This month of October, we embrace the children with ADD and nurture them with love. No, ADD isn’t about naughty children. It also isn’t about kids who are disobedient. To be exact, ADD is the term commonly used to describe symptoms of inattention, distractibility, and poor working memory. There is a difference between ADD and ADHD. Unlike ADD, ADHD is the term used to describe additional symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Both are included in the medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The distractibility, impulsivity, and working memory problems associated with ADHD cause big problems at school for many students with these symptoms. However, disciplining the child through negative treatments is not going to be effective. This means that a careful selection of the right teacher or partnering learning centres will play a significant role in educating your kids. 

Tip #1 Source for the Right Learning Environment for ADD Kids

Finding the right teachers or learning environments is important. Most parents with ADD children wish teachers knew that their kids don’t want to misbehave. What seems like misbehaviour could be because the kid is overwhelmed, frustrated or embarrassed. If he is feeling any of these emotions, his brain responds by fighting, fleeing or freezing. It’s a natural stress response. School is stressful and being an educational consultant for so many years at Writers Studio, Carean Oh agrees that this is the main inhibiting factor a parent faces when selecting the right language school for their kids.

Tip #2 Communicate and Collaborate with the Teacher

As much as it is important to find the best learning environment for your kid, getting acquainted with the teacher is crucial. The teacher meets the kid weekly. To the kid, teachers are role models. Having a good teacher makes a great difference to the learning experience for the child. Teachers who are trained to handle special needs children will spot learning issues and be patient enough to guide the child in skilful ways to learn. Over time, a good teacher helps the child build confidence and self-esteem. The effect can be vast and long-serving. Kids under strong tutelage of a caring teacher will be able to manage their inhibitions and thrive well in smaller groups, as well as perform well academically. Earlier, it had been explained that ADD kids are not naughty or disobedient. They do, however, need plenty of patience to steer them back to learning in a more organised and structured way. Many ADD kids are able to perform well in school after careful interventions. 

Do not hesitate to speak with the teacher or counsellor about your ADD kid’s  condition on a monthly basis. At Writers Studio, Carean Oh commits her teachers to communicate with concerned parents on a regular basis, through pre-post conferences. Teachers are, afterall, essential partners in ensuring that learning for special needs kids are effective and timely.

Tip #3 Staggered Tasks with Clearly Communicated Timelines

Many parents wish teachers knew that their ADD kids need encouragement more than other students. They are probably so used to hearing, “Dylan, be quiet,” “Dylan, you’re not trying hard enough,” that the majority of the time he feels like a failure.

It takes ADD kids a long time to complete their homework. What might take a neurotypical student 15 minutes to complete takes an ADD kid an hour. When the parents of a kid with ADD ask for a reduced homework load for their kid, they aren’t trying to get him out of work. They want him to know the material, but they want their child to feel confident about his ability to complete the work instead of feeling like there is no way he will ever get it finished.

Large tasks or projects overwhelm him. In Carean Oh’s Writers Studio, the more her teachers can break down assignments into small tasks with due dates, the more successful the kids will be. The teachers are very patient. She ensures that more attention is placed carefully on her ADD children as they need plenty of guidance and encouragement to interact well in class and deliver the same task like other children. They will receive the same task albeit with staggered deadlines and even more incentives. Incentivised rewards can range from tangibles (cool stationery) to non-tangibles (such as longer breaks). She observed that the ADD kids look for affirmations and incentives play a big role. One of Carean’s students, Ryder, values breaks and earlier releases from each class. Carean Oh is often amused at his zest for learning, plumping for the luxury of being allowed to leave his class five minutes earlier.

Extra Tip: Write down instructions for ADD kids. Never use verbal instructions for homework. Drawing, highlighting or using sticky notes with clear and concise instructions will lead to a healthy rapport with the kid as they will thank you for it. Not knowing what to do makes them anxious and it makes the teacher upset too.

Tip #4 Request for Assessments and Feedback

A proper diagnostic test is given, with customized materials and homework provided by your ADD kid’s English teacher.The child gets to meet the teacher and a negotiation with the student is carried out for better acceptance of the strategies. 

To an ADD kid, being able to have clearly defined goals matters. It does pay to have a good teacher who is able to provide you with a detailed agreement on quantity, frequency of classes and homework. This ensures that the results are measurable, predictable and facilitates proper time management. 

More than a kid who is able to cope normally, an ADD kid needs regular assessments that are short and precise. This makes it easier for parents to find out how to intervene at home. What is damaging is to revise late. Revising for an examination or coming up with a project at the eleventh hour will stress the kid and lead to fear and anxiety of tests and projects.

Tip #5 Create Realistic Goals

Goal setting is more important than ever for an ADD kid. Because distractions are part and parcel of the learning journey, it is easier for parents to feel frustrated and discouraged if they are constantly faced with a distracted and active kid. However, this can be overcome with short-term goals. If needed, discuss with the teacher and create some realistic goal.  Work together with the kid to achieve the goal.

During the goal setting process, plan with timelines in mind. Share information of your child with the teacher including habits, fears and behavioural patterns. It is certainly not a tall order to create chat groups with the teacher and both parents. This helps the parents stay abreast of developments in the school. The teacher can also share instructions for the parents to follow up at home.

Extra Tip:

Parent may meet in child’s classroom to understand their physical learning environment.

At Carean Oh’s Writers Studio, her classrooms are all outfitted with sound proofing, cosy colour schemes to pacify and placate anxious students. All stationery and files are all coloured and labelled with stationery within reach. A bright and spacious library encourages the child to learn conducive should the classroom setting get too mundane for the child.

Tip #6 Respect Versus Intimidation

There is always a line to draw in class. Parents may find it frustrating to micromanage teachers who guide ADD children. The advice for this is a resolute ‘No’. When being with an ADD kid, Carean Oh prefers to dress casually but neatly, relate to the child with interest and strike rapport. All work is prepared in a way that was pre-discussed with the parents. She enjoys being free to interact with the child, set her rules and modify anything that does not work. Lessons can be fluid and anything can change. Thereafter, Carean will update the parents in a post-lesson meeting. Such freedom of adapting teaching methodologies allowed Carean to have the best of both worlds: Earn respect through showing the child her commitment to customise the learning process while eliminating intimidation since trust will ensure the ADD kid looks forward to the private learning setting.

Tip #7 A Conducive Learning Space

While it is important to have activity breaks or allow children frequent breaks, visual breaks or colour therapy is also important. Writers Studio, for instance, has themed classrooms that come with colours that range  from daylight to sunrise, sunset to twilight. All rooms have trendy schemes, alternated furnishings and clean, neat vibes. 

We cannot deny that ambience play a huge role in encouraging an ADD kid. Carean pulls out all the stops to infuse games, music, videos and presentations in her language school. All rooms are equipped with projectors, cue cards, word cards and sound system.

Language centres in Singapore are aplenty, but a language centre with the extra care for ADD kids make a vast difference.

Writers Studio is founded by Carean Oh, an educational consultant and teacher. 

Writers Studio caters to kids with varying levels of aspirations in language mastery. She has been writing English Language Curriculum for primary and secondary school kids for many years. The kids who graduated from her language school excelled in the language through the meticulous and nurturing programme that she established. 

By Carean Oh, Writers Studio.

- Carean Oh

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