Tricks of the trade to mastering tutoring effectively

Tomorrow’s doctors, lawyers, scientists and artists are today’s children and to be able to nurture and nourish these young minds is an honourable privilege. Tutoring is a rare opportunity in having a positive impact on young individuals. It’s a special responsibility that should be carried out to the best of your ability. Here are a few tips to becoming a successful tutor:

1. Starting off on the right foot/note

When meeting learners for the first time it is important to develop a proper rapport. They need to feel comfortable enough to openly tell you where they require assistance. It is also essential to strike the right balance when it comes to making the learner comfortable and remaining rigid and in charge. The following may be helpful in your approach:

  • Making small talk in the beginning always breaks the ice. Always ask the learner about their day or any tests/ tasks they mentioned to you previously. By doing this it shows that you care and also pay attention to them.
  • As nice as it is to always play the good cop there comes a time where you have to make it clear to your student that you are not their friend but a mentor. The learner should not take advantage of your good nature. You are there to help them so if you have to put your foot down, do exactly that!

2. Problem areas

In addition to asking learners where their difficulties lie, also assess them as there may be problems that they, themselves, are not aware of. This does not necessarily have to be a specific topic but also simple tasks such as reading and writing. For example, a brilliant Maths student who fully understands his work, falls short due to hastily reading questions and misinterpreting them.

3. Each student is unique

Do not use the same method or style for all your learners. Always assess your learner on your first lesson, whether it’s required or not. It will give you a better indication of what would work for the learner. Pick an approach, test it out, if the learner doesn’t respond well, change your approach. Do not force your teaching style on the learner. Have an open mind and always keep the learner’s best interest in mind.

4. Scheduling

A lot of learners will not listen and plan their time table on their own. Instead of explaining how to, take a few minutes to help them actually plan it out. If you tell a learner to plan it out themselves, they view it as extra work. Let’s face it, no learner wants to do more work than they have to.  Plan a schedule with them and motivate them to stick to it. You can also lead by example by implementing this in structuring your lessons. If you stick to a schedule they will follow suit.

For example, in a 1 hour lesson:

  • 10 mins is dedicated to a quick revision test.
  • 40 mins allocated to discussing the topic of choice
  • 10 mins to homework collection and handing out new homework.

5. Challenge your learner

Continuously test pupils on previous work as well as areas they comfortable with to keep the content fresh in their minds. Learners tend to zone out sometimes, by continuously questioning them and keeping them on their toes, you are forcing them to pay careful attention to you. It is also a good way to detect which topics need more work on and is also great preparation for spot tests at school.

6. Feedback to parents

It’s vital to keep parents updated so that they can also step in when the need arises. Tutors usually put all their attention on the learners and forget about the parent’s role in all of this. Parents are naturally concerned about their children, reassurance from you will take a weight of their shoulders. They are entrusting you with their child’s future, so the least you can do is keep them in the loop. Express your concerns and approach with them, sometimes they can help enforce certain rules or behaviours that would be beneficial for the student.

Tutoring is more than just passing down knowledge, you are playing the role of not only a teacher but also a role model. Every student is not going to be obedient and easy to work with, you are going to come across a few who push your buttons and make you question what you do. When that time comes, remember that you have the ability to shape the student into a better human being. It is a major responsibility so always give it your 100%, never give up, and remember the difference you making in their lives.

If you want to become a BrightSparkz tutor, find out more here

Written by Nirvana Rampershad, BrightSparkz Tutor & Guest Blogger

How to get Great Client Feedback and Glowing References

A strong, successful tutoring “career” is a valuable way to build up your CV, especially if you have little (or no) work experience. Even after you complete your studies and go out into the working world, many employers will look for relevant experience and good references on top of your qualifications.

Tutoring as a part-time job provides you with a very respectable way to build up your CV, and affords you the opportunity to gain various skills such as interpersonal communications, dealing with different types of people, teaching, time management, and patience to name but a few.

