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Something the FOI hasn't been able to help me with: I have a student who is ADD, especially during ground lessons. For most topics it hasn't been a problem. I throw him a scenario and he works through it. Now that we're getting into cross-country planning, it's a challenge. I can walk him through each individual task of planning a XC flight, but it's too much for him when I hand off the entire task. Any ideas?

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I have a son who has ADD. I refuse to medicate him into a Zombie, so I take on the challenges presented by teaching him. Your student may be totally different than my son, but here are some things that help my son. People with ADD/ADHD are VERY easily distracted. They generally tend to learn much better using the demonstration method. They take a lot of patience from the instructor, but will reward the instructor with excellent performances and friendship, if you are willing to stick with them until they learn. They tend to make excellent drivers and pilots because they notice EVERYTHING! This hyper-awareness is what distracts them when they try to concentrate reading or studying from a book or lecture. Things need to be demonstrated and made relevant to them. Demonstrate why they need to know what you are trying to teach. Your student will never forget you, if you have the patience to help him achieve his dream. Most people do not have patience to help them learn. Just be sure it is his dream and not his parent’s. If it is not the student’s dream, it will never happen.

 

Sounds like you are on the right track with “walking” him through it. A lot of times the student has the knowledge in their head, they just do not have the confidence to tell you they do. STRONGLY encourage them to do the entire task assigned, even if they mess up on part of it. Give them a lot of praise when they do finally achieve their goal. Most of these people are rarely praised because they are considered a nuisance student all their life.

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Weird, I just had a conversation with a helicopter pilot today about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). I had no idea that the military and the FAA take the matter so seriously. To be honest I usually am skeptical about ADD and its diagnosis, when I look at the symptoms most of them would be applicable to how I act. Anyways, here is what I learned about it from a colleague who was a military helicopter pilot for the last few years with about 500 hours in the UH60. Due to his being diagnosed with ADD he was permanently grounded by the military, even after consulting civilian doctors and appealing it. So he was discharged from the military after that. When I asked him about how that would effect his civilian flying and his FAA medical, it seemed sort of like a grey area. He said he still had his FAA Medical, but that he could potentially be violated under the rule imposing that an individual ground himself when having a condition that could interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft. He said that even though the military has a privacy rule that should prevent the information being shared with the FAA that he didn't feel it was worth the risk. He had apparently researched and found a couple cases where the FAA did violate a pilot after an incident occurred due to the pilot having been diagnosed with ADD. So I realize this is no help to you with your student, just thought I would pass it along as pertinent information that I just found out this afternoon.

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If you can't concentrate on the job at hand, and handle multiple distractions while still functioning at the highest level, you're a danger to yourself, your passengers, and any innocent bystanders around or under you. That's a simple fact. Not everyone is cut out to be a helicopter pilot, and the ones who aren't should be culled quickly, to save them a lot of money and later agony. Simple diagnosis of ADD shouldn't be the deciding factor, because there are lots of ignorant doctors out there, but the feds often over-react to lots of things. Piloting is a privilege, not a right, and they can, and do, get by with almost anything.

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Thanks for the comments and cautions. I use the term "ADD" loosely. He's not diagnosed or being treated, but he is more prone to distraction or fixation than average.

 

For addressing his lack of focus, sounds like

  • No lectures; use hands-on, practical scenarios for ground
  • Try to move with his distractions (usually they are relevant, just off-topic), then circle back around to previous task. It's tough for me because I'm a very linear thinker.
  • Confidence is an issue. I keep telling him I wouldn't ask him to do something if I didn't know he could do it.
  • Putting command authority on his plate to force him to think through things. Since he's soloed, I've been answering his questions (about fuel, airspeed, things he should know) with "Consider this a solo flight/flight with a non-pilot passenger").

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Alright. I have ADHD. The ONE thing you need to understand about ADD and ADHD is that our brains are at peak performance when surrounded by absolute CHAOS! Classrooms are like solitary confinement in a state prison. People with ADD and ADHD thrive as: Stock brokers, comedians, race car drivers, extreme sports athletes, Police officers, 911 dispatchers, etc. We make great pilots, but reading the FAR/AIM is worse than death. We're not happy until we're going 120kts. THAT'S WHEN THE WORLD CATCHES UP TO US and we become comfortable and relaxed.

 

Ground lessons are tough. Get out of the classroom as much as you can. Keep lesson plans short and sweet. Don't spend 2 hours in a small white room. You'll get about 15 minutes of undivided attention, and then you'll be wasting his money. If you've got a 2 hour block of ground instruction, take breaks OFTEN! The first sign he is fading, start asking questions. You don't have to write an award winning country song about Part 91 and sing it to him. Just be flexible. Ultimately, this is on him to figure out. Just do your job. If he's a motivated person, he will find a way to focus on multiple subjects simultaneously.

 

I can tell you EXACTLY why he has a confidence issue. He didn't do well in school. Period. More than one of his teachers hated him, and none of them understood why he couldn't sit still. For 8+ years he was a teachers nightmare and his grades reflected that. His parents did the first thing the doctor suggested and pumped pills down his throat, which made him feel like he was diseased. He was probably a good kid, but school was boring, and he couldn't stay focused. He lost interest, he fell behind, and teachers probably singled him out on more than a few occasions (my 11th grade English teacher called me a "waste of tax payers money" in class because I didn't finish a paper on time). Anyone who has ever been caught day dreaming in a boring class... imagine that every day, in every class except Gym... and in my case, helicopters.

 

Again, if he truly wants to do this, he'll find his own way. Don't sweat it.

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