At school, students with ADHD work quickly and erratically, often making the same 'silly' mistakes they made yesterday and the day before. They are forever sidetracked, genuinely finding it hard to pay attention and stay with one thought or activity for long. Commonly, they call out in class, even when asked to wait their turn. Teachers find them wandering the classroom fiddling with the belongings of others and engaging half a dozen students on different topics in the space of a minute or two. When checked, they are almost always sorry, but a few minutes later they are doing it again. The combination of inattentiveness, impatience, impulsiveness and excitability has dire consequences for learning. Even though the student may be in the classroom full time, in reality they are only available to listen and gather information on a very part-time basis.
Learning problems, immaturity, poor memory, compulsiveness and mood difficulties also feature in the ADHD profile. Typically, wide fluctuations in attention and cooperation are noticed, depending on the nature of a task or the context in which the task is given. Many display chronic problems in sustaining attention for most study-related tasks; yet are able to concentrate very well on interests which highly motivate them.
Peers tend to avoid these children because of their oversensitive, overactive, impulsive and unpredictable behaviours. They are viewed as poor sports or team players as they cannot wait their turn. They have to win; and when they lose, their temper explodes just as quickly at school as it does at home. Once they lose their temper, overreaction and tantrums are unavoidable, even when the child becomes an adolescent.
ADHD and ADD are considered neurobiological conditions involving dysfunction in a variety of brain networks linked to the operation of executive functioning. The executive system is responsible for regulating thinking (without emotion); planning; and starting, maintaining and completing behaviours. ADHD and ADD are now viewed as disorders of performance, not specifically a lack of knowledge or skills. As a neurobiological condition, it is usual that an adult somewhere in the family also has this condition; often, despite their difficulties, the adult will have made their way successfully in the world. Recognition of this can be wonderfully affirming to students, helping to buoy their spirits and steer them in safer, more thoughtful directions.