Maximize your chances of receiving positive client feedback and great references from your tutoring career! Here’s how:

Professional conduct

  • Punctuality! Nothing will deter a future employer more than a prospective employee who is consistently late. If you ensure that you are punctual when arriving at your tutoring sessions, you will make a great impression on your clients.
  • Be well prepared for EVERY lesson and have the relevant resources for the section of work you will be covering. It is a waste of your client’s time and money if you arrive unprepared.
  • Be neat, clean and tidy when you go to a tutoring session. This will show that you have a professional attitude.
  • Be committed to all the learners you tutor. You have a big hand in the progression of their school career and that is a place of honour. Don’t cancel lessons needlessly, or drop the learner during exams.
  • Be honest if there is something you do not feel competent in teaching rather than muddling along and confusing the learner further. It is in the learner’s best interests that you do so. You should then go back, research the topic and come back with the answers.

Relationships

  • Do everything you can to be as relatable as possible to the learner. This means being friendly but professional, and using examples which relate to their interests or stage of life where possible. Try to tutor them with reference to their learning style as far as possible.
  • Expect the best from your learner. Provide encouragement, and be firm when requesting homework or school books from learners. You should keep distractions, like cellphones, to a minimum during lessons.
  • Pay attention to the relationship with your learner as well as your client (the parent). Greet them (if they are around) when you arrive and say goodbye when you leave.
  • Give feedback on the learner’s progress. Some clients will want to be more involved than others. If you have concerns about any aspects of the learner’s education, keep their parents updated on this.
  • Be committed to assisting the learner achieve their desired outcomes (within reason). Celebrate with the learner when grades improve. This includes making recommendations to the parent to further assist the learner if you see something that can be improved.

Getting Great References

Your relationship with your clients and learners can be very positive and enriching if mutual respect is maintained. Everyone (including the school teacher) has the learner’s best interests at heart, as we’re all working towards a common goal.

Sticking to the above guidelines should ensure that you will always be on the receiving end of great client feedback as well as developing skills and competencies to round out your CV in the future.

Furthermore, excellent references are vitally important in today’s competitive job market, both in South Africa and abroad. You will be able to get great work references from BrightSparkz Tutors as we are often contacted by local and international companies regarding references for our tutors. Having great client feedback allows us to furnish you with a great reference which will help you to move successfully into the future!

 

Written by Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Author

Why tutoring is the best part-time job

Looking for a part-time job? Be a Tutor!

If you are interested in getting a part-time job, there are so many options available to you – it’s often daunting trying to choose! Part-time jobs may require different skills sets, and range from less skilled jobs (washing dishes or flipping burgers), to the highly-skilled spectrum where formal education and experience is required, like business consulting or coaching.

Tutoring as a part-time job falls under the spectrum of skilled work. You need to be well educated yourself and have achieved good results to be able to help others as an academic tutor. Tutoring offers you many benefits as a part-time job – here are just some of them:

Being a tutor helps you develop your character and life skills

You will learn patience and empathy as a tutor, or develop these traits further. Some learners will grasp concepts more quickly than others, and all learners learn in different ways.

You will also learn or improve on your own time management and goal-setting skills as you assist your learners to do the same.

Tutoring grows your own knowledge base – you learn when teaching others

As much as you are teaching others, you will learn from them. This might not be in an academic sense, but in many other ways. Tutoring will “cement” your own knowledge as you teach key concepts, which may make the experience more enjoyable for you as well.Tutor value best part-time job

Being a tutor allows you to share the knowledge and wisdom you’ve gained so far in life

People who are a few steps behind you on the ladder of life will benefit greatly from the life lessons and academic achievements that you have already passed through. Learners may see you as a mentor and adviser. You can use your own experience to give them tips and advice on studying, managing stress, a study-fun balance and more!

Tutoring allows you to help others and make a difference in their lives

You will gain a great deal of personal satisfaction from being a positive force in the life of a learner and possibly a role model too. When your learner improves their marks, and gains a more positive attitude, you will feel like you’ve achieved something great. You surely have, as the impact you have made affects the academic future and ultimately, the life options of the learner. Make a difference as a tutor part-time job

Being a tutor improves your relationship-building skills and gains you friendships

You will be dealing with a variety of clients and learners, some of whom you may naturally relate to better than others! This will develop your communication and negotiation skills, both of which are important life skills to have.

