By Maddy Baxter
As Spencer Hartig ’12 sat in class trying to listen to a lecture, he could not take in a single word that his teacher was saying because his mind was racing from one thought to another.
During the summer before ninth grade, Hartig was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.
Hartig takes a prescription drug called Ritalin every morning before school.
“[ADD] makes it so whatever the focus is around in the class, like the teacher, I physically can’t take my mind off of that and daydream,” Hartig said.
After he was diagnosed and put on prescription medicine he saw a great difference in his grades, Hartig said.
Constantly fidgeting in her chair, Hannah Zipperman ’12 was unable to pay attention to anything going on in the classroom besides her wandering imagination.
As a third grader, Zipperman was always hyper and inattentive and after a psychiatric evaluation, she too was diagnosed with ADD.
Zipperman did not take regular medication until two years ago when she entered the ninth grade. The workload became heavier and she needed the medication to more easily complete her work.
Every morning, Zipperman takes Vyvanse to help her be more task oriented and organized.
Zipperman and Hartig are two of 75 students who have ADD or other medical or learning disabilities that qualify them for extended time at Harvard Westlake, Upper School Testing Coordinator Candris Madison said.
The law requires that all schools give the option of extended time on tests and other in-class assignments to students diagnosed with ADD.
Many students with ADD need to reread directions and other test items multiple times.
They have more trouble focusing and the extended time allows them to finish the test.
Hartig uses the extended time on tests. Zipperman, however, does not use extended time on assignments and tests because the medication helps her to complete work on time.
“Everyone reacts differently to ADD medicine and if they feel they are entitled to extra time, I am glad the option is open to them,” Zipperman said.
ADD is found in five percent of all children, ages 5 to 17. This condition may be diagnosed in students who show signs of inattentiveness, impulsivity or a combination of both.
“ADD and ADHD are too often incorrectly labeled,” said psychiatrist Dr. Viviana Suaya.
ADD is difficult to diagnose and may be confused with symptoms of other issues, such as environmental changes, lack of sleep or the need for one on one time with a teacher, Suaya said.
To qualify for extended time at Harvard-Westlake, a student must have an examination and report written by his or her doctor.
The report is then sent to school psychologist Dr. Sheila Siegel, and she writes up a new report.
She then holds a meeting with the student, at least one of the student’s parents and the student’s dean.
If the parents approve of the report, then the teachers are notified and the student may use extended time.
The student must tell the teacher at least two days before any test if he or she wishes to use the extended time.
Common approaches to help ADD symptoms include medication, such as Methylphenidate, more commonly known as Ritalin, or cognitive behavioral therapy. The medication works best when therapy and medication is used together, Suaya said.