Vulnerable Learners



Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or for short ADHD is considered a mental disorder. Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention, are hyperactive, and have difficulty controlling their behavior. It is estimated that it affects globally around 5% of all children aged 3 to 17 and that boys are 4 times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls.

To understand how it affects children in school, let’s look at the story of Themba, a 12-year-old boy who is going to school with the best intentions, but is struggling hard to succeed.

His biggest problem is his Attention Deficit

Themba gets distracted so easily. It happens, even if he tries his hardest to focus. Suddenly he then realizes that he had dozed off quietly all by himself and spent the last 15 minutes thinking about something entirely different. Just the smallest thing can get his attention. To him, it feels like his brain is broken.

He is also forgetful. Books and homework are often left at home and if he doesn’t miss an assignment, he often loses it somewhere or forgets to turn it in. His marks are terrible and some teachers begin to think he’s a lost case.

Then there is his Hyper Activity

He is restless and has trouble staying in his seat. To stay calm and listen while others speak, can drain him completely, making any normal conversation a serious challenge. To him, it feels like there is no capacity left in his brain to deal with all the input that needs to be processed and he gets angry from not being able to follow. To help cope with his hyperactivity, he likes to keep his hands busy all the time.

Last, there is his Impulsive Behavior

He often cannot restrain himself from saying things that come to his mind. Sometimes he tries hard to control himself, but then just blurs out and interrupts others. His classmates find this annoying. He later regrets his hot-headed behavior, but he knows that unfortunately, he will do it again and again. It seems to him like he can’t learn from his mistakes. Teachers get frustrated trying to get him to behave. Others become impatient, give up or distanced themselves.

Things get better after his ADHD diagnosis when his teachers start to support him:

  • He is seated next to a supportive learner in the front of the class
  • He gets a notebook that lists all his assignments, to help him remember
  • To make homework easier to track, he gets it for all subjects only once a week.
  • He practices speaking and listening routines with a specialist
  • He is allowed to use fidget objects during lessons and take short brakes when needed

For severe cases of ADHD, children are often prescribed prescription drugs. Before that happens, children like Themba need to undergo a professional age-appropriate diagnosis of a child psychologist who can try to also look below the surface. ADHD might be just the tip of the iceberg. The root cause can be drama at home, bullying at school, poor sleep or the wrong diet.

Sir Ken Robinson told the story of Gillian Lynne. An 8-year-old girl that was said to have a learning disorder. She could not concentrate and could never sit still. When her mother brought her to the specialist, he didn’t give her pills but instead turned on some music on the radio. Gillian started dancing. He then told her mother: “Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” Gillian Lynne later became a famous dancer, and then responsible for some of the most successful musicals in broad-way history.

What are your thoughts? If you are hyper-active or if you were diagnosed with ADHD, please tell us how you deal with it. So we can learn more about it from reading your comments.


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