You may end up having lifelong friends among the clients and learners that you tutor.

Tutoring will give you valuable experience to add to your CV

Being a tutor, like a teacher, is an honorable job which impacts the lives of others. You are required to demonstrate not only academic skills, but also responsibility, reliability, planning and commitment, which are all very valuable skills to potential employers in any field.

You will also be able to get valuable references from your clients if you deliver a great service, as well as from your tutoring company.Improve learners lives tutor part-time job

Being a tutor gives you flexibility

You can choose the days and times that fit into your schedule more so than most other part-time jobs, making this a job that fits into your schedule and doesn’t encroach on your study and leisure time as much as other part-time jobs, like being a waiter or cashier.

Tutor at a great hourly rate

Tutoring is a great way to earn income, at a much higher hourly rate than minimum wage. An hour of tutoring a week will allow you to earn the same amount as several hours’ in another part-time job. If you need a little extra income in your budget, tutoring regularly will give that to you without sacrificing a huge amount of time.

 

If you want a part-time job, and would love to experience all the benefits of tutoring, apply now to BrightSparkz Tutors and join the team!

 

Written by: Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer

Why I Love Tutoring

If I had a dollar for every time someone had encouraged me to teach, well, I’d just have a dollar. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a teacher. I admired my teachers throughout my schooling years; the good and the bad. There is always something you can learn from them, whether that be the content they taught in the classroom or the manner in which they handled themselves in tough or awkward situations. One can teach anywhere – it’s just a matter of creativity.

love tutoring

As a tutor, my job is to help a learner achieve their academic goals and guide them through their academic struggles. It truly is rewarding when you physically get to see how your efforts helped improve a learner’s mark on a test or report. The smile you get to see on your learner’s face as to how proud they are of themselves is really all the matters at the end of the day. I have learnt how to be myself through teaching. I don’t have to always know it all and be the ambassador of the subject. I love teaching because your learners want to feel as if you are both going through this journey together. You are helping them achieve something they want and the journey is much more important than the destination.

Teaching can be challenging, especially when it comes to motivating your learner. You see the potential they have, and they often hear about the potential they have, but they do not feel as though they’ve got what it takes. Living in such a busy and demanding time can often make us feel the time constraints on everything we do and we expect our learners to get things done and understood as fast as possible. Sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and sit with your learner to reflect on where they are emotionally, mentally and physically. Taking the time to help them stop what they’re doing and to spend a few moments to take a deep breath and talk about where they are in life can take away a tremendous amount of pressure from them. I find this exercise vital as it also gives me an opportunity to strengthen my relationship with my learners. It helps them see I am human just like them and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. I encourage my learners to take baby steps as they work toward big goals and the proof is in the pudding.

I love tutoring because I am given the opportunity to help children achieve their best and inspire them on a personal and academic level. It excites me to see how energetic a learner becomes as soon as they understand a topic they struggled with. The determination and enthusiasm that stirs within a child is heart-warming. I enjoy getting to know my learners and to learn about life from their perspective. It brings me such a sense of joy to gain insight into their views and opinions about life. I can confidently say that I have learnt as much from my learners as they have learnt from me. That is why I love tutoring.

Written by Neeza Ramiah, BrightSparkz Tutor

Understanding Dyscalculia – Part 3

Our two previous blogs discuss dyscalculia in detail. Now that we know a little bit more, what can we do to help our learners?

