Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Inattention Associated with School Failure

School Support for ADHD Children May Be Missing the Mark: Inattention, Not Hyperactivity, Is Associated With Educational Failure (Science Digest August 28, 2011)

Science Digest reports on a 20 year study of 2000 children.  New research from the University of Montreal shows that inattention, rather than hyperactivity, is the most important indicator when it comes to finishing a high school education.  Only 29% of children with inattention problems will graduate high school.  Early intervention to teach attention controls is needed to aid in students' success. 

     "In the school system, children who have attention difficulties are often forgotten
      because, unlike hyperactive kids, they don't disturb the class," said Dr. Sylvana Côte,
      who led the study. "However, we know that we can train children to pay attention
      through appropriate activities, and that can help encourage success at school."

Mental health experts have started a discussion of separating hyperactivity and inattention problems in the new addition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). 
      "These two health issues have now been more precisely dissected, and we may now
       need to define a differentiated type of inattention that is independent from hyperactivity,
       to improve our understanding of the phenomenon and better tailor interventions,"
       Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pingault said.

Kasting Connections' Perspective:

My 25 years of prescriptive teaching has taught me that hyperactivity and inattention are two different issues.  You may see both conditions in a student, but they need to be addressed differently.  I was just presenting a math lesson as a guest teacher in a sixth grade classroom when a student brought this very issue to light. 

The young man was excited about the lesson, but he was distracted by the activity in the classroom.  Although he wanted to participate, his inability to prioritize what sensory information was bombarding him kept him from attending to the lesson on a consistent basis.  Most of the students knew that my voice and the markers writing on the whiteboard were the sounds and sights to focus on.  This young man did not have that innate ability to decipher all the data that was streaming through his system.  I was able to bring his attention back to task by using several redirection tools, being careful not to associate any judgement placed on his lack of focus.  (Shame is rampant with inattentive children; they know they should be paying attention to the teacher, but some truly don't currently have the ability.)  Each time he returned to task and participated, only to be distracted by a student's comment or any movement in the classroom.

When it was time to practice what they had learned, the young man continued to be drawn to the noises in the environment.  After checking on the other students' understanding, I was able to return to the student to guide his attention. 

"Here's what you should be saying to yourself to help you focus on the math problems." 

I played his "inner voice" while he moved through each step in the process.  Had I known about his attention difficulties before entering the classroom, I would have prepared a mnemonic of the steps to follow.  Instead, I used my physical presence, deep pressure on his shoulder, and a calm voice repeating the cues for each step.  When he got in the rhythm of how to maintain his focus on his work, I walked away giving him a chance to perform on his own.  He was able to maintain focus enough to finish his math problems and turn it in like the other students in the classroom, a feeling that can be fleeting for a student with attention difficulties. 

If I had seen this young man's behavior through a different lense, I may have seen a defiant student who wanted to cause problems and avoid completing his work.  Instead I used cognitive strategies to help him regain control and begin to build self-confidence.  A small step in his school years, but one that can be built upon. 

In his book, A Mind at a Time, Mel Levine, M.D. discusses, in detail, our Attention Control System which is made up of three forms of control:
     1.  Mental Energy Control
     2.  Intake Control (taking in information and over stimuli)
     3.  Output Control (behavior and work)

These three forms of control have to work together if a student is going to  succeed in the classroom.  As educators, and parents, we need to know how these attention controls work and what the signs are if they aren't working. 

 A lack of attention control can look like laziness, attitude problem, poor behavior choices, writing difficulties, sleepiness, and inability to focus on
details.  When a student is displaying some of the above behaviors, it is reasonable to question whether all of his/her attention controls are efficiently functioning. 

Using cognitive strategies can be very successful with students who struggle with attention controls.  Dr. Levine has also written The Mind That's Mine, A Program to Help Young Learners Learn About Learning.  It is accompanied by a student's book, All Kinds of Minds, which is filled with stories of students that students will be able to connect.  "Eddie's Kind of Mind: A Boy with an Attention Deficit" is one of the chapters included.  The teachers's manual, The Mind That's Mine, is filled with lessons, supplementary activities, letters to families, and other resources to guide teachers. 

If you need more guidance in using cognitive strategies with students, Strategic Tutoring, written by Michael F. Hock, Donald D. Deshler, and Jean B. Schumaker gives teachers an excellent resource to develop cognitive strategies for your students. 

Building attention controls is a team approach; parents and teachers need to share what works with each other. 

I would enjoy discussing this issue with anyone who is interested in more detail.  Contact me:!

No comments:

Post a Comment