In this unit I produced and gave a talk on effective communication with ADHD children in first school. I used information from different resources including talking with a professional. This talk was given to a target audience of trainee teachers, or those involved in developmental health and social care. It lasted 14 minutes and also included a handout and a question and answer session. After the talk I gave out pre-prepared questionnaires evaluating my performance and context of the talk. I then analysed these questionnaires to see how I could improve. Using my own judgement, my audience and my teachers views I evaluated my performance and the justifications for my decisions within the presentation.
Transcript (14 minutes) -
40% of children with ADHD will drop out of school by the time they're 18. 1 in 5 untreated teenagers will be arrested for felony. And this is why effective communication is so vital for these children. My name is xxxx, and today I will be talking about verbal and non-verbal communication skills for children with ADHD in first school and the barriers they face and how to overcome them
These children have problems with impulse control, fidgeting, eye contact and concentrating. Just think of Bart Simpson. It's important to realise that each child suffers very differently from this condition, and try and find out how as soon as you can before teaching it.
If I went through my talk today and taught you the different skills required to communication, you could go back to your classrooms and replicate this. However, if I can teach you to understand and see from their point of view, when you go back not only can you put into practice what I told you today, but also you can develop it, improve your relationship with these children and their education. So I want you to imagine you're at a concert. There's screaming and the music is really loud. Now try and imagine having an in-depth conversation with the person next to you. It's near impossible, there are too many distractions, and you can't think properly or concentrate. This is what it's like for children with ADHD, except all that noise isn't a concert; it's their brain.
Today I will be using Joe as a case study to help us put these skills into practice. He is 9 years old and has ADHD. So when talking to him use a serious tone to match the emotion your not happy with him when you're telling him off. Even if he's not concentrating he'll be able to pick up on your emotion and understand he's in the wrong. Like I said earlier, it's important to find out just how each child suffers differently, and this can be seen in speed. The more inattentive children think a lot slower, whereas more hyperactive children like Joe think and process things a lot faster. So try and match the speed of your voice with what the child would find easier to listen to. However talking too slow may be patronising, and talking too fast they will just get lost on what's being said.
Don't talk quietly. This is one of the key points I can give you today. We've all been in those classrooms where children are shouting at each other from across the classroom, people are constantly getting out of their seats and it's hard for us to think, let alone those with ADHD. Raise your voice above that of the environment. They will be able to focus on what your saying not the noise around them.
The 30% rule; This is a really quick and easy way of being able to communicate with them. It refers to the fact that they developmentally lack by about 30% compared to their peers. So with Joe, instead of talking to him as if he was 9 years old, we would talk to him as if he was 6. So we would use less complex words, and shorter sentences.
When giving instructions try and use smaller steps and don't say them at all once. So if we want Joe to cut and stick a bit of paper into his book. Instead of saying it all at once, we would say Joe I want you to get the scissors from the desk and then come back to me. Then we would say Joe, can you get the glue from the table over there and put it next to the scissors, and so on. By saying this he will be able to focus on one thing at a time and doesn't have to think about what the next thing is, which he may not be able to remember.
Clarity of voice is important if you want any child to hear, and especially these kinds of children. If they don't understand from the start, they're not going to continue to listen to you. Talk to them with clarity, just picture how a posh person would speak, you pronounce each word correctly and don't slur them.
*This is where I lost my place and had to look at my prompt cards for a couple of seconds*. With pauses, when talking to them, avoid using pauses. This gives them the opportunity to get distracted. However when talking with them, it can be a really great skill to help him them understand when they need to talk as they often miss social cues. So by pausing and exaggerating this, for example after a question Joe knows it's his turn to talk. Also he won't have the chance to interrupt you if he knows you'll give him the chance to speak.
Repeat the key points in your conversation to him, this will help him remember them, and then get him to repeat them back to you. You'll be able to assess his understanding of what you told him, you can correct what he forgot, and by repeating it out loud it will help him remember.
80% of communication is non-verbal, so it's vital we get this right. Similar to tone, facial expression needs to match the emotion. So when telling Joe off, we frown. We show him that we're not happy with what he's done so even if he's not concentrating, again he'll be able to pick up on this emotion. Proximity. Stand close when to those children with ADHD when addressing the whole class. Not only will they able to hear you better, but also they're less likely to get distracted. It is also a good tool if prearranged. When getting off task let them know they need to go back to what they're doing without having to single them out which they may embarrassed by.
Point at what you want them to do. For example if we want Joe to get the scissors, we say 'Joe get the scissors' and point at where he needs to get them from. Use touch to redirect attention, so just a simple touch on his shoulder will get him back to where he needs to be. Again he won't be singled out and he won't be embarrassed. With eye contact, when talking to the whole class try to use eye contact with those children with ADHD. Not only will this help them focus, but you'll be able to check if they're listening, and if they're not, like I said previously you can use touch and proximity to redirect them back into conversation.
Communication is a two way street. It's not just about what we say to them, but also about teaching them to speak back to their peers and us. Teach them it's not okay to interrupt. They also have problems with saying the wrong thing, so get them to count to 5 before saying it so they can assess is this the right thing to say? Will this get me in trouble? Or is this the wrong situation? They often talk a lot faster than other children.
Teach them that not every child is like them, and get them to talk slower so their peers can understand them and they can improve their relationships with them. They also have problems with the rhythm of conversation. They find it hard to understand when they need to talk. So teach them that conversation is like ping pong, you say something to them, then they say something back in response and so on. As a teacher you're a role model to your pupils so teach by example.
Barriers can cause under achievement, low self esteem, aggression, bad relationships with peers and as I mentioned at the start truancy or dropping out of school. ADHD in itself is a barrier. Not being able to concentrate means they are going to be lacking behind in work and won't reach they're potential. Joe will not be able to do enough work and fall behind his peers. Lack of attention span can cause communication to be hard. Imagine talking to someone who isn't listening, it's not just hard on you but also the child. Overcome these issues by using the skills you've learnt today to effectively communicate with them. And encourage them when they're behind in their work, let them know they have the potential to do better.
Behaviour management is useless if you just use it in the classroom. If your using stickers as rewards and taking away play time for punishment and then Joe goes home to his family and this isn't carried on he'll get mixed messages and your work in the classroom will become useless. Frequently communicate with parents so you can work with them on behaviour management.
Often just letting the parents know that their child did something well is encouragement for them to continue on behaviour management. It can be very hard and stressful on the parents to keep this up, so let them know their child is doing well. There are many different ways of treating ADHD, and if your unaware of what the child is receiving you can't help them progress with it. So talk to the child's parents, doctor or your SEN department in school so you can learn just how each child is being treated.
If ADHD is not diagnosed it can often be mistaken for other conditions or simply being naughty, stupid or disobedient. This can affect their work ethic, they're not going to want to come into school or want to try and do better if they think others think they are naughty and stupid. So look out for the symptoms and get advice from senior staff or your SENCO if you believe a student may have this condition. Also remember that a lot of children have issues with attention or impulsivity, so use the skills you've learnt today even if they haven't been diagnosed.
Today we've covered understanding the child's perspective, nonverbal and verbal communication, teaching them to communicate, the barriers they face and how to overcome them. Are there any questions? *Question from audience member* 'What do I do if the parents are hard to communicate with or are unwilling to share the treatment plan with me?' This can be a very hard situation as I said earlier; it's hard to progress without knowing how the child is being treated. If the child is statemented or has regular contact with the SEN department at your school, they should be aware of current and previous treatment methods. If however they are unaware, talk to the child about how they think they'll work best. Often children themselves know what works best for them and what doesn't. Thank you for listening; please fill in the questionnaires provided.