Tutor tips (For the tutor and the parents):

  • Use concrete examples that connect math to real life. For instance, use examples that include their favourite things or shopping. This helps to strengthen your learner’s number sense.
  • Use visual aids when solving problems. Draw pictures or move around physical objects. Teachers and tutors can refer to this as “manipulatives”
  • Assign manageable amounts of work so your tutee will not feel overloaded
  • Review a recently learned skill before moving on to a new one, and explain how the skills are related
  • Supervise work and encourage your learner to talk through the problem-solving process. This can help ensure your tutee is using the right math rules and formulas
  • Break new lessons into smaller parts that help to show how different skills relate to the new concept
  • Let your tutee use graph paper to help keep numbers lined up or in columns
  • Use an extra piece of paper to cover up most of what’s on a math test so your tutee can focus on one problem at a time
  • Playing math-related games helps your learner have fun and to feel more comfortable with math
    • Answer fewer questions on a test and allocate more time for your tutee to finish a test
    • Record lessons and lectures
    • Use a calculator in class
  • Boost confidence:Identify your tutee’s strengths and use them to work on (or around) weaknesses. Activities that tap into your tutees interests and abilities can help improve self-esteem and increase your learner’s resilience. Try to pace yourself during your tutoring sessions and do not use more than one strategy at a time. This makes it easier to tell which ones are producing a good result and which are not
  • Help your learner keep track of time:Whether it is a hand on the shoulder, a few key words or an alarm; have systems in place to remind your time-challenged tutee when to start the next activity.
  • See what it feels like:Try to experience what it is like to have dyscalculia. Acknowledging that you understand what your learner is going through is another way to boost his or her confidence and to improve your own level of understanding
  • Be upbeat:Let your tutee know when you see him or her do something well. Praising effort and genuine achievement can help your learner feel loved and supported. It can also give your tutee the confidence to work harder!
  • Support, patience and understanding are key!

If you would like a tutor to assist your child or learner, contact BrightSparkz Tutors today!

Understanding Dyscalculia – Part 2

In our previous blog, an expansive amount of information was provided to help you (as a tutor or parent) to identify the symptoms of dyscalculia. Unfortunately, dyscalculia can affect other aspects of learner’s lives.

Other effects of dyscalculia

  • Social skills: Failing repeatedly in math class can cause your learner to assume failure is unavoidable in other areas too. Low self-esteem can affect your learner’s inclination to make new friends or to partake in after school activities. Some learners might also avoid playing games and sports that involve math and keeping score.
  • Sense of direction: Some learners might struggle to differentiate left from right and may have trouble getting places by reading maps or following directions. Some learners with dyscalculia cannot picture things in their minds.
  • Physical coordination: Dyscalculia can affect how the brain and eyes work together. Because of this, your learner may have problems judging distances between objects. Certain learners may seem clumsier than others the same age.
  • Money management: Dyscalculia can make it difficult to stick to a budget, to balance a checkbook, and to estimate costs. It can also make it hard to calculate a tip and count exact change.
  • Time management: Dyscalculia can affect your learner’s ability to measure quantities, including units of time. Learners may have trouble assessing how long a minute is or to keep track of how much time has passed. This can make it hard to stick to a schedule.
  • Other skills: A learner may have trouble figuring out how much of an ingredient to use in a recipe. Learners might have a hard time estimating how fast another car is moving or how far away it is.

Associated learning difficulties

  • Dyslexia, or difficulty reading
  • Attention difficulties
  • Spatial difficulties (not good at drawing, visualisation, remembering arrangements of objects, understanding time/direction)
  • Short term memory difficulties (the literature on the relation between these and dyscalculia is very controversial)
  • Poor coordination of movement (dyspraxia)

There is still so much we don’t know about dyscalculia, and no definitive cause has been found. However, there are some ideas that researchers are still studying.

Possible Causes

  • Genes and heredity: Studies show this more common in some families than others are. Researchers have found that a child with dyscalculia often has a parent or sibling with similar math issues. 
  • Brain development: Researchers are using modern brain imaging tools to study the brains of people with and without math issues. What we learn from this research will help us understand how to help learners with dyscalculia. Some studies have also found differences in the surface area, thickness and volume of parts of the brain. Those areas are linked to learning and memory, setting up and monitoring tasks and remembering math facts
  • Environment: Dyscalculia has been linked to contact with alcohol in the womb. Prematurity and low birth weight may also play a role in dyscalculia.
  • Brain injury: Some studies show that injury to certain parts of the brain can result in what researchers call “acquired dyscalculia.”

