Safety Publications/Articles

One step at a time

I was reading a wonderful book, The Overflowing Brain, which described a four-step procedure the Canadians use to teach students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). TeachADHD has four key points:

  • Give one direction at a time.
  • Make directions clear, short, and specific.
  • Repeat the important parts of instructions.
  • Provide visual support for instructions (for example, a checklist of to-do items).

The moment I saw this list, I realized it is precisely how good instructors communicate with their students in an environment filled with distractions-think airplane.

ADD (attention deficit disorder without the hyperactivity component) is frequently associated with individuals who have a weak working memory, or short-term memory. ADD makes it difficult for someone to focus on the task at hand, since his or her mind has difficulty remembering (in the short term) the essential features of that task. Unfortunately, we're not all born with or trained to have a strong working memory.

A highly distractive environment can diminish the ability to concentrate properly, thus mimicking ADD-like symptoms. Anyone who's taught demanding maneuvers to primary students in a traffic-dense area knows just how much difficulty those students can have getting and staying focused. The solution? Communicate using the TeachADHD method.

Of course, this is no great revelation to an experienced flight instructor. He or she probably communicates in a very similar manner in highly distractive environments. Less-experienced instructors, however, might find it useful to modify their communication strategies and use the four-step TeachADHD method with their students in these environments.

By Rod Machado

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