The ADHD label only makes sense within the framework of a massive, standardized educational system.
Sometimes, parents tell me that their child has ADHD, and they ask me if I can help them raise their child’s math scores. I tell them it would take me more than a few sessions to figure out whether, or to what extent I can help them, because this ADHD situation works out differently with each child.
In my opinion, ADHD is not a disability, nor a disorder, or a sickness, or anything like that, unless the lab work in a given case proved that it comes from a specific chemical imbalance in the brain. Otherwise, this is how I see it: children are autonomous individuals, with their own interests, and their own preferences. Very often the school system tries to "tame," or "domesticate" students into a uniform, one-size-fits-all set of academic variables, like pace of study, homework volume, expected format for answers, and so on.
There is a whole new body of research supporting the view that academic ability is very narrow a parameter for measuring intelligence. There are several other types of intelligence, each one very important on its own right, besides just having English and Math skills. Kids may be interested in other things, actually they usually are.
I am a firm believer each one of them should be allowed to pursue their math studies at their own pace, and -as much as possible- in the information processing way that works best for them; instead of expecting them to do all the time exactly the same as the whole class is doing. Mass education may save budget dollars but society pays for it in lost creativity, and lost opportunities for individual happiness, and fulfillment.
Schools typically have no resources to properly (meaning, individually) address these so called “ADHD” situations. And parents often do not have the time, or patience, to find out in detail, how exactly their children's learning process is evolving, what their true talents really are, how far their talents and interests go along with their school work, and how to help them make difficult decisions when it comes to a conflict between the child's true talents, and what schools expect of them. Often parents tell their children: "Just do the work," or something similar, ignoring the child’s emotional process. This is not because they are not interested in their children's development but mainly because most parents want to prepare their children for the dreadful world of jobs, deadlines, and bosses most parents live in as adults.
Personally, except in the case of unruly teenagers who are involved with drugs, or gangs, I usually side with the student against his or her school's expectations, and I wish more parents would do the same, taking the time to bust the "ADHD" label into pieces, and figure out what exactly is going on behind appearances in the particular case of their child. It would be great if more parents took the time, and interest, to find out what their children really want to do in life, and help them be themselves, instead of helping them, or sometimes even forcing them, to trim their natural talents and interests, just to become some facade of personality they may eventually get used to but are never going to be happy with.
In short, ADHD is a code term for "distraction." If a young student gets distracted during math class, it is obvious to me they are not finding math interesting enough. This does not mean it is the teacher’s fault, either. There may be other activities the so-called “distracted,” “unfocused” student strongly prefers to math. My question here is: Just how strongly? Can they overcome their lack of interest in math, and produce the grades their parents want? For me, at the beginning of my tutoring work with them, this is an open problem, and I cannot form any specific opinion until I have worked with them for some time. I tell parents that, if they want me to work with their ADHD child, they have to know that my focus will be finding out the following two things:
1) How much does the student dislike math? Is it just a mild form of lack of interest? Or is it an active, gut-level hatred of math? I have seen these extremes, so I know they are real, but they can be subtly hidden. It takes time to find out. Some children do not even know the answer themselves, since it generally is subconscious.
2) Is it possible to present math to this individual student in a way that will sufficiently raise his or her interest in math? To what extent is it possible to suggest math exercises that will make math easier for them?
It is entirely possible that a better way exists for these students in life, outside of school grades and diplomas. Maybe they can be great artists, or politicians, or sales people, or any number of professions that require special talents, special types of intelligence but not necessarily a college degree. I am aware many parents do not want to hear any suggestion like those above, as most would just have their children go through the whole school cycle getting A's and B's, and then take up a profession like lawyer, or doctor, or business manager, for the prospect of finding a good job. Unfortunately, life is never that simple.
So I never promise parents (especially those with “ADHD” children) that I am going to make their child's math grades go up because I do not know if I can. All I can promise is my best effort in finding out to what extent I can help them improve their grades, and to keep in constant, open, honest communication with the parents all along, always respecting the child’s individual set of preferences, abilities, values, and interests because I do not "fix kids," as some parents in the past have expected me to magically do.