The most plausible cause for dyscalculia is due to a difference in brain function. Unfortunately, many people think that because it is in the brain, it cannot be changed but this is not true. There are many support systems and tutors available to help your leaner cope.

What Does This Mean?

The brain is a highly adaptable organ (most especially during childhood) and research has indicated that certain training programs can increase the functioning in brain areas involved with reading, and so researches are hopeful that the same is applicable for mathematics. It’s unclear how much of a child with dyscalculia’s brain differences are shaped by genetics, and how much are shaped by their experiences. Researchers are trying to learn if certain interventions for dyscalculia can “rewire” a learner’s brain to make math easier. 

What Do I Do?

If during your tutoring sessions, you suspect that your learner may be suffering from dyscalculia, it is your responsibility to keep record of your tutee’s difficulties. You then need to communicate your thoughts to your learner’s parents. The learner’s parents should discuss any concerns with the learner’s teachers who will ascribe a school therapist or specialist. The specialist will ask you, the tutor, the parents and the teachers various questions as well as chat to the learner to discern whether the learner does in fact have dyscalculia or perhaps a different learning disability.

If your learner does have dyscalculia, there are many things that you can implement and do during your tutoring sessions to help him or her with their studies and academic outlook. Our next blog will list important hints and helpful tips to use during your tutoring sessions (or as a parent)!

If you would like a tutor to assist your child or learner, contact BrightSparkz Tutors today!

Understanding Dyscalculia – Part 1

Despite the fact that Dyscalculia affects around 6% of the general population, many learners, tutors and educators are unfamiliar with the specifics. The next few blogs will cover some important aspects of dyscalculia, what is entails, the symptoms, the diagnosing of dyscalculia, various effects, and more. I hope you find this helpful!

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects one’s ability to do mathematics and to grasp mathematical concepts. Learners with dyscalculia struggle to learn mathematics and to develop mathematical skills despite an adequate learning environment at home and at school. There are different severities of dyscalculia and learners will react or adapt to each differently. Some learners might work hard to memorise simple number facts. Other learners may know what to do but not understand the reason behind certain mathematical methods or steps. This is likely because learners with dyscalculia are not able to see the logic behind mathematics. Learners with less severe dyscalculia might understand the logic behind maths but are unsure how and when to apply their knowledge when solving mathematical problems.

Dyscalculia affects people throughout their lifespan. Children with dyscalculia tend to begin falling behind from as early as primary school. Oftentimes, learners may develop a strong dislike for mathematics as a result. Once learners reach secondary school, they usually struggle to pass maths and science subjects.

Warning Signs of Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia comprises various types of mathematical difficulties. Your learner’s symptoms may not look exactly like those of another learner. Observing your learner and taking notes to share with teachers and doctors are good ways to find the most effective approaches and support for your learner. While the signs of dyscalculia look dissimilar at different ages, it does tend to become more apparent as kids get older but it can be detected as early as preschool. There is not sufficient research done on dyscalculia and so there is also no definitive list of symptoms and other than the obvious difficulty with mathematics, we know very little about what symptoms continue through to adolescence and adulthood. Because dyscalculia is best monitored and helped when spotted as early as possible, the following list has been comprised to help you identify any presently known symptoms:

Warning Signs in Preschool or Kindergarten

  • Has trouble learning to count, especially when it comes to assigning each object in a group a number
  • Has trouble recognizing number symbols, such as making the connection between “7” and the wordseven
  • Struggles to connect a number to a real-life situation, such as knowing that “3” can apply to any group that has three things in it; 3 cookies, 3 cars, 3 kids, etc.
  • Has trouble remembering numbers, skips numbers, or counts in the wrong order
  • Finds it hard to recognize patterns and to sort items by size, shape or colour
  • Avoids playing games that involve numbers, counting and other math concepts

