Learning Problems often blamed on ADHD Behavior

Poor Self Esteem and Confidence ADHD Problems Print

Poor self-esteem and confidence problems must be corrected before ADHD behavior learning problems can be “fixed”!

Many times teachers and parents blame an ADHD child’s learning difficulties on his or her behavior and insist the ADHD behavior must be “fixed” before learning problems can be corrected.  

Unfortunately, this is sort of like putting the proverbial horse before the cart. If you ask a hundred parents and teachers to describe an ADHD child’s behavior, many of us can predict what they’ll say. Just about 100 percent of those asked know a child with ADHD will show:

  • Impulsive behavior
  • Poor attention span
  • And sometimes hyperactivity.

Of course, these are all core symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and they have been drilled over and over into everybody’s brain. Erroneously, we’re told these are the things, teachers, parents and doctors are supposed to look for when a child isn’t learning or cuts-up in class.

Unfortunately, with so much hype on the core symptoms of ADHD, the other more often outstanding and life-altering symptoms of poor self-esteem, lack of confidence, and poor self-image are overlooked or out-right neglected.

It is literally impossible to improve a child’s ability to learn without first addressing any issues they suffer with confidence, self-esteem, and self-image. These problems interfere with the normal process of building good learning skills and maintaining the drive, ambition and curiosity needed to excel in any learning environment.

I strongly believe every behavior-disordered child’s emotional status should be thoroughly evaluated before trying to correct his or her behavior in hopes that doing so will fix their learning problem. Pills do not treat or correct learning problems and using pills to correct behavior in hopes that the learning problem will go away is truly like expecting a child to run a race backwards-he or she may never reach the finish line!

What follows is an outstanding, insightful article-post I discovered in one of my active discussion groups on LinkedIn-the ADHD Aware Group. The author, Don Reist, has given permission for me to share it with you. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the best dead on-target discussions of the academic problems and bias caused by poor self-esteem and lack of confidence suffered by behavior problem-labeled kids and teens.

I predict it will be an eye-opening discovery…

Dr. Frank


Learning Difficulties Being Identified as a Behaviour Problem

Don Reist, OCT, B.Ed.

It always astounds me that many students with special needs are identified with a behaviour problem rather than a learning problem. Time and time again I have chatted with principals, teachers and special education resource teachers about this matter. I am told in no uncertain terms, that they cannot work with the learning problem until they have resolved the student's behaviour problem.

This leads me to the following analogy. Farmer Bill's barn catches fire. Fortunately, all of the animals escape unharmed. Due to the circumstances the animals are all jumping and running around. In time the fire department arrives. Now the question is what should they do first? If we believe what all the educators tell us we must first settle down the animals. Of course, this makes little sense. The fact is we need to put out the fire. Once the fire has been extinguished then the animals will settle down in time.

Ask yourself this: have you ever known a student who struggles in school? Have you sensed the pain on their face? The fact is the pain is quite real. There is nothing that I can think of more frustrating for a child than to fall behind in school. As the frustration grows, the child will start acting out this frustration. For most children it is preferable to be known as the class clown than for his peers to realize that he is falling behind.

I have worked with numerous students at my center who were identified with a behaviour problem. In some cases, the parents told me on the phone, prior to the child coming in to meet me, that he or she was very difficult to work with. When I asked why, they told me about their behaviour.

Regardless of this warning, I’ve proceeded to meet with the parents and the child. Upon meeting the child the first thing I have noticed is a total lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. This is a result of the struggles that child has encountered trying to do his or her schoolwork.

When I begin to work with the child I make certain that the very first task that I have him or her complete is something that I am confident he or she can do. Upon the successful completion of the task I acknowledge the success. Inevitably the child's head rises up and his or her chest fills out. Nothing succeeds like success in raising one’s self-esteem and self-confidence. In most cases, from this point on the child is eager to learn. All the negative behaviour is replaced by positive behaviour.

In conclusion, I highly recommend to all parents that they advocate on the behalf of their child and make certain that the child's behaviour is not the number one thing identified on the IEP. If it is, talk with the principal about changing the identification and make certain that the appropriate accommodations or modifications are put in place for your child.

Don Reist, OCT, B.Ed.  
Certified Teacher, Special Education Specialist at Tutorwiz Education Centre
Toronto, Canada Area


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