Unlocking the Barriers to Success for Students with ADHD

One of the standout presentations at this year’s CHADD Conference in Philadelphia was a five-hour pre-conference by our own Dr. Lynn Meltzer and myself, Donna Kincaid, M.Ed.

After SMARTS was awarded the Innovative Program of the Year in 2018, we returned this year to conduct a pre-conference Institute for educators, as well as two concurrent sessions that included other professionals, parents, and students with ADHD.

Participants learned about the critical role of executive function processes in academic performance across grade levels and content areas, certainly not a surprise to anyone who knows about our SMARTS program.

Dr. Meltzer laid the foundation for teaching metacognitive awareness, as well as executive function strategies that focus on flexible thinking, goal setting, organizing, prioritizing, and self-monitoring. She connected how the use of executive function strategies increased students’ self-concept, effort, and persistence, while also reducing stress and building resilience.

There are many definitions of executive function, but Dr. Meltzer’s paradigm presents a unique way to understand how executive function impacts students’ day-to-day lives.

In addition, as educators we must understand that executive function doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is often hard work, associated with tasks that students find unpleasant, if not impossible (such as project-based learning). Executive function is also connected to students’ understanding of their strengths and challenges (metacognition), as well as their belief in their ability to succeed.

For my part, I emphasized the importance of using modelling and hands-on activities to demonstrate how to explicitly teach strategies in each of the executive function processes. Executive function must be taught directly if we want our students, especially those who struggle with learning and attention differences, to succeed.

We had a great time learning along with the attendees at the CHADD Conference, and we look forward to next time!

  • Donna Kincaid, M.Ed., Assistant Director, Institutes for Learning and Development