LD Management


Working together with skills attainment and emotional influences is the third domain, management. Management is all about ones ability to work with time and tasks efficiently. It affects both attention and production in class and students skills as self-managers outside class.

For the ADD student, the trials and tribulations of self-regulation occur both in class when attention to and focus on a particular task are in demand as well as during independent work periods outside class when ADD tendencies can interfere with concentration and completion. Similar to skills attainment, strategies are everything because they help the student feel in control over such tasks as activating work, regulating focus, and completing tasks, all of which are a partial list of the executive functions that may malfunction.

Likewise, lets not forget the adults who have been away from a classroom environment for years. They may have difficulty focusing on new material at first and need time to develop greater ability to sustain longer concentration periods. They may feel frustration easily when they do not learn quickly or have trouble with organizational tasks. Thus, it is to our advantage to integrate opportunities right into our classroom for the individual or group to learn about and experiment with management strategies as part of our curriculum.

To help these students, we need to give them time and our guidance to develop specific strategies systems. Your explicit discussions of these timely issues can help reactivate ideas. For those who simply managed poorly in the past, this support will be a major piece of what they can gain from the larger learning experience. For our students with a formal diagnosis of ADD, medication will help them perform much more consistently and successfully.

Reflection 15: How can we communicate to our stuents the importance of using a routine to cope with the multiple resposibilities in their lives?

Reflection 16: How can we help students set aside space and time to complete homework assignments outside the class?

The Brown Model of ADD Syndrome

Dr. Thomas Brown, a clinical psychologist and Yale Medical School Professor, identified six executive functions that are the brains cognitive management system or self-regulator (Brown, 2005). Ordinarily, executive functions work together in various combinations, rapidly and unconsciously, to execute complex functions in the human brain. They help us to activate tasks, focus/sustain effort, manage emotions, access memory and regulate our actions. Brown explains that ADD is basically a problem, not of attention, but in the lack of adequate stimulation required to cause the brain synapses to fire. As a result, these functions are especially disabling because they interfere with successfully completing academic tasks. Amazingly, when someone with ADD engages in their highly motivating special interests, their symptoms are absent and the brain regulates itself without any difficulty! In these cases, the brain synapses receive adequate stimulation to fire.

The following chart identifies ADD symptoms associated with each of the six executive functions:

Function Area of Disability Symptomatic Behaviors
Activation Organizing, prioritizing, and activating to work Procrastination is typical when one cannot organize and start tasks. Cannot get started unless they perceive a task as an emergency.
Focus Tuning in, sustaining, and shifting attention to tasks Distractions from the world around them create gaps in listening and reading attention, forgetfulness persists.
Effort Regulating alertness, sustaining effort, and processing speed Longer term projects are difficult and tasks are often completed late. Turning their brains off makes getting to sleep a problem and difficult to wake up in the morning.
Emotion Managing frustration and adjusting emotions appropriately Emotions like frustration, anger, and worry take over thinking making it impossible to do anything else.
Memory Utilizing working memory and accessing recall Great difficulty with short term memory and recalling memories when needed.
Action Monitoring and self-regulating action Impulse control is a problem in speech, action, and jumping to conclusions. Not noticing others reactions to their behavior leads to misunderstandings.
Reflection 17: Based on what you learned in the video, why is teaching using contextualized instruction so important?

Reflection 18: Based on what you learned in the video, why is it so important to recognize when students are frustrated?

Management Strategies: Day Planning and Frontloading

Does this sound familiar? A student attends class regularly and is highly amenable to working in class, but they make little headway because practice work outside of class is not completed. Much of what was taught is forgotten so the emphasis of the following class is spent on the review and practice that should have been completed at home. Moving ahead is dramatically slowed.

Although this kind of situation may have multiple causes, I suggest asking students about their time management. We know that most adult students have sincere intentions to practice independently, but often their week disintegrates and it is time for the next class session. It is not uncommon that adults with learning differences can have difficulty organizing tasks so that what is planned is completed. While some things in their lives can be put on hold, studying outside of class should not.

I ask my students to examine how they plan their week, crossing out time frames that cannot be altered (like work), inserting other responsibilities, and making an honest assessment about their use of time. I am surprised at how little some of our adult students know about keeping a routine and how this can actually create more time for them!

One strategy, known as frontloading, is to start on an important task immediately so it gets our full attention. When there is a plan to return to the work, it is easier to commit to because we are not starting from scratch. This idea of picking up a task in progress is a strong psychological motivator for procrastinators.

Placing Priorities

Another strategy to show our students is how to place their priorities throughout the day. This frees some adults from feeling dominated by time. Usually if something is not finished when it is planned, it becomes a strong psychological demoralizer. By using this kind of strategy, students may do some class work early every morning to start their day, others may work on it in the evening when they are relaxed, and still others may plan a longer, more in-depth study period on weekends.

Small group discussions about these and any number of other management strategies can be highly effective because one adult can find similarities in the lives of others. Sharing commonalities in life situations becomes a collaborative endeavor. As a facilitator in these instances, instructors can also use their ideas to help students realize that what we, as humans, get done can also be what motivates us as well. Keep this in mind as we finish the last section on motivation.

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Developed by Adult Basic Skills Professional Develoment (ABSPD), Reich College of Education, Appalachian State University
Funded by NC Community College System Basic Skills, Raleigh, NC - Copyright © 2011, ABSP