Support strategies for behavioural competency of foundation phase learners with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

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Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic neurological condition associated with a dopamine and norepinephrine (noradrenalin) deficit in the brain. ADHD is characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness and can already be diagnosed in early childhood. Because of its chronic nature, this condition may persist from early childhood through adolescence to adulthood. As a result of their poor self-image and social dysfunctionality, learners with ADHD experience scholastic and emotional challenges in the form of disruptive behaviour, which often presents a challenge to teachers in the classroom. Learners with ADHD need further guidance to acquire behavioural competency (socially acceptable behaviour) in their relations with others, such as friends and teachers.

The main and first objective of this study was to investigate support strategies identified and applied by grade 3 foundation phase learners in class to promote the behavioural competency of learners with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The second objective was to identify behavioural characteristics of learners with ADHD that influence teachers’ effective teaching and require support strategies. The third objective was to determine how the cognitive learning needs of learners with ADHD influence teachers’ teaching and to identify support strategies to fulfil these needs. The fourth objective was to determine how the emotional and social needs of learners with ADHD influence teachers’ teaching and to identify support strategies to fulfil these needs. The fifth objective was to identify effective support strategies for behavioural competency in a foundation phase classroom as seen from the teachers’ perspective.

A qualitative approach was used to collect relevant information in the teacher’s field of experience and natural environment, i.e. the classroom. Grade 3 foundation phase teachers at three Pretoria East schools were purposively selected for the interpretive case study.

Different types of schools were selected, namely a large parallel medium government school, a small parallel medium government school and a large private parallel medium school. The schools had to offer a foundation phase and have grade 3 teachers and to accommodate learners with ADHD inclusively. The research focused on learners with an average IQ, all of the same age group and receiving inclusive teaching in the mainstream learning areas.

The data collection and documentation comprised a reflective research journal and semistructured focus group interviews with the Afrikaans- and English-speaking/-medium grade 3 teachers conducted in the staff rooms of the respective schools. A dictaphone was used and the recordings were subsequently transcribed.

Deci, Ryan and Guay’s self-determination theory (2013) is an empirically based theory of human motivation, development and well-being and was incorporated into the data analysis. This theory, which focuses on the development and functioning of the human personality within social contexts, stresses three basic psychological needs that must be fulfilled for self-motivation and sound psychological growth to occur: the need for competency, relationships and independence (autonomy).

The self-determination theory and its relevance to learners with ADHD are particularly applicable in the field of education. In all cultures, psychological well-being is regarded as the universal requirement for healthy functioning in the development of the self. In this study, the basic human needs of competency, independence and relations were researched first before being linked to learning-oriented, emotional and social behavioural competency. The extent to which these needs are fulfilled results in human potential that lays the foundation for self-motivation and personality integration. The study then recommends suitable support strategies for learning-oriented, emotional and social behavioural competency that can make the teaching and learning situation more effective for teachers and for learners with ADHD.

Competency is the desire for effective interaction with the environment and underlies feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem. This need makes learners with ADHD look for challenges just beyond their current abilities and to perform various activities in order ultimately to improve their competency. Well-being is therefore enhanced when learners with ADHD feel they possess sufficient competency, and therefore self-confidence, to achieve important objectives.

Relations require the ability to maintain a stable, established relationship or relationship basis with friends and other people. A learner with ADHD who experiences sound personal relationships with the teacher, classmates and friends on the playgrounds will also have a stronger sense of psychological well-being. In a learning environment where the needs of a learner with ADHD are not taken into account, the learner's inherent inclination will lead to protective reactions in activities and organisations. Consequently, such a learner will develop substitute motives and patterns of behaviour that serve as protection against the threat of unsatisfactory, unsupportive situations.

Independence is important because learners with ADHD must first acquire autonomy or independence in their own actions before they can experience optimal psychological well-being. An important feature of independence is that it is not a stage of development, but endures from the start to the end of every human life. Independence enables a learner with ADHD to process everyday events and to make better choices in his or her own actions. Independence thus leads to a fuller and more satisfactory life for learners with ADHD as well as for other people and learners in their immediate environment.

In the data analysis, the study results were examined, analysed and written up on the basis of content and thematic analysis. Four themes were identified, each with sub-themes. Theme 1 sets out the behavioural characteristics of the learner with ADHD in the emotional and social context, with the emphasis on challenges and learning needs in a classroom situation. Theme 2 discusses the emotional, social and learning needs of the learner with ADHD and offers support strategies in academic institutions, teaching methods and classroom discipline. In theme 3 the elements of the self-determination theory (competencies, independence and relations) are integrated with support strategies such as a conducive learning and teaching environment, parental cooperation and appropriate medication for learners with ADHD. Theme 4 discusses intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and the influence of motivation, positive recognition and reward systems on the behavioural competency of the learner with ADHD in the classroom.

Schools and teachers accommodating learners with ADHD will benefit from the practical recommendations for behavioural competency made in this study. Teachers can implement suitable support strategies identified in this study in their teaching methods and initiate programmes at their schools to support competent behaviour of learners with ADHD.

Overall, the findings of this study indicate that teachers pursue mainly the completion of the curriculum and outcomes and that learners that do not come up to the set standards drop out as a result of incompetent behaviour. It is concluded that teachers should shift their emphasis from the incompetent behaviour of learners with ADHD to the nature of the support for such learners. Given the necessary support strategies, these learners can then exploit their full potential and realise their academic performance at a higher level.

Keywords: ADHD; Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; behavioural competency; case study; foundation phase; grade 3 teachers; SDT; self-determination theory; support strategies

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Ondersteuningstrategieë vir gedragsbevoegdheid by grondslagfaseleerders met aandagtekort-/hiperaktiwiteitsversteuring

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