Warning Signs in Grades 7 – 9

  • Has trouble distinguishing numbers from symbols
  • Has trouble learning and remembering basic math facts, such as 2 + 4 = 6
  • Struggles to identify mathematical signs (+-) and use them correctly
  • May continue to use fingers to count instead of using more sophisticated strategies
  • Has trouble writing numerals clearly or putting them in the correct column
  • Has trouble coming up with a plan to solve a math problem
  • Struggles to understand words related to math, such asgreater than and less than
  • Has trouble telling left from his right, and even a poor sense of direction
  • Has difficulty remembering phone numbers and game scores
  • Avoids playing games that involve number strategies
  • Has trouble telling time 

Warning Signs in High School

  • Struggles to apply math concepts to everyday life, including monetary matters such as estimating the total cost, making exact change and figuring out a tip
  • Has trouble measuring things such as ingredients in a simple recipe
  • Struggles finding his or her way around and worries about getting lost
  • Has a hard time grasping information shown on graphs or charts
  • Has trouble finding and using different approaches to the same math problem
  • Learners may lack assurance in activities that entail estimating speed and distance, such as playing sports and learning to drive

Symptoms of dyscalculia

  • Difficulty imagining a mental number line
  • Particular difficulty with subtraction
  • Difficulty using finger counting (slow, inaccurate, unable to immediately recognise finger configurations)
  • Trouble decomposing numbers (e.g. recognizing that 10 is made up of 4 and 6)
  • Difficulty understanding place value
  • Trouble learning and understanding reasoning methods and multi-step calculation procedures
  • Anxiety about or a negative attitude towards maths (caused by the dyscalculia)

Now that you are aware of the many and varied symptoms of dyscalculia, it will be easy for you as a tutor to spot any correlations or learning disabilities should your learner ever have. If, during your tutoring sessions, you notice your learner experiencing difficulty, it is important that you keep a record and then speak to his or her parents about your concerns.

The next blog will briefly list how dyscalculia is diagnosed and discuss various other effects of dyscalculia. If you have any further information or experiences, please write in and let us fellow tutors know!

If you would like a tutor to assist your child or learner, contact BrightSparkz Tutors today!

Coping with and Helping Learners with ADHD

This blog recaps one of my previous about how to help learners with ADHD. This blog includes challenges posed for tutors and teachers who might have learners with ADHD as well as tips for tutors and learners who have ADHD.

ADHD can present the following challenges for tutors and teachers

  • Learners require more attention
  • Learners have trouble following instructions, especially when presented in a list
  • Learners often forget to write down homework assignments as well as completing given work
  • Learners may have trouble with operations that require ordered steps, such as long division
    or solving equations
  • Learners usually have problems with long-term projects where there is no direct supervision

ADHD can affect learners in the following ways

  • Low grades
  • Teasing from peers
  • Low self-esteem.

So what can we do to help and aid these learners with their studies?

Patience, creativity and consistency are three of the most important aspects to take into consideration when tutoring or teaching learners with ADHD. As a tutor or teacher, our job is to evaluate each individual learner’s needs and strengths. We then need to develop our lessons and strategies in accordance with this.

Additionally, one of the most effective ways of helping learners with ADHD is maintaining a positive attitude. Make the learner your partner and say, “Let’s figure out ways together to help you get your work done.” Reassure the learner that you will be looking for good behaviour and quality work. When you see it, support it with prompt and sincere acclaim. Finally, look for ways to motivate a learner by offering rewards (such as a longer break or less homework).

Tips for the Learner

  • Sit away from windows and doors so as to minimise distractions
  • Move while you work. Constantly moving can help you focus better on the task at hand
  • Concentrate on certain words! Studies show that repeating anchor words like “focus” can block distractions

