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Supporting ADHD and ACEs in academics.


Article by Kimberly Selchan

Photography by Kimberly Selchan

We’ve probably heard these terms and if our children have either or both, we will have also heard the terms “IEP” and “504 Plans.” So what do they mean? And if we have a child at home, classroom, or tutoring session, how can we help?

First, let’s start with definitions: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental problem that results in distraction, forgetfulness, impulsivity, and, in some cases, excessive, restless physical movement, from fidgeting to pacing. The Association of Child and Adult Mental Health defines ADHD as a behavioral disorder with three key aspects; inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity which interfere with a child or adult's functioning and development.

“Kids won’t ‘outgrow’ ADHD. They will learn to cope with it and accommodate it with A LOT of hard work” - HC

Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs): These are traumatic experiences that can affect the overall health and well-being of a child. When a child experiences traumas (all kinds - emotional, physical, neglect, homelessness) before the age of 5, structural damage to several parts of the brain can be seen in MRIs and EEGs. This damage causes cognitive delays, challenges with sensory regulation, poor academic performance, and there is a high association with ADHD. ACEs can also impact job opportunities and earning potential.

Here are some of my recommendations to provide academic support for kids with ADHD and ACEs:

Help Improve their Executive Function Skills

Executive functions are self-regulatory skills that enable one to plan, organize, and strategize, ADHD is a problem with executive function, therefore parents should endeavor to help kids strengthen these areas like keeping a to-do list, setting daily reminders, learning note-taking skills, and keep a personal timetable.

504 Plans and Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Often these children will have additional resources within the classroom and modifications to the rigor of certain assignments. Some common examples are increased deadlines to turn in assignments, extended time to take tests, and allowing the student to take tests in a location outside the classroom. These small modifications allow the student to work at a more realistic pace for their learning styles, while still accomplishing the outcome. Accommodations are even offered on the SAT and ACT. Many high achievers (kids and adults) can have ADHD too!

Avoid Distractions

Children with ADHD or ACEs are prone to distractions, Educators should endeavor to design classrooms for minimal distractions and avoid sitting children struggling with these disorders close to windows or far back in the class. Parents should also help children create a workspace conducive to focus for their kids to complete their homework and study at home. (A neat desk, no electronics or nearby family members, and noise-canceling headphones work wonders!).

Make Learning Fun and Engaging

To keep children with minor disorders in a regular classroom engaged in learning, the process should be active and fun. Involving the contribution of the children. Let’s not get hung up on minor behaviors that don’t fit the “norm.” If a child needs to stand, or fidget (so long as it isn’t disrupting the class)- let them. Movement is shown to increase focus and engagement!

Provide Feedback and Reward Schemes

Fintan O’Regan an educational consultant in his booklet, Teaching and Managing Students with ADHD notes

“Rewards are essential for behavior change, and children with ADHD respond very well to incentives tied to short-term targets”

Also, frequent communication and feedback within the triangle of educators, parents, and students can help discover weaknesses, and identify -and celebrate- strengths of the children struggling with ADHD or ACEs in a regular classroom.

In conclusion, making small changes in the classroom by educators can make a significant difference in the academic success of students with ADHD and ACEs. Parents we need to be advocates for our children. If a teacher doesn’t suggest accommodations (ex. 504 Plan) but you observe your child struggling to focus in the classroom, speak with the Guidance Counselor and teacher. Meanwhile, engage the services of a tutor to provide personalized and tailored one-to-one support. Together or in conjunction, these strategies and tools can be of tremendous benefit in improving their confidence, academic, and overall success.

Kimberly Selchan, Resilient One, and Tutor Doctor Owner

My mission: “To help today's youth become tomorrow's successful adults”.

If you want to help your child or teen discover and pursue their career passion, or you are a provider of these services, don't hesitate to get in touch with me. We can stand together in the community to support the next generation of adults!

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