18 Simple School Strategies for Students with ADHD

Helpful techniques for teachers and parents

Simple teaching adjustments can often mean the difference between a child's success or frustration in the classroom.. Photo © Microsoft

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (commonly referred to as ADHD) is a condition that develops in childhood and is characterized by problems with attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), ADHD is a problem for approximately nine percent of American children from ages thirteen to eighteen, with boys being four times more at risk than girls.

If you are a teacher of a child with ADHD, this list of eighteen simple strategies to help students learn is for you.

Strategies for the Classroom

1. Classroom rules should be clear and concise and reviewed regularly with the student. It is helpful to have the child repeat back rules, expectations or other instructions to make sure they are understood. These rules should be posted prominently in the classroom.

2.  Because students with ADHD are susceptible to distractions, seat the student close to the teacher. Make sure he or she is seated away from easy distractions, such as doors, windows, cubby areas or pencil sharpeners.  

3. Give the student frequent and immediate feedback or consequences about behaviors.

4. Catch the student being good and give him immediate praise. Ignore negative behaviors that are minimal and not disruptive.

5. Use rewards and incentives before punishment to motivate the student and to help keep school feeling like a positive place.

Change up the rewards frequently to help prevent the student from becoming bored.

6. Allow student frequent physical breaks to move around (to hand out or collect materials, run errands to the office or other areas in the school building, erase the board, get a drink of water at the water fountain, etc.)

7. Allow some restlessness at work area. Allow student to stand up at his desk if it helps him stay on task.

8. Tape an index card to the student’s desk with written class rules. Help him keep track of the schedule by reviewing it with him at various times during the day and prepare him for each transition.

9. Limit distractions, excessive noise, distracting visual stimuli, clutter, etc. (For some kids with ADHD listening to “white noise” or soft background music can help concentration and focus).

10. Reduce the student’s total workload. Break work down into smaller sections.

11. Give concise one or two step directions. Avoid “overloading” with too much info.

12. Place a hand on the student’s shoulder, hand or arm while talking to him in order to help him stay focused on what is said.

13. Allow the student to hold a small “koosh ball” or silly putty or something tactile for him to manipulate. This slight stimulation often helps keep an ADHD child focused.

14. If the school allows it, some students benefit from chewing gum to release energy and keep concentration.

15. Schedule the most difficult subjects in the morning time when the student (and the whole class) is fresher and less fatigued.

16. Do not use loss of recess as a consequence for negative behavior. (ADHD kids benefit from the physical movement that occurs during recess and can usually focus better following this exercise).

17. Use timers, taped time signals, or verbal cues to show how much time the student has remaining for an activity.

18. Pair the student with a “study buddy” –- a kind and mature classroom peer who can help give reminders or refocus the child when he gets off track.

A successful strategy to effectively educate students with ADHD includes a triad that includes academic instruction, behavioral interventions, and classroom accommodations. When these strategies are applied more regularly in the classroom, they will benefit not only students with ADHD but the entire learning environment.

Sources

National Institute of Mental Health – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Robelia, B. (1997). Tips for working with ADHD students of all ages.  Journal of Experimental Education, 20 (1), 51–53.

United States Department of Education (2008). Teaching Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Instructional Strategies and Practices.

Edited by Jenev