What should teachers do about students with ADHD?

Do  you have students with ADHD? Everyone's talking about ADHD on Twitter recently, so I poked around to see what everyone was saying about ADHD and education. I watch social media closely and it's my job to share some of the hot topics on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other outlets that teachers, principals, students, and parents are contributing.

ADHD is short for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. People with ADHD suffer from limited attention spans and hyperactivity. There is no cure, but medication and therapy can help someone cope with it. While ADHD is more common in younger people, it can persist through someone's lifetime. It is often misdiagnosed.

As teachers, we have to deal with students with ADHD on occasion. If the student is already diagnosed, then it's our job to research how that might affect that student's behavior and how to work with the disorder rather than against it. The problem arises when teachers suspect a student is either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed.

Our job is to help prepare our students for their futures. That includes more than making sure they have good test grades and know their ABCs. We also help students with their emotional and mental growth. So, if we see a student struggling, it's our job to bring that to the parent's attention. Sometimes, this includes teachers suspecting that students are struggling with a disorder, including ADHD.

While every teacher should pay attention to their students, including their mental healthy, we need to be careful not to take things too far. According to Jeff Emmerson, author of many books on mental health, teachers should not pressure parents to medicate their children. He goes as far as calling this “unethical.” The argument is that teachers are not experts in ADHD. Children, by nature, have short attention spans. It's easy to assume a hyperactive student has a disorder rather than nothing more than too much energy to spare. If professionals often misdiagnose ADHD, then it's even easier for someone who isn't an expert.

students with ADHD

But simply ignoring a problem isn't the answer either. We need to strike a balance between thinking we know better than the child's parents and completely ignoring an issue. There's nothing wrong with bringing up concerns to a child's parents. Ultimately, it's up to the parents to decide what to do. We should also respect what the experts say, no matter what we personally think unless you also happen to be an ADHD expert.

What do you think? Should teachers get involved in a student's life outside the classroom? How much should you pressure parents to change their mind about their child's possible disorder?

Tori Pakizer is the Social Media Editor at SimpleK12.com. She writes regularly about the use of educational technology in K-12 classrooms, and specializes in how teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media. You can follow Tori and SimpleK12 on Twitter @SimpleK12. If you have ideas for using social media in schools, please send your information or tip to editor@simplek12.com.