Tips for the Tutor

  • Give instructions one at a time and repeat whenever necessary
  • Signal the start of a lesson with a cue and in opening the lesson, tell the learner what he or she is going to learn and what your expectations are
  • Tell students exactly what materials they’ll need
  • Where possible, work on the most difficult material first. This can help to make the most of your session/lesson
  • Colour-code sections of material and make use of visuals!
  • Test the learner in the way he or she does best, such as orally or filling in blanks
  • Divide long-term projects into sections and assign a completion date/goal for each
  • Allow the learner to do as much work as possible on a computer
  • Make sure the learner has a system for writing down assignments and important dates and uses it!
  • Establish eye contact
  • Vary the pace and include different kinds of activities. Many students with ADD do well
    with competitive games or other activities that are rapid and intense
  • Allow for frequent (but short) breaks
  • Summarise the key points before finishing the lesson
  • Lastly, and most importantly – be patient and understanding

At BrightSparkz Tutors we provide excellent one-on-one tutoring for Maths, Science, English, Afrikaans and more… Get a tutor today!  Visit www.brightsparkz.co.za for more information.

What causes ADHD?

No one is sure what causes Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, many scientists believe that genes play a role. Results from copious studies suggest that the gene for ADHD runs in families. 

Some learners with ADHD carry a gene that causes thinner brain tissue in the areas associated with attention. However, this difference is not permanent. As children with this gene grow up, the brain develops to a normal level of thickness. Their symptoms also improve. Research on this gene could help scientists to one day understand what Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is on a genetic level.

In addition to genes, scientists are also researching an array of possible environmental factors that could cause ADHD. Some factors include, brain injuries, nutrition, and even one’s social environment.

Other possible causes

  • Environmental factors: Some studies suggest that certain environmental factors could add to the possibility of ADHD. For example, there seems to be a potential link between cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy that may increase the likelihood of children being born with ADHD. Lead exposure can also cause ADHD. Plumbing fixtures and paints in older buildings sometimes contain lead.
  • Brain injuries: Young children who have suffered from a brain injury have been known to exhibit behaviours similar to those of ADHD. However, it is important to note that this, like the above, is just one theory of many and only a small amount of ADHD learners have suffered from a brain injury.
  • Food additives: Recent British research shows a potential link between ingesting of certain food additives like artificial colours or preservatives, and an increase in activity. Research on the validity of this theory is under way.

Does Sugar Cause ADHD?

The idea that refined sugar causes ADHD or makes symptoms worse is popular. However, more research discounts this theory than supports it. In one study, researchers gave learners food containing either sugar or a sugar substitute every other day. The learners who received sugar showed no different behaviour or learning capabilities than those who received the sugar substitute. In another study, learners who were considered sugar-sensitive by their mothers were given the sugar substitute aspartame, also known as Nutrasweet. Although all the learners got aspartame, half their mothers were told their children were given sugar, and the other half were told their learners were given aspartame. The mothers who thought their learner had received sugar considered them more hyperactive than other learners. They were also more critical of their behaviour.

Similar results show how easy it can be to misdiagnose or over-diagnose perceived “problems” of learner behaviour. We, as parents, tutors, and educators might forget what it was like to be young and no longer be familiar with as high levels of energy. However, please note that many matters and theories related to ADHD are, just theories. 

At BrightSparkz Tutors we provide excellent one-on-one tutoring for Maths, Science, English, Afrikaans and more… Get a tutor today

Understanding ADHD

What is ADHD?

ADHD is short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is one of the most prevalent learning disorders (or barriers to learning) amongst learners today. According to studies, about 5.3% of people worldwide are living with ADHD, of which almost three quarters are boys. The number of learners with ADHD is increasing each year, making this one of the most common barriers to learning. Because of the prevalence, it is important for educators, tutors, parents, and learners to be familiar with ADHD. The next few blogs will detail what ADHD actually is, the various symptoms, the different types of ADHD, tips for parents, tutors, and learners to deal with ADHD, and a discussion on whether doctors might be over diagnosing or misdiagnosing learners.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

Children mature at different rates and have different personalities, temperaments, and energy levels. Most children get distracted, act spontaneously, and struggle to concentrate at one point or another. These normal activities can look like ADHD. ADHD symptoms usually appear early in life, often between the ages of 3 and 6, and because symptoms vary from learner to learner, it can be difficult to diagnose.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has many symptoms that each fall under specific types of ADHD. On a basic level, symptoms commonly include a difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling certain behaviour, and hyperactivity or over-activity. The problem is that many behaviours associated with ADHD are common for young learners. Because of this, there is the question as to whether doctors, teachers, and parents might be misdiagnosing or over diagnosing the number of learners who supposedly suffer from ADHD. As such, it is important to be able to distinguish between symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and “symptoms” of normal learner behaviour.

