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Understanding How ADHD Impacts Early Learners



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Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder often struggle with learning. Without the proper support, they can fall behind their peers educationally and socially. Understanding why ADHD affects young children can facilitate appropriate interventions to support educational attainment.

Symptoms of ADHD in Young Children

ADHD can go undiagnosed in young children. Some of its symptoms overlap with behaviors considered well within normal expectations for preschool-aged children. However, the condition often affects the executive function or the processes that control learning, emotions, and goal-oriented behaviors. ADHD typically presents as one or more of the three following symptoms.

Trouble Focusing on Tasks or Following Directions

One presentation is the inability to stay on task. This type of disruption can also be seen in difficulty following directions, switching from one task to another, and organizing information.

Lack of Impulse Control

Many children with ADHD have trouble managing emotions and impulses. As a result, they may act out and do things that are considered inappropriate. There is also very little consideration given to the potential consequences of actions.

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Often dismissed in young children, this presentation of behaviors can quickly become problematic as they enter school.

Difficulty Sitting Still/Excessive Fidgeting

DHD is also associated with hyperactivity and fidgeting. Children may have trouble staying still or seem restless after only a few minutes. It is important to note that many children exhibit symptoms from multiple categories.

Notes About Symptoms

While an ADHD diagnosis can make functioning in specific settings difficult, it is not all bad. Children with the condition often display positive personality traits, such as being highly creative, energetic, and expressive.

Impacts on Early Learning Processes

Early learning requires following directions and remaining focused on tasks. Additionally, school environments require students to limit disruptive behavior and stay relatively still. These are all very difficult for children with ADHD. As a result, learning becomes more challenging for them.

In addition to struggles related to behaviors, many students diagnosed with ADHD have co-occurring learning disorders.

Why Early Identification is Critical to Success

As you can see, ADHD can, and often does, negatively impact learning outcomes. Many students with the disorder fall behind their peers academically and socially. Additionally, they may struggle with a learning disability masked by ADHD symptoms.

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However, early interventions have proven to be successful at reducing this impact. They support proper executive function, educational attainment, and positive social development. Therefore, it is vital to identify early signs of ADHD and associated symptoms, thus allowing educators, parents, and health professionals to take action.

Current assessments can identify symptoms of ADHD and co-occurring disorders. For example, the (Conners 3) Conners, Third Edition, is designed to assess emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems. It is especially effective at identifying how these problems affect personal relationships and academic work. In addition, student, parent, and educator reports provide a comprehensive behavioral analysis. Learn more at WPS about how assessments support young learners.

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