Special Ed’s Alphabet Soup: ADHD

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

ABC learning

Every profession has its list of acronyms. As a writer, I hate them because they obfuscate meaning and signal that “an expert” is coming. There’s a very good website dictionary of acronyms across all fields here:

http://www.acronymfinder.com/ADHD.html

If you look closely at the URL, you can find any acronym by typing in the base address (acronymfinder.com) then / then the acronym followed by .html. Special Education seems to have more than its fair share of acronyms to muddy the waters of professional conversation.

In this case, ADHD stands for “Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder”. It is a condition standing in the way of a child’s ability to absorb information from books and understand what is said in the classroom. There are 6.4 million identified ADHD children in this country, or a whopping 11% of our kids.

Some of the symptoms of ADHD include:

    • Difficulty concentrating, following directions and staying on task.
    • Impulsiveness, interrupting, loss of emotional control.
    • Hyperactivity – more than just squirming, a real inability to sit still for any length of time.

There are three distinct types of ADHD:

    • Inattention
    • Hyperactivity
    • Combined

The diagnosis is often applied to kids who are making teachers’ lives miserable – you know who they are, they live in every classroom. There must be a rigorous professional evaluation with input from parents and family, school psychologists, physicians, and school administrators for accurate ID. The symptoms must be severe enough to cause disruption in learning, not the disruption of a teacher’s day. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, but it is imperative to make the distinction.

There has been a 42% increase in the incidence of the diagnosis from 2003 – 2012. Why? There aren’t more children, but there are now more sophisticated measures of behavioral markers and tests to document failure in academic achievement. Boys are two times more likely to exhibit symptoms than girls.

Causes vary; the most accurate description is still “we’re just not sure.” It seems to be a combination of brain injuries, genetics and environment. Many professionals point to alcohol and smoking during pregnancy as causative factors. For treatment, the most effective protocols seem to be combinations of behavioral therapy, social skills, and medication (psychostimulants and antidepressants.) Judicious application of medication for hyperactivity may be all that’s necessary to see improvement. This suggests a chemical imbalance is at work in some children.

We know that good teachers will apply some hard-earned wisdom to help the child succeed:

    • Get organized, have supplies and books stored in the same place every day.
    • Avoid distractions, be careful with computer use for ADHD children, they may become dependent on them.
    • Limit choices; make directions and instructions very clear and consistent.
    • Provide simple and clear communication.
    • Use goals and rewards, contract learning can be very effective.
    • Use timeouts and removal of privileges instead of yelling.
    • Create a rigid routine, ADHD children thrive in a structured environment.

You may ask, if computers are such attractive learning tools for these kids, why not use them all the time? The answer is kids need many problem solving tools to get along.

As is my habit, I’ve created a list of quality resources to help teachers create great conditions for learning in their classrooms (acronym alert!):

UDL – Universal Design for Learning

RTI – Response to Intervention

CEC – Council for Exceptional Children

AACAP – American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Help4adhd.org – National Resource Center on ADHD

Additude – Living well with attention deficit.

Add to our list, help guide this blog, and tell me about your challenges and favorite acronyms. I may feature your class or school in upcoming blog entries.


Grant Name: Teacher Art Grants

Funded By: P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education

Description: The P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education aids and supports teachers who wish to establish an effective learning tool using the arts in teaching children who learn differently. They look to support new or evolving programs that integrate the arts into educational programming.

Program Areas: Arts, Special Education

Eligibility: Public School, Private School

Proposal Deadline: 9/30/2014

Average Amount: $250.00 – $1,000.00

Address: 152 P. Buckley Moss Dr, Waynesboro, VA 22980

Telephone: 540-932-1728

Website: P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education

Availability: All States

Do Video Games and the Internet Cause ADHD?

This blog article is a way to begin discussion about a topic of interest to many teachers. It is not presented as academic research, but the author has taken care to check sources cited.

Boy Playing a Video Game

The research cited here was performed at Iowa State University. The actual research paper, “Video Game Playing, Attention Problems, and Impulsiveness: Evidence of Bidirectional Causality” can be found here. It was published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture 2012, Vol. 1, No. 1, 62–70.

There has been discussion among teachers that a big uptick in SPED referrals is being caused by student use of computer games and the Internet. The research at Iowa State University shows that indeed, there is a measurable link. Green & Bavalier, 2003 noted that some visual attention could be improved for students who play video games, but it is noted that visual attention is not the same thing as attention that influences school and learning (62).

There are four hypotheses that may help us organize the study of increases in SPED referral and student use of electronic media.

  1. Excitement hypothesis
  2. Displacement hypothesis
  3. Attraction hypothesis
  4. Third variable hypothesis

Very briefly, the excitement hypothesis proposes that electronic screen media may make other activities (e.g., work or school) seem less interesting by comparison. Displacement hypothesis says exposure to electronic media may take up time that could be used for schoolwork. A third possibility is that individuals who have attention problems are more attracted to electronic media—the attraction hypothesis. The last suggests there is a third variable such as sex or age that may explain this association. However, studies included variables like sex and other factors, steering us away from the last hypothesis.

boy and a girl playing video game

The study included 3,034 children from 12 different schools in Singapore with a 99% response rate. This is a reasonably large sample from which to derive good data. The measurement of average weekly video game playing as a benchmark showed strong test–retest correlations. Participants indicated how many hours they played video games during each of three times (morning, afternoon, and evening) on a typical school day and on a typical weekend. Then, they calculated the average weekly video game playing time.

Participants completed the Current ADHD Symptoms Scale Self-Report. Participants also completed 14 items from the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11. Consistent with most previous research, this study found video game playing is associated with greater subsequent attention problems, even when earlier attention problems were statistically controlled.

It seems we have been witnessing a real phenomenon in increased special education referrals and placements. Based on my general observation, diagnoses of ADD and ADHD are on the rise. Diagnoses of conditions like Asperger’s and other forms of autism are also on the rise. For the past 30 years, most of the research on attention problems has focused on biological and genetic factors rather than on environmental factors. Many believe that there are other environmental influences. By identifying and studying those factors, we can create a more detailed picture of the problem to create effective solutions for schools.

More research needs to be done, but teachers must pay increased attention to student activities after school and in study halls. Those ubiquitous mobile devices may be part of the reason for increases in SPED referrals.

To read more about this:

The paradox: can we use video games to help treat attention deficits?

Add to our list of resources, help guide this blog and tell me about your challenges. I may feature your class or school in upcoming blog entries.


Grant Name: Dreyfus Foundation Educational Grants

Funded By: The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.

Description: Giving on a national basis to support museums, cultural, and performing arts programs; schools, hospitals, educational and skills training programs, programs for youth, seniors, and the handicapped; environmental and wildlife protection activities; and other community-based organizations and their programs. Organizations seeking support from the Foundation may submit a letter of request, not exceeding three pages in length, which includes a brief description of the purpose of the organization, and a brief outline of the program or project for which funding is sought.

Program Areas: After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline: 11/10/14

Annual Total Amount: $2,800,000.00 – $4,000,000.00

Average Amount: $1,000.00 – $20,000.00

Address: 2233 Wisconsin Avenue N.W., Suite 414, Washington, DC 20007

Telephone: 202-337-3300

E-mail: info@mvdreyfusfoundation.org

Website: Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.

Availability: All States

Special Ed’s Alphabet Soup: ADHD

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

ABC learning

Every profession has its list of acronyms. As a writer, I hate them because they obfuscate meaning and signal that “an expert” is coming. There’s a very good website dictionary of acronyms across all fields here:

http://www.acronymfinder.com/ADHD.html

If you look closely at the URL, you can find any acronym by typing in the base address (acronymfinder.com) then / then the acronym followed by .html. Special Education seems to have more than its fair share of acronyms to muddy the waters of professional conversation.

In this case, ADHD stands for “Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder”. It is a condition standing in the way of a child’s ability to absorb information from books and understand what is said in the classroom. There are 6.4 million identified ADHD children in this country, or a whopping 11% of our kids.

Some of the symptoms of ADHD include:

    • Difficulty concentrating, following directions and staying on task.
    • Impulsiveness, interrupting, loss of emotional control.
    • Hyperactivity – more than just squirming, a real inability to sit still for any length of time.

There are three distinct types of ADHD:

    • Inattention
    • Hyperactivity
    • Combined

The diagnosis is often applied to kids who are making teachers’ lives miserable – you know who they are, they live in every classroom. There must be a rigorous professional evaluation with input from parents and family, school psychologists, physicians, and school administrators for accurate ID. The symptoms must be severe enough to cause disruption in learning, not the disruption of a teacher’s day. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, but it is imperative to make the distinction.

There has been a 42% increase in the incidence of the diagnosis from 2003 – 2012. Why? There aren’t more children, but there are now more sophisticated measures of behavioral markers and tests to document failure in academic achievement. Boys are two times more likely to exhibit symptoms than girls.

Causes vary; the most accurate description is still “we’re just not sure.” It seems to be a combination of brain injuries, genetics and environment. Many professionals point to alcohol and smoking during pregnancy as causative factors. For treatment, the most effective protocols seem to be combinations of behavioral therapy, social skills, and medication (psychostimulants and antidepressants.) Judicious application of medication for hyperactivity may be all that’s necessary to see improvement. This suggests a chemical imbalance is at work in some children.

We know that good teachers will apply some hard-earned wisdom to help the child succeed:

    • Get organized, have supplies and books stored in the same place every day.
    • Avoid distractions, be careful with computer use for ADHD children, they may become dependent on them.
    • Limit choices; make directions and instructions very clear and consistent.
    • Provide simple and clear communication.
    • Use goals and rewards, contract learning can be very effective.
    • Use timeouts and removal of privileges instead of yelling.
    • Create a rigid routine, ADHD children thrive in a structured environment.

You may ask, if computers are such attractive learning tools for these kids, why not use them all the time? The answer is kids need many problem solving tools to get along.

As is my habit, I’ve created a list of quality resources to help teachers create great conditions for learning in their classrooms (acronym alert!):

UDL – Universal Design for Learning

RTI – Response to Intervention

CEC – Council for Exceptional Children

AACAP – American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Help4adhd.org – National Resource Center on ADHD

Additude – Living well with attention deficit.

Add to our list, help guide this blog, and tell me about your challenges and favorite acronyms. I may feature your class or school in upcoming blog entries.


Grant Name: Teacher Art Grants

Funded By: P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education

Description: The P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education aids and supports teachers who wish to establish an effective learning tool using the arts in teaching children who learn differently. They look to support new or evolving programs that integrate the arts into educational programming.

Program Areas: Arts, Special Education

Eligibility: Public School, Private School

Proposal Deadline: 9/30/2014

Average Amount: $250.00 – $1,000.00

Address: 152 P. Buckley Moss Dr, Waynesboro, VA 22980

Telephone: 540-932-1728

Website: P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education

Availability: All States

Special Education and Compliance

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

pile of folders

In 1975, Congress passed Public Law 94-142 (Education of All Handicapped Children Act), now known as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). In order to receive federal funds, states must develop and implement policies that assure a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to all children with disabilities. The state plans must be consistent with the federal statute. One of the tenets of the law provides that students who are found to have disabilities or special needs, must be provided education in the “least restrictive environment”. The law has created a large federal bureaucracy as most laws requiring compliance will do. School districts all over the country receive grants and special funding to make sure the least restrictive environment provision is met.

Large school districts have created special classrooms with complex equipment and specialists to meet most of the needs presented by students with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans). Students may spend part of their day in these classrooms, the rest in regular classrooms with their peers so they can be in a less restrictive environment, thus meeting the letter of the law.

In the recent past, students have been seen with increasingly complex medical and intellectual challenges. Medical science has improved birth outcomes for children with very low birth weight for instance; these children at one time would have died, but are now saved, some with complicated needs. The public schools are required to provide services for these children. Often, a child will need to be transported away from his neighborhood school to find a classroom that can meet his needs. You have probably seen small yellow buses in your town; that is what they are for, providing free transportation for special needs children to special services in their town, or a neighboring community.

The special education programs in schools are based on the rules and guidelines developed by the federal government.  These rules are established to protect special education students and parents and to promote the well-being of the students.  Because these rules and regulations are many, varied, and quite specific on a number of points, special education administrators as well as building principals must make sure that their schools conform to both the substance and the intent of these rules.  That is not always an easy job.

Many rules and regulations that administrators must understand revolve around special committees and IEP’s (Individual Educational Programs or Plans).  A program could be deemed non-compliant because all the required members of the committee were not present, or properly informed, or noted in the minutes of a committee meeting. By law, each child’s IEP must be reviewed on a regularly scheduled basis so all his needs will be met as he grows. Things change, and the committees are empowered to keep up with the changes by providing new services as needed.  Parents are heavily involved in this process; this is the intent of the law.

Another way a program might be found non-compliant is when parents are not afforded an opportunity for meaningful participation in the committee meetings. The parents might not have been notified of the meeting in a timely fashion or the meeting may have been set up at a time or place that was not mutually agreeable.  The parents might have disagreed with the committee and no meeting was set to reconvene.  The parents might have refused to sign or agree or disagree with provisions of new plans.  Any or all of these problems could have a school cited for non-compliance, especially if there is a pattern of this behavior.

The IEP itself can be the center of a host of other non-compliance problems.  This can happen if an IEP was not written to provide appropriate educational benefit to the student.  Maybe the goals and objectives were not set up so that they were measurable.  Perhaps the levels of academic achievement were not aligned with goals, assessments, or services provided.  Now, with the implementation of Common Core State Standards and new testing requirements, students may not have been provided with proper accommodations on exams so they can take them with their peers.

Being a special education administrator or a building administrator is a difficult job.  It is really challenging when you have to deal with the many compliance issues surrounding special education students in the form of IEP’s, and evaluation/reevaluation meetings.

This blog article is a very basic thumbnail description of some of the more basic provisions of a law that has greatly improved the academic environments for so many thousands of students. I will be writing more about this law, but I felt the need to provide this background material for you to absorb so you will understand complicated issues.

If you are a parent of a special needs child, I’d love to hear from you. How is your school district managing your child’s educational needs? Are you happy with the services your child receives? Comment on this or other blogs we provide.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grant Name: BWI Summer Reading Program Grant

Funded By: American Library Association

Description:  This grant is designed to encourage outstanding summer reading programs by providing financial assistance, while recognizing ALSC members for outstanding program development. The applicant must plan and present an outline for a theme-based summer reading program in a public library. The program must be open to all children (birth -14 years).  The committee also encourages innovative proposals involving children with physical or mental disabilities.

Program Areas:  Disabilities, Library, Professional Development, Special Education

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline:  11/30/2014

Average Amount:  $3,000.00

Address: 50 E. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2788

Telephone: 312-280-4274

E-mail: cjewell@ala.org

Website: American Library Association

Availability:  All States

Discipline and Special Education Students

in trouble cartoon

People have many misconceptions about special education programs and students. There is even a hint of fear in the faces of visitors to schools with active special education programs. People aren’t mean, just ill-informed. It’s true that many special education children need extra discipline to thrive. Structure seems to be so very important to many children. Structure gives kids a sense of security; it’s always good to know what’s expected of you. This is the crux of any classroom management program, carefully defined and communicated expectations.

It’s not surprising that student discipline is a major issue when discussing special education.  Discipline is a hot button for many parents.  They want to be very sure their children are treated fairly when any type of punishment is administered.  Special education students have all the rights of due process that any other student may have, but they are also protected further by their IEP’s.

In school, students are generally expected to follow a set code of conduct.  That conduct is interpreted throughout the school by both teachers and administrators.  In individual classrooms the teacher is responsible for keeping order but has some fairly wide latitude in most schools about what will be allowed and what will not. A school with great leadership will have a consistent and fair set of codes of conduct for all children, but special education teachers are brought into the planning of the expectations early in the process.

The committee that meets to develop each IEP must determine if a student’s disability is defined by particular types of misbehavior.  In other words, a typical student who curses aloud in class would be punished for disrupting the class and making poor choices.  But a special education student that has been diagnosed with Tourette syndrome would be doing no more than exhibiting a characteristic of his/her disability.  To punish that person would be like punishing another student whose temperature went up because he had the flu.

Similarly, students with AD/HD may call out more often than other students.  They will also wiggle more and get up and move around the class.  These are not behaviors the teacher wants to ignore, but the key is to continually remind students of what appropriate behavior looks like in your school.

Most IEP’s include a discipline plan so that special education students face certain consequences for their inappropriate behavior. Many districts in the country are working on professional development programs with a protocol called RTI (Response to Intervention). It’s a leveled set of guidelines that define how a student will learn and behave. Teachers are being trained to use it to provide additional structure and support in the classroom.

It’s also a way to prevent unnecessary referrals to special education classrooms by teachers who are struggling with classroom management issues. With this program, it is carefully spelled out what is expected, and it provides ways for teachers to intervene on behalf of a student who is taking longer to adapt to the classroom rules than others.

Parents need to understand the programs schools have adopted for classroom management and discipline. This high level of understanding helps them become better partners in the education of the children.

Grant Name:   Standard Charitable Foundation Grants

Funded By:  Standard Charitable Foundation

P: 971.321.3162
F: 971.321.5243

The Standard
Public Affairs P12B
1100 SW 6th Ave
Portland OR 97204

Description:  Areas of funding interest include Community Development, Education Effectiveness, Disability and Health.

Program Areas:  Adult Literacy, After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE, Homeless, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education.

Recipients:  Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  5/1/14

Average Amount:  varies

Website: click here

Availability:  All States

Save 15% on Sensory Stimulation Products!

email_07_31_13

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Favorite Product Review! Textured Grabber XT

Textured Grabber XT

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