Teaching Students with ADHD
Helping Students with Attention Deficit Disorder Succeed at School
If you’re a teacher, you know these kids: The one who stares out the window, substituting the arc of a bird in flight for her math lesson. The one who wouldn’t be able to keep his rear end in the chair if you used Krazy Glue. The one who answers the question, “Who can tell me what the 6th Amendment guarantees?” with “Mrs. M, do you dye your hair?”
Students who exhibit ADHD’s hallmark symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can be frustrating. You know the brainpower is there, but they just can’t seem to focus on the material you’re working hard to deliver. Plus, their behaviors take time away from instruction and disrupt the whole class.
ADHD and classroom challenges
Think of what the school setting requires children to do: Sit still. Listen quietly. Pay attention. Follow instructions. Concentrate. These are the very things kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) have a hard time doing—not because they aren’t willing, but because their brains won’t let them. That doesn’t make teaching them any easier, of course.
Students with ADHD pay the price for their problems in low grades, scolding and punishment, teasing from peers, and low self-esteem. Meanwhile, you, the teacher, wind up taking complaints from parents who feel their kids are being cheated of your instruction and feeling guilty because you can’t reach the child with ADHD.
Students with ADHD:
What teachers can do to help children with ADHD
So how do you teach a kid who won’t settle down and listen? The answer: with a lot of patience, creativity, and consistency. As a teacher, your role is to evaluate each child’s individual needs and strengths. Then you can develop strategies that will help students with ADHD focus, stay on task, and learn to their full capabilities.
Successful programs for children with ADHD integrate the following three components:
Your most effective tool, however, in helping a student with ADHD is a positive attitude. Make the student your partner by saying, “Let’s figure out ways together to help you get your work done.” Assure the student that you’ll be looking for good behavior and quality work and when you see it, reinforce it with immediate and sincere praise. Finally, look for ways to motivate a student with ADHD by offering rewards on a point or token system.
Dealing with disruptive classroom behavior
To head off behavior that takes time from other students, work out a couple of warning signals with the student who has ADHD. This can be a hand signal, an unobtrusive shoulder squeeze, or a sticky note on the student’s desk. If you have to discuss the student’s behavior, do so in private. And try to ignore mildly inappropriate behavior if it’s unintentional and isn’t distracting other students or disrupting the lesson.
Classroom accommodations for students with ADHD
As a teacher, you can make changes in the classroom to help minimize the distractions and disruptions of ADHD.
Teaching techniques for students with ADHD
Teaching techniques that help students with ADHD focus and maintain their concentration on your lesson and their work can be beneficial to the entire class.
Starting a lesson
Conducting the lesson
Ending the lesson
Resources and references
Motivating the Child with Attention Deficit Disorder – Clear and concise information about how ADHD symptoms interfere with classroom expectations and how to realistically motivate your child with ADHD. (LD Online)
Teaching Students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Resource Guide for Teachers – This multi-page Canadian site goes well beyond questions of teaching strategies, covering every aspect of ADHD that can affect the classroom. (British Columbia Ministry of Education)
Teaching Children with ADHD – In-depth guide to teaching children with ADHD. Includes articles on lesson planning, instructional techniques, behavioral strategies, and communication with parents. (Teach ADHD)
Teaching Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Instructional Strategies and Practices – Guide for teachers dealing with ADHD in school, full of tips for the classroom and innovative teaching strategies. (U.S. Department of Education)
Suggested Classroom Interventions for Children with ADD and Learning Disabilities – Practical suggestions for teaching children with ADHD that can be used in the regular classroom as well as the special education classroom. (Child Development Institute)
Special education services for children with ADHD
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (PDF) – Briefing paper for parents and teachers. Addresses school issues and special education for students with ADHD. (Center for Parent Information and Resources)
Step-by-Step Guide for Securing ADHD Accommodations at School – Eight steps for meeting your child's educational needs with ADHD accommodations at school. (ADDitude)
Contents of the IEP – Guide to the Individualized Education Program (IEP), a document developed by the child's parents and school staff that addresses the special educational services that the child will receive. (Center for Parent Information and Resources)
Dyslexia Diagnosis & Treatment By Mayo Clinic Staff
Childhood apraxia of speech by Mayo Clinic Staff
What Are Some of the Causes of Aggression in Children? By Raul Silva, MD
How to Calm a Child with Autism By Lisa Jo Rudy
How Autistic Meltdowns Differ from Ordinary Temper Tantrums By Lisa Jo Rudy
5 Simple Ways to Make Life Easier for Your Sensitive Kid By Lindsey Biel
Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children By Keath Low
Sensory Integration by Autism Research Institute www.autism.com
ADHD or Autism? By WebMD