Learners who have symptoms of inattention may:

  • Easily be distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty focusing on one thing
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
  • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions.

Learners who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Talk nonstop
  • Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
  • Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
  • Be constantly in motion
  • Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
  • Children who have symptoms of impulsivitymay:
  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
  • Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
  • Often interrupt conversations or others’ activities.

Types of ADHD

As mentioned above, there are certain symptoms that fall under the different types of ADHD. These types are:

Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive

  • Most symptoms (six or more) are in the hyperactivity-impulsivity categories.
  • Fewer than six symptoms of inattention are present, although inattention may still be present to some degree.

Predominantly inattentive

  • The majority of symptoms (six or more) are in the inattention category and fewer than six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present, although hyperactivity-impulsivity may still be present to some degree.
  • Children with this subtype are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Therefore, the child may be overlooked, and parents and teachers may not notice that he or she has ADHD.

Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive

  • Six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present.
  • Most children have the combined type of ADHD.

ADHD Can Be Mistaken for Other Problems

Parents and teachers may fail to realise that learners with symptoms of inattention often suffer from ADHD because they are often quieter than fellow learners and are less likely to act out. Learners suffering from inattention may sit quietly as if they are working but are often not paying to attention to what they are doing or to what is happening around them. These learners may seem to get along better with their peers compared with those suffering from other subtypes of ADHD who tend to exhibit some social issues.

It is important to note that children with the inattentive type of ADHD are not the only learners who have ADHD and may be missed. Many adults may mistake the hyperactive and more impulsive type of ADHD merely as emotional or disciplinary problems. Remember, young learners are typically more (hyper) active than their older peers. Parents and tutors need to pay attention to their young one’s behavioural patterns and should anything arise, know that there is always help.

Diagnosing ADHD

ADHD can’t be diagnosed with a single test. Instead, a licensed health and/or child professional will acquire information about your learner and his or her behaviour and environment. While some paediatricians may diagnose a learner themselves, others might first refer the family to a mental health specialist who has sufficient experience with childhood mental disorders and learning barriers. The paediatrician or mental health specialist will first try to rule out other options for the symptoms. For example, certain situations, events, or health conditions may cause temporary behaviours in a child that seem like ADHD but that will pass.

The referring paediatrician and specialist will determine if a child:

  • Is experiencing undetected seizures associated with other medical conditions
  • Has a middle ear infection that is causing hearing problems
  • Has any undetected hearing or vision problems
  • Is suffering from any medical problems that affect thinking and behaviour
  • Has any learning disabilities
  • Is anxious or depressed, or has other psychiatric problems that might cause ADHD-like symptoms
  • Has been affected by a significant and sudden change, such as the death of a family member, a divorce, or parent’s job loss.

A specialist will also check school and medical records for clues, to see if the child’s home or school settings appear unusually taxing or unsettled, and acquire information from the learner’s parents and teachers.

The specialist will ask:

  • Are the behaviours extreme and long-term, and do they affect all aspects of the child’s life?
  • Do they happen more often in this child compared with the child’s peers?
  • Are the behaviours a continuous issue or a response to a passing situation?
  • Do the behaviours occur in several settings or only in one place, such as the playground, classroom, or home?

The specialist pays close attention to the learner’s behaviour at different times and during different situations. Certain situations would require the child to keep paying attention. Most children with ADHD are better able to control their behaviours in situations where they are getting individual attention and when they are free to focus on more enjoyable activities. These types of situations are less important in the assessment. A learner may also be monitored to see how he or she acts in social circumstances, and may be given tests of intellectual capability and academic accomplishment to see if he or she has a learning disability. 

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