Individuals With Disability Act demands for individualized education program to be developed for each student to show measurable annual goals and short term objectives reflecting student's needs (Nyman and Fuchs, 2002). Parents of children with ADHD are actively involved in determining these goals to ensure that free appropriate education is not only provided for children suffering from ADHD but also for all children who have a physical or mental impairment that limits their major activities (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Special education and other related services are only provided after IDEA evaluation determines that the child's ADHD adversely affects his learning, otherwise a child whose ADHD does not interferes with learning process may not be eligible for special education and related services under these laws (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). This however limits the participation of children whose ADHD does not threaten their education to access special education and support from IDEA as stipulated under this law.
One of the IDEA requirement that calls for all students with disabilities to be allowed access to education, with teachers being held accountable for academic outcomes of students with disabilities has led to increase in number of students with disabilities and consequently those with ADHD being given attention by teachers in classrooms (Nyman and Fuchs, 2002). This poses a challenge to teachers because students with learning disabilities have diverse instructional needs that teachers must accommodate and at the same time serve other students.
Nyman and Fuchs (2002) point out that teachers should form heterogeneous groups of students that can cooperate in achieving common learning goals, highlighting that these groups should be responsible in ensuring that each group member learns the assigned material. Use of this method has reported positive academic and social outcomes for ADHD students in many subject areas because it provides ADHD students with an excellent alternative to ability grouping and competitive learning environments (Nyman and Fuchs, 2002).
According to U.S. Department of Education (2008), school performance for students with ADHD is a collective responsibility that should involve parents, teachers and all other stakeholders in education of the student. This calls for effective communication and collaboration between student's parents or guardians and the school to promote consistency across the two major settings of the student's life. The teacher should keep parents of ADHD student informed of their child's performance, progress and behavior in school (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Such behavioral interventions should be developed by teachers in collaboration with child's parents and should clearly indicate to the child what is expected of him/her (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).
Students with ADHD should be encouraged to take some responsibility for their behavioral and educational adaptations, this is made possible by having open communication with them and involving them in coming up with methods of making their school experience more pleasurable and learning easier (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).
Purdie, Hattie & Carroll (2002) argue that teachers should be aware of coexisting conditions of children with ADHD and try to reinforce the significance of instructional and classroom structure. They should work on the most challenging concepts early in the day, give instructions to a single assignment at a time instead of several tasks at once, vary the speed and the type of tasks for maximum student's attention and structure the environment of the student to accommodate his special needs.
In conclusion, students with ADHD pose a major challenge to teachers and the entire school community. Disruptive innovations are required to make them feel as part of school community and make their school life enjoyable. This can be achieved through effective collaboration of parents, teachers and the students to come up with interventions that addresses inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity of the ADHD students in order to improve their participation and attentiveness in class.