ATTENTION-DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER
“Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a syndrome that interferes with an individual’s ability to focus (inattention), regulate activity level (hyperactivity), and inhibit behavior (impulsivity).” – David A Sousa, How the Special Needs Brain Learns
THE ADHD BRAIN
What makes this brain exceptional?
ADHD is a neurologically based disorder. Recent research has found several exceptionalities in brain development, structure, and function when comparing the brain of an individual diagnosed with ADHD and the brain of an individual without ADHD.
Cortical brain development in a child diagnosed with ADHD is believed to be delayed, on average, by three years (1, see references below).
The size of the frontal and temporal lobes of an ADHD brain are notably smaller than those of a non-ADHD brain (2).
According to recent research, ADHD brains utilize different networks of the brain to perform specific tasks than compared to non-ADHD brains (2).
Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are found to be deficient in ADHD brains (3).
for the classroom and beyond
PREDICTABILITY VS. REPETITIVENESS
Use clear expectations and general procedures to create an environment of structure and predictability. Beware… predictability does not have to mean repetition! Repetition is important when solidifying procedures, but the repetition is found in the expectation not in the situation.
In action: Third graders in Mrs. M’s class know that she uses a call and response style when gaining students’ attention. When she addresses the whole class in this way her students know they are expected to respond… BUT Mrs. M often changes up these call and response activities, so her students have to listen closely in order to respond in the right way. In this instance the expectation is predictable, but the specifics are ever changing.
ITCHING TO KNOW MORE?
Check out these additional resources...
HOW THE SPECIAL NEEDS BRAIN LEARNS
David A. Sousa brilliantly compiles research, strategies, and implications in the third edition of his book connecting special needs and the developing brain. Not only does Sousa investigate the ADHD brain but also how learning disabilities, emotional disorders, and autism spectrum disorder connect to the brain. This is a fantastic resource for both teachers and parents.
ADHD: SIGNS, SYMPTOMS, RESEARCH
The National Institute of Mental Health has created a short yet comprehensive video detailing the signs, symptoms, and research related to ADHD.
LIVING WITH ADHD IN THE AGE OF INFORMATION AND SOCIAL MEDIA
What does ADHD and Instagram have in common? Is the internet making us all a little ADHD? Watch this video to find out! Theo Siggelakis takes you on a journey inside the mind of someone with ADHD as he illustrates his unique thought process. Theo casts a positive light upon the ADHD brain as he discusses both the inherent advantages and disadvantages of having a mind that “works like hyperlinks”.
ADHD SUCKS, BUT NOT REALLY
Salif Mahamane from Utah State University discusses the advantages of an ADHD brain like the ability to powerfully brainstorm, bounce back from negativity, and the incredible advantage of truly pursuing one’s passion. Along with the advantages Salif also discusses the disadvantages and what it is like to “be a fish out of water” in a normal world. Pulling from his own experiences Salif shares a positive perspective with a strong dose of reality. Whether you have ADHD, or you care about someone who does, this is a definite must see.
ADHD AS A DIFFERENCE IN COGNITION, NOT A DISORDER
Pulling from his own experiences, the experiences of others he knows with ADHD, and a great sense of humor, Stephen Tonti presents an alternative way to see ADHD, as “a difference in cognition not simply a disorder”. He challenges the status quo by offering that instead of seeking to be fixed or conforming to our current society perhaps society needs to do a little adapting and conforming of its own as he powerfully suggests that “our society has to recognize cognitive diversity”. Perhaps he is on to something here… maybe, just maybe ADHD is really “attention different, not attention deficit”.
THE TROUBLE WITH NORMAL: MY ADHD THE ZEBRA
Emily Anhalt shares the findings of her doctoral research, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Success Without the Use of Medication. As someone with ADHD Emily describes it as her “zebra” because a zebra cannot change its stripes much like an ADHD brain cannot change the way it operates and that living in a world with such opposites as black and white is much like living with the opposites of hyper focus and inattentiveness that characterizes ADHD. Focusing on the strengths of the ADHD mind and the individuality that comes with everyone’s experience Emily shares a new perspective in which to view ADHD and the power of flexibility.
NOT WRONG, JUST DIFFERENT: ADHD AS INNOVATORS
With a husband and son with ADHD Rebecca Hession uses her unique perspective to dig deeper into the untapped potential of the ADHD mind, how our current school systems reject and devalue these abilities, and offers a positive and promising dream of what it could look like for a student with ADHD. Acknowledging both the chaos of an ADHD brain and the gift of being able to “deep dive” into passions, Rebecca ends with a powerful conclusion and challenge: “We have to see them as not wrong, just different.”
Shaw, P., Eckstrand, K.,Sharp, W., Blumenthal, J., Lerch, J. P., Greenstein, D., Clasen, L., Evans, A., Giedd, J., & Rapport, J. L. (2007). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a delay in cortical maturation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(49), 19649-19654. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25450763.
Sousa, D. A. (2016). How the Special Needs Brain Learns (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Banerjee, E. & Nandagopal, K. (2015). Does serotonin deficit mediate susceptibility to ADHD? Neurochemistry International, 82, 52-68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuint.2015.02.001.
Please note that the following pages titled Brain Exceptionalities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder are under construction.
New information and research have come to the attention of B.R.A.I.N.'s founder and appropriate edits are being made. The new pages will reflect a neurodiversity lens - one that sees neurobiological differences as a natural element of human diversity rather than a defect or disorder.
To curate this material appropriately takes time and thus B.R.A.I.N. is asking for your patience and understanding. The following pages will remain active during this transition as they still contain helpful information. Just please know that the current verbiage may reflect a pathologized paradigm from which B.R.A.I.N. is trying to move away.
In the meantime, to learn more about the neurodiversity paradigm, click here.