Listening Skills and ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a behavioral disorder that has been found to occur in childhood. ADHD as it is most commonly known is manifested by the inability to focus attention and hyperactivity (Weyandt, 2001). Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention due to their limited attention span. They also cannot focus on tasks that require concentration, although they have very active imaginations. They tend to daydream a lot and to be impulsive and talkative. The symptoms of ADHD make it very difficult for the child to become successful in school or benefit from regular classroom instruction (Welton, 1999). In addition, they might have poor interpersonal relationships as they are prone to be disruptive and impatient. The prevalence of ADHD among schoolchildren had been documented; some researches say that in American schools 1 out of 25 have ADHD (Zentall, 2006). On the other hand, ADHD can be undiagnosed and untreated which would spell a lifetime of behavioral problems for the child. Fortunately, much has been found about the disorder and treatments such as behavior modification and medicines are available to help manage the disorder.
Listening is a task that requires attention and focus, listening is different from hearing in the sense that hearing is merely the perception of sound or noise while listening is putting meaning and context to what has been heard (Vestri & Shelley, 2005). Consequently, listening requires higher cognitive functioning and it would involve the ability to pay attention to the stimuli or message and be able to comprehend the message accurately. Listening is one of the most important skills that individuals must develop as it is a major medium used in the acquisition of knowledge. For example, children with ADHD have limited attention span; therefore, this would impair their ability to listen to instructions and discussions.
This research project seeks to determine whether having ADHD would limit the listening skills of children. The research question is “Do children with ADHD listen as well as children without it? Based on the literature on ADHD and the limited attention and hyperactivity of the child with ADHD, it is hypothesized that children with ADHD have a harder time paying attention and therefore have difficulty in listening.
The main research variable of the present study is listening; listening can be defined as the process of absorbing sounds and assigning meaning to each sound usually in the form of words or language. Listening is a mental activity, it requires concentration, attention and the ability to focus on and make sense of what is being received. Listening is a skill, it can be developed through practice, and since most students spend their time listening to instructions, discussions, explanations and arguments, listening is as basic and fundamental as speaking (Vestri & Shelley, 2005). This study sought to measure the difference of listening skills of children with ADHD. The study is designed to compare children with ADHD and those who do not have ADHD, thus the independent variable is the ADHD condition wherein the ADHD child is the first sample, and the non-ADHD child is the second sample. The dependent variable is listening which can be measured by the designed listening task where the participants listened to the information and was asked to report what they had listened to.
This study is a quasi-experimental design since it tries to test the hypothesis that children with ADHD do not listen as well as children without ADHD. The research is designed to measure listening skills for two different samples that are not randomly selected. True-experimental designs require random assignment to groups and only the experimental group experiences the experimental condition (Cozby, 2001).
The participants of the study are a 10-year-old boy who was diagnosed with ADHD and is receiving medication and special education instruction, the second participant is an 11-year-old boy who attends a regular school and have had no history of any ADHD symptoms and had been performing averagely in school. The participants were identified using purposive sampling as one of the variables of the study was the presence of ADHD. Informed consent was sought prior to the conduct of the experiment. Since both boys are still young, their parents were also informed and consent was given voluntarily (Elmes, Kantowitz & Roediger, 2006). Incentives were given at the end of the experiment, however participants had no knowledge that an incentive was to be given.
The materials used in the experiment were the online listening task questionnaire, a recorded story taken from the same online listening skills page, a stopwatch, and a notebook for responses and observations. The experiment included three trials, wherein the experiment was conducted three times and the results of the three trials were then averaged to indicate the final score in the listening task. The experiment was straightforward, the participants just had to listen to the recorded story which lasted for 3 minutes, and then they were asked to complete the online questionnaire whose answers would be based from the story they listened. The researcher timed how fast the participants responded to the questions in the questionnaire. Then the responses to the questions were scored and each score was tallied.
The results indicated that out of the three trials, the non-ADHD child scored better by 25 points in the listening task than the ADHD child. Therefore, the hypothesis that an ADHD child would have limited listening skills is supported. The results showed that a non-ADHD child would do better at listening tasks however; the non-ADHD child took a longer time to respond to the questions in the questionnaire than the ADHD child did. The results however has to be analyzed with caution as the sample size was very small, only one participant for each group and the hypothesis was not subjected to inferential statistics because of the very small sample size (Elmes, Kantowitz & Roediger, 2006), hence although the non-ADHD child scored 25 points better than the ADHD child, whether it was a significant difference cannot be ascertained.
The hypothesis was supported since listening skills is a task that ADHD children cannot effectively master due to the way their brains are wired. In addition, the listening task was designed for individual’s who had normal mental faculties and not for those with special needs or disorders. In this regard, the ADHD child was already at a disadvantage. Moreover, the influence of maturation, intelligence, schooling, and learning had not been controlled for (Elmes, Kantowitz & Roediger, 2006); the non-ADHD child had average academic performance and enrolled in a regular class while the ADHD child was in a special education class which had a different approach to teaching and instructional methods. It was assumed that the listening task was novel for both participants hence the effect of prior experience can be avoided, but listening is a skill that has been developed through classroom instruction and the non-ADHD child would naturally be more adept at it compared to the ADHD child. Lastly, the ADHD child might have poorer scores than the non-ADHD child not because he did not listen but because he is impulsive and quickly wanted to finish the task. There is no way to tell for sure though, future studies however has to consider these factors.
If given the chance to conduct the same experiment, I would like to increase the sample size and to actually measure and control for factors such as maturity, schooling experience and intelligence. In addition, I would want to design a listening task that would account for the effects of recall and practice effects (Elmes, Kantowitz & Roediger, 2006). The experiment could also be done in a controlled laboratory setting with high-tech equipments to measure response time to ascertain how limited the attention given to completing the task as indication of effective listening.
The experience of conducting an experiment personally had made me become aware of the methods in which a research question can be answered. I learned that doing research is a difficult and highly stressful endeavor but one that holds much promise for arriving at new knowledge and information that I would gladly participate in a research study in the future.
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