Special Education

Teaching Students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Addressing Learning and Behavioural Differences in the Classroom: Some General Considerations

Teaching students with diverse needs has become the norm in most classrooms in British Columbia. Decades ago, students who had difficulty achieving success in the school system simply quit and entered the work force. As the job market has become more competitive, high school graduation has become a minimum requirement. Over the years, educators have worked to keep pace with this change. Making adjustments to the delivery of educational programs is one way to ensure that more students are able to achieve their full potential.

Effective teaching requires consideration of student differences. The challenge for teachers is to provide each student with learning activities that:

  • recognize and value a diversity of backgrounds and experiences,
  • provide challenge and success,
  • promote growth,
  • involve the student as an active learner,
  • are age appropriate, and
  • enhance self-concept.

Identifying students who are not reaching their full potential is an ongoing process. As teachers observe students working in the classroom, the strengths and needs of individuals become apparent. Some students appear to understand the concepts presented, but for some reason, are unable to complete assignments or prepare for tests. Some have so much difficulty attending to instruction that teachers are unable to determine whether these students understand the concepts presented or not.

When the teacher notices that a student is struggling to meet the expected learning outcomes, a systematic process should be followed. This process should include:

  • collecting information about the student,
  • planning and trying different instructional strategies, and
  • evaluating the effectiveness of the strategies selected.

In some cases, the instructional adjustments made by the teacher will effectively assist the student to achieve success in the classroom.

In other cases, in spite of the teacher trying a number of different instructional strategies, the student continues to struggle. In these cases, other professionals might be able to assist in planning effective programs for students with AD/HD.

For further information on instructional strategies, see Teaching Students with Learning and Behavioural Differences: A Resource Guide for Teachers (Special Education Branch, 1996).

Informal Collaboration

If the student continues to struggle after adjustments have been made, the classroom teacher, in consultation with the parents, should seek the support of other in-school personnel such as:

  • other teachers, including those who have previously worked with the student,
  • the Learning Assistance Teacher and/or the Resource Teacher,
  • the School Counsellor, and/or
  • the Principal or other administrator.

The teacher can be assisted by the colleagues through a process of consultation and collaboration. This may take the form of classroom observations , additional assessment, adapted instructional strategies, implementation and evaluation of those strategies, or intervention by the school counsellor.

For many students, such collaborative planning and the resulting interventions will successfully address the student's needs. If this is not the case, the teacher can approach the school-based team for further assistance.

Family approaching a school-based team.

Referral to the School-Based Team

When addressing a referral for a student who may have AD/HD, the school-based team should :

  • assign a case manager,
  • provide the classroom teacher with possible classroom strategies,
  • coordinate services for each referred student,
  • ensure the development of an individual education plan (IEP), when appropriate, and
  • make referrals to additional school, district, community or regional services.

The structure and process followed by school-based teams vary from school to school and from district to district. Teachers should check with in-school administrators or school-based special education staff to find out more about the school-based team in their schools.

The school-based team carries out further assessments and develops and implements support strategies to assist the classroom teacher in meeting the student's needs. If additional assistance is still needed the school based team may decide to make a referral to district based services or community professionals and services.

Referral to District Based Services

School Psychology Services

School Psychology is a district or area based resource to help teachers and parents plan educational programs for students. Some districts have school psychologists as part of their staff, working from the district office or student services centre. Other districts contract private psychologists to complete assessments of students' learning needs.

School psychologists may coordinate the data collection required for diagnosis of AD/HD. They would probably use a norm-referenced behavioural rating scale to gather information from teachers and parents about the student's behaviour in various settings over time. In some cases, especially if learning disabilities are suspected, a thorough psychoeducational assessment may be conducted. This would usually include assessing a student's cognitive abilities and school achievement to establish the student's educational strengths and needs.

Because the school psychologist is able to observe the student in the school setting, he/she can help teachers, parents and students in a number of ways. Based on information collected through formal and informal assessment techniques, the school psychologist can assist to:

  • identify students' learning strengths and needs,
  • develop strategies to address the student's learning and behavioural needs at home and school,
  • develop realistic expectations for the student, and
  • access community resources for students with possible mental health needs.

Other District Based Services

Depending on the educational needs of the student and the availability of specialist staff at the school district level, the school based team might refer a student to

  • a District Counsellor,
  • a teacher consultant for learning disabilities,
  • a behaviour specialist,
  • the coordinator of special services/student services, or
  • the speech/language pathologist.

The roles of these specialist staff vary from district to district. In-school administrators and/or members of the school based team should be aware of how these district based personnel can support teachers and students at the school level.

Parent Referral to Community Based Services

If the information collected about a student indicates that he/she might have AD/HD or another medical condition that affects attention, impulsivity and/or activity level, parents may wish to make a referral to a physician or registered psychologist for a formal diagnosis to be made.

Because most students with AD/HD are unlikely to demonstrate symptoms of the disorder in a one-on-one clinical setting (like the doctor's or psychologist's office), data collected at the school should be used to assist in the diagnostic process. Providing objective observational data in a number of different settings over time can provide community professionals with valuable information that is impossible to collect during a visit to the clinic.

Community based professionals can assist families with medical and general management of the student with AD/HD. For example,counselling for the student and/or the family, parent support groups, and assistance with medical management may be services available in the community. When parents access community based supports, educators and parents should work together so home and school support can be coordinated whenever possible.

When a Student Needs Assistance

When a Student Needs Assistance flowchart


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