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Understanding ADHD

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At Untapped Learning, ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a prominent part of who we are, who we work with, and what we do. While not all of our students are diagnosed with ADHD, many are. There are 3 types of ADHD: hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, and a combination of the two. What is it, and how do you treat it?

What are the 3 types of ADHD?

Hyperactive-impulsive: these are the students bouncing off the walls. They can’t sit still, they’re usually not misbehaving out of malice, they just legitimately cannot stop moving. They get frustrated and have lower self control than other students. This type of ADHD is most prominent in males.

Inattentive: these are often the quiet students at the back of the classroom with low participation. Often female, inattentive ADHD students are sometimes just seen as disinterested, daydreaming, or being “scatterbrained.”

Combined type: simultaneously hyper and spacey. This can seem daunting to the parents of these students, but realistically, the “treatment” plans are similar for all 3 types of ADHD.

What is the difference between ADHD and ADD?

ADHD-inattentive used to be referred to as ADD. While still used colloquially, it’s an outdated term that’s no longer used in the medical world.

How do you treat ADHD?

Students diagnosed with every type of ADHD benefit from routines, exercise, and clear boundaries. A lot of our interventions are very similar for hyperactive and inattentive ADHD students. When students first start to work with us, we notice they make careless mistakes, have zero follow through, and are disorganized. We work on the controllable pieces: creating the discipline to look over work, organizing every night, conditioning the brain to work in non-distracting environments, practice and repetition, etc.

Our hyperactive students are always moving, fidgety, and impulsive. We try to teach them the discipline to slow themselves down, and we provide additional people (our mentors!) who hold them accountable and show them immediate consequences to their actions. Hyperactive students especially benefit from movement; not just moving before they sit down to learn, but moving while they learn. Medication is more often used for hyperactive students to subdue some of the impulsivity and hyper behavior. Hyperactive ADHD is also more easily diagnosable; schools notice quickly, because impulse control is low and these students often act out in class.

Inattentive ADHD is harder to diagnose. These students can coast for years without teachers noticing they’re not engaging with 100% of the material they should be, since there are often no behavioral issues. All types of ADHD ultimately leave students with the same executive functioning deficits. So even though our inattentive students don’t necessarily have boundless energy, they’re more engaged with their academic material after exercise, just as with our hyperactive students.

Bottom line: While you may feel frustrated with your student, you are not alone and there are many “treatment” methods you can look into. Movement, routines, clear expectations, and medication (if you choose) are all ways to help your student succeed and alleviate the stress of this diagnosis. Check out more information on the symptoms of each ADHD type here.