What are typical levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity?
Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are common in students younger than 6 years of age. As they get older, the demands placed on them gradually increase and if they remain inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive, they will likely have trouble keeping up in school and during activities.
There are other circumstances during which children and teens may evidence inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity:
- When they are not getting enough sleep.
- When they are not eating right.
- When they are feeling anxious or stressed.
- When they are feeling sad or low.
- When they are too distracted by the use of technology and electronics.
Even children whose maturity lingers behind their peers, eventually catch up and issues with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity do not persist into young adulthood.
When should I be concerned about a student’s inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity?
Teachers should be concerned about a student’s inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity when they are resulting in problems in the classroom or with peers. Some common issues related to inattention to look out for are:
- Making too many careless errors in schoolwork.
- Being easily distracted.
- Presenting difficulty listening when spoken to.
- Presenting difficulty following instructions.
- Having an excessive hard time with long, sustained tasks.
- Being forgetful most of the time and of simple thing.
- Losing things regularly.
Some common issues related to hyperactivity are:
- Having trouble staying in one place for long.
- Excessive running, climbing or moving around.
- Trouble playing quietly.
Some common issues related to impulsivity are:
- Being impatient.
- Having trouble waiting for a turn.
- Interrupting others.
- Blurting things out.
Some students may have issues with only a few of these things, some with more. In general, children and adolescents who experience issues related to inattention are likely to also experience issues with hyperactivity and impulsivity, which can make it very difficult for them to function in school and in other activities.
What can I do to help a student with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity?
Here are a few ways that teachers may attempt to help children facing inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
- Talk about it. It is important that teachers talk to the student so both know how long the student is able to pay attention. Being mindful of how long they are able to pay attention can help them stay on the task they have to.
- Help the student to break big tasks into several small steps so that they can focus on one thing at a time.
- Help the student to create schedules throughout the day with breaks built in and to set goals using time limits to make sure they remain on tasks until they are complete.
- Help the student to create checklists or use a planner to keep track of tasks and reduce forgetfulness.
- Create a system of reward to keep the student motivated to engage and accomplish tasks.
- Give the student calm reminders when it is important for them to be seated and not moving around.
- Give the student the opportunity to move around during the day so that it may reduce the chances of creating problems during other tasks.
- Bring the concerns to a caregiver’s attention. A student’s caregivers need to know of anything concerning occurring in school. Caregivers may also be able to identify if concerns are present outside of school.
- Seek help from a school mental health professional. In general, inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity is challenging in a classroom, particularly if they lead to learning and behavioral difficulties. Support from a school mental health professional is warranted in most situations when inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity result in concerns.
- Seek support. With a caregiver’s permission, teachers may consult other professionals who specialize in helping children with behavioral difficulties.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Teachers should be careful to avoid being critical of children and adolescents with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. In nearly all situations, these children are not willfully having issues and they are not trying to make things difficult. Punishments do not go a long way and even have the potential to lead to further issues down the road.
Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those experienced by children the same age, and that negatively interfere with classroom daily activities, may indicate the possibility of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpge here.
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