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Troubled Teens and ADHD Behaviors in the Classroom

How Do Adolescents With AD/HD Behave
In A Typical Classroom Setting

It is estimated that Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition associated with inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, affects as many as 10% of the population in the United States. Approximately 5% of children ages 9 to 17 are affected by ADHD at any given time, and a possible 2-4% of adults are affected. People with ADHD overlook details, miss information, and have difficulty performing tasks that require concentration, decisiveness, and organizational skills. As a result, they often avoid situations in which they are expected to perform or to assume responsibility.

There are subtypes of ADHD that account for the fact that some children with ADHD have little or no trouble sitting still or inhibiting behavior, but may be predominantly inattentive and, as a result, have great difficulty getting or staying focused on a task or activity. Others may be able to pay attention to a task but lose focus because they may be predominantly hyperactive-impulsive and have trouble controlling impulse and activity. However, most children with ADHD exhibit all three symptoms.

How Do Adolescents With ADHD Behave In A Typical Classroom Setting?

Adolescents with ADHD:

  • May exhibit inappropriate behaviors in a large group setting, especially when waiting in turn.
  • Are frequently involved in physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences.
  • Typically exhibit poor adult interactions and regularly defy authority.
  • Often have low self-esteem. They will put themselves down, have poor personal care and posture, and communicate negative comments about themselves and others.
  • Have difficulty using unstructured time.
  • Often lose things necessary for a task or activities at school or at home (e.g. pencils, books, assignments before, during and after completion of a given task).
  • Have poor use of time (sitting, starting off into space, doodling, not working on task at hand). They are easily distracted by extraneous stimuli and easily lose motivation.
  • Have difficulty following a plan - they have poor follow-through.
  • Exhibit difficulty sequencing and completing steps to accomplish specific tasks (e.g. completing homework assignment, writing a term paper, etc.).
  • Rarely finish what they start, rather they shift from one activity to another.
  • Find it hard to follow through on instructions from others.
  • Have difficulty prioritizing from most to least important.
  • Have difficulty sustaining effort and accuracy over time.
  • Engage in inappropriate attention seeking.
  • Do not read from non-verbal cues well; for example, they do not read body language well.
  • Are usually disorganized and exhibit messiness or sloppiness in their schoolwork.
  • Usually have poor handwriting as well as problems with fluency in handwriting, for example, good letter/word production but very slow and laborious.
  • Typically have poor study skills and self-monitoring abilities.
  • Have difficulty making transitions (from activity to activity or class to class). It often takes them an excessive amount of time to find a pencil, for example.
  • Have difficulty remaining seated or in a particular position when required to. They frequently will fidget with hands, feet or objects, or squirm in their seat.
  • Give inappropriate responses in class, often blurted out.
  • Show agitation under pressure and competition (athletic or academic).

How Can The Family Foundation School Help?

A large majority of the students at The Family Foundation School are diagnosed with ADHD or show symptoms related to this disorder. The school serves adolescents with ADHD by providing a supportive and consistent therapeutic environment that helps them learn to manage their impulsive behavior, and to excel academically, socially and behaviorally. Together with family support and counseling, and with caring teachers, staff, and positive peers, adolescents with ADHD are able to grow and develop their full potential.

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  1. National Dissemination Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)
  2. Adapted from Child Development Institute
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