Tuesday, October 09, 2012

working with an ADHD kid

Devil Child, mentioned earlier here and here, has ADHD. I used to think that "ADHD" was a PC term for kids who are simply mentally lazy and inattentive, but one look into DC's crazy eyes told me otherwise. There really is something off or broken about ADHD kids. Their brains lack most or all of the impulse-control mechanisms that civilized human beings rely on to function normally in society. It's not that they won't sit still; they can't.

One figure in pop culture who epitomizes ADHD is Martin Short's fictional interviewer, Jiminy Glick (watch Glick interview Jon Stewart). Glick boorishly interrupts his interviewees; he constantly readjusts his posture on the chair; his questions are pot-shots from way out in left field; he stuffs his face with doughnuts; it's obvious that his mind can't remain on one thing only. Devil Child is like Jiminy Glick, but not nearly as funny. I'm constantly having to tell him to sit properly in his chair, to concentrate on his work, to stop bumping into other students whenever he kicks his chair backward across the room, to speak to me and his seatmates in a respectful way. None of this sinks in. Another colleague, who shall remain nameless, jokingly suggested strapping a dog's shock collar onto Devil Child to get him to behave. But I'm not sure that even the application of pain would get through to him.

So I've been reading up on how to teach ADHD kids. The consensus seems to be that you can't fight the kid's natural impulses to keep moving, so it's useless to tell him to sit properly in his chair. Sources also suggest keeping activities brief so as to minimize the chance of boredom; some sources even recommend giving the ADHD child more than one task at a time to perform. ADHD kids apparently do respond to structure (though this isn't obvious to me); they like it when they know what's coming next, so slapping up a list of to-do activities, and checking off each item as you go, seems to be advisable. ADHD kids respond to kinesthetic styles of teaching; in Devil Child's case, this may involve a lot of drawing, since he seems to think he does that well (he doesn't). One source recommends propping up a three-walled "carrel" to block out ambient distractions and aid in focus; I'm not sure how feasible this might be in our tutoring center, and I fear that DC would just knock such a carrel over.

Part of me resents the fact that we've had an ADHD kid thrust upon us, when none of us is an expert at dealing with such children. It grates on me that I have to do research to figure out how to teach this kid. Sure, it's good karma that I even feel an obligation to teach DC well, but I'm not liking this situation-- not one bit.

As it turned out, I didn't have DC for a second round last week; it was indeed the long-suffering Lily who tutored him (this makes four sessions for her, one for me). But I've got DC this week: he'll be there for my final session on Wednesday evening, from 7:20PM to 9:10PM. As the Irish joke's punchline goes, Lovely; fuckin' lovely.

ADDENDUM: Jiminy Glick interviews Ellen DeGeneres here.



Maven said...

HOwdy. Love this post. Pls check your email. I zapped you a link to a podcast hosted by Jiminy Glick's equally androgenous, OCD ADD, counterpart.

Nathan B. said...

I remember quite a number of classmates of mine who were diagnosed with ADHD; some were difficult for the teachers to handle, but none of them were holy terrors (those were the students who *weren't* diagnosed with any problem!). It's possible that these "ADHD" students weren't correctly identified, of course. Anyway, perhaps because of my own experience, I find calling a ADHD child "devil child" somewhat unsettling--especially if the individual in question suffers from a recognized condition that occurs with a fairly great frequency. It also seems a bit problematic that you seem to be generalizing from this one particular child to all ADHD children. Judging him from just "one look" in his eye also doesn't sound very good, either. Buddhahood knows you've given me some good advice when I needed it, so perhaps I might suggest that you try to put aside your judgments about him and his condition and teach/babysit him out of compassion, remembering that he is a child who needs both love and boundaries. I hope that didn't come across as too preachy--especially if you've been holding back and haven't told us a lot about this student that would curl our hair. Well, good luck, anyway!

Kevin Kim said...


I challenge you to sit across the table from this loud, insulting, squirmy kid and NOT consider him a devil child. "Compassion" sounds great in the abstract, but it's nearly worthless in the practical world when you're faced with a kid who's almost impossible to manage.

I didn't generalize from one child to all ADHD children, by the way: I went from talking about this child to talking about the research I had done on ADHD kids, and the consensus/overlap I had found from perusing several different online sources.

And yeah-- I can often read people in a single look. It's a gift from my mom.

John from Daejeon said...

I'm glad to see that you now realize that these kids are born with a very serious disease. And in the right environment, they can actually flourish, but their lives will never be easy, especially as they move into the working population.

But in public school classes of 30 or more, the kids with problems really stand out. However, I usually worry more about the kids who are too quiet in class as this is sometimes indicative of abused children, and their living-hell home lives, which is an even worse can of worms to have to deal with. Of all my failures in life, seeing a couple of kids in these situations in South Korea has really gotten under my skin and started to haunt me. I even got my bosses involved, but the system here is so not geared towards helping those who can't even protect themselves.

Kevin Kim said...

Key words: "in the right environment." That environment isn't found at my place of work. We're not equipped like a Romper Room or Montessori school. Our tutoring method is pretty much the old-school "siddown, shaddap, and drill, drill, drill." That works for most of our students, but it's hell for an ADHD kid.