Middle school represents a giant leap forward for all tweens and preteens, but the distance seems farther for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). Middle schoolers must exercise more elaborate cognitive strategies, coordinate the demands of various courses and activities, and cope with the pressure cooker of adolescent social life. Often, the required skills are the ones that pose the greatest challenge for ADDers, and many students who excelled in grade school have a hard time keeping up.
ADD/ADHD in Middle School: Building on Academic Basics
Having learned the three Rs in grade school, middle school students are poised to integrate and build on basic skills. New-found cognitive strengths allow them to think deductively, to use abstraction and interpretation, and to understand ambiguity in language -- skills that begin to be reflected in classroom discussions and student compositions. For children with ADHD, the academic stakes are higher, and so they need learning strategies more than ever.
What Teachers Can Do
- Sharpen study skills. Some ADDers have trouble storing and retrieving memories -- an obstacle to effective studying. Teach them how to identify and review material that's likely to appear on tests. In textbooks, point out clues to important information: colored fonts, sidebars, chapter summaries.
- Use "question words" as cues. In studying photosynthesis, for example, ask: Where does it occur? Why is it an important process for the plant?
- Create a math memento. Success in mathematics also requires memory, including recall of the steps needed to solve a problem. Have students write model problems and mathematical formulas on note cards. Punch a hole in the corner of each, and attach them to a key ring for easy reference.
- Raise reading awareness. Effective use of written materials requires reading critically, skimming rapidly, and scanning to find facts. ADDers may have trouble with all of these -- losing focus when skimming or scanning, and difficulty comprehending and restating ideas.
Show how chapters of texts are organized, and how to track down needed information. To aid comprehension, have students summarize and elaborate on the text's main points.
- Appeal to different learning styles. In middle school, lecture-type learning often takes over. Be aware of students who learn better visually or with hands-on experience, and incorporate those elements into your lessons.
- Recognize the breaking point. Students with ADD/ADHD may need breaks to sustain mental effort. Find an unobtrusive way to let them blow off steam -- like pacing in the back of the classroom.
Step Two: What Parents Can Do
Step Three: How Teachers Can Boost Social Skills
Step Four: How Parents Can Boost Social Skills
Step Five: How Teachers Can Help with Organizing
Step Six: How Parents Can Help with Organizing