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To begin this article, I invite you to participate, by taking a short quiz. Don’t worry, it is not for a grade; it is for greater understanding.  Let’s get started.

  1. This student is obstreperous if s/he . . .
  2. is distracted quickly and takes great pains to complete their tasks.
  3. seems oblivious (daydreaming).
  4. ignores instructions, consistently errs and is unable to recall or follow directives.
  5. All of the above.
  6. None of the above.


  1. This student is a disrespectful spoiled brat if s/he . . .
  2. is unable to control their emotions and their ire is demonstrated without due cause.
  3. is constantly “dancing” in their chair or is unable to remain seated.
  4. is clever but is constantly reminded to raise their hand or return to their seat.
  5. All of the above.
  6. None of the above.

Would you be surprised to learn that the answer to both statements is letter “(e) None of the above?” The characteristics listed are not those of a wilfully disobedient, indolent or apathetic child, but of one undiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Many children may experience some of the behaviours cited above. However, you may be surprised to learn that ADHD appears as early as 3 years of age, and is seen more in males than females.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, “ADHD is a brain disorder marked by an on-going pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Diagnosis requires a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed clinician, such as a paediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist with expertise in ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD can be mistaken for emotional or disciplinary problems or missed entirely in quiet, well-behaved children, leading to a delay in diagnosis.”

ADHD may present itself differently in each child. Students may be unruly and may not participate in activities as readily as their peers. Others have difficulty understanding lessons, rubrics or graphic organizers. Reflection may surround their aura or you can rely upon them appearing detached. Hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention are the main attributes of ADHD.

As educators, we must arm ourselves with ostinatos, short, repeated, lessons that encourage and empower students’ strengths. It is unwise to view these children as lazy, or as different from normal children. As always, the affective filter is reduced and a welcoming and warm environment created. In the development of ideas – our lessons, let us remember Beethoven, ” I alter some things, eliminate and try again until I am satisfied. Then begins the mental working out of material in its breadth, its narrowness, its height and depth.” 

As educators, let us teach with positivity, patience and persistence. Lessons are varied and chunked into manageable and sometimes moving parts. Children with ADHD inspire an orchestra of engaged officials. Administrators, teachers, school counsellor, parents and doctor(s) represent their learning-solution team.

At Brandon Hall boarding school, I recall my student’s great and private shame.  Often, I would hear, “Señora, I can’t do this work because I have ADHD.”

I would respond, “Oh really? Well, guess what? In this class ADD means “Actively pursuing your Dynamic Destiny and ADHD is Actively Determining your HIGHEST Destiny.”

Always, set the bar high, with love and a sincere smile.