ADHD Diagnosis And The Classroom

There are many facets to an ADHD diagnosis. It seems a simple clinical observation is not enough. Therefore it would be best to train teachers to diagnose the disorder.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD as it is more commonly known, is the term most often applied to children that previously would have been considered "hyperactive" or a "discipline problem" ten to fifteen years ago. ADHD as a diagnosis can mean the exhibition of several different behaviors, each of which can be readily construed as "normal behavior" for children between the ages of two and seven years. This is the reason that close and careful attention as well as comprehensive observation in a controlled socio-emotional environment is an absolute necessity if any ADHD diagnosis is to be respected. The classroom is the best and easiest tool to use for pinpointing ADHD and certainly given this a properly trained and attentive teacher can further assist in diagnosis. It will be the goal of the paper to show how the multi faceted ADHD can easily be misinterpreted, how treatments can be misapplied and therefore ineffective, and finally how classrooms fit into the schematics of clinical observations.

First it is important to clarify what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM considers the criteria to be in an ADHD diagnosis. The signs of the disorder must appear before the age of seven and must continue for no less than six months. Examples of these signs would be short attention span, subject doesn't complete tasks, habitually makes careless mistakes, loses things, talks excessively, subject is on the "go" all the time, doesn't listen when spoken to or is distracted by extraneous stimuli of any sort. Certainly it could be interpreted that any one of these criteria might be symptoms of just one of a host of other disorders. If a closer look is given to these standards one can see that in and of themselves they don't necessarily point to any specific disorder in children other than immaturity - if that can even be considered a disorder. This is precisely the reason the DSM stresses that a combination of these and other symptoms must create a "discernable handicap" in two areas of the child's life such as socially, scholastically or in the home/family life. Therefore a child who cannot complete tasks at school yet at home seems unimpaired and socially is well integrated and adjusted would not be classified as ADHD and yet the reverse would most definitely yield a positive ADHD result.

To distinguish between ADHD and classic emotional growth one must give careful consideration to certain aspects of the subject's life. Age is a very important factor. Younger children are not entirely able to accurately communicate specific problems that they are having and most often will choose to act out in inappropriate ways in order to get the attention they desire. If, for example, a child gets no attention from a mother, then that child might exhibit classic ADHD behaviors even though the problem springs from other aspects of the child's life. So sometimes acts that might be seen as ADHD can be seen as symptomatic of emotional problems at home. Another example would be a child that cannot grasp mathematics and so every time he is called on to do this he becomes hyper and refuses to conform to any structured activities. This again is a classic symptom of ADHD yet in this particular case that diagnosis cannot be effectively made because the child is in need of help with an aspect of scholastic growth and not in need of help with emotional growth. As is the case with many disorders it is easy to see how specific criteria must be studied and all information must be collected for that diagnosis to hold any validity.



From the previous examples given why ADHD can more often than not be a "knee-jerk" reaction to one exhibited symptom and that a misdiagnosis such as this could have long term and harmful effects on any child. In a setting such as the classroom where one person, the teacher, has access to all facets of the child's life it is easy to see how there can be no greater diagnostic tool than a trained teacher and a structured classroom. Because in a situation where several children are performing standardized tasks is a good way to primarily establish base lines of behavior patterns and secondarily observe how these behavior patterns correspond with symptoms of either ADHD or other developmental problems. Considering the duration of exposure that the teacher is given throughout the school year, seeing the benefits of active participation in diagnosis is somewhat academic.

ADHD diagnoses are sometimes a quick and easy answer. This is what probably hastened the DSM to further qualify the criteria for ADHD. This is what probably hastened the DSM to further qualify the criteria for ADHD. Because ADHD is such a complicated and multi faceted disorder that is essentially a myriad of smaller individual disorders it is necessary for someone with the ability to be exposed in every part of a potential diagnosis in order to be fair. With this in mind more thought should be given to the ability to utilize teachers in their unique and intimate rolls with potential subjects, as the strongest of all diagnostic tools at the systems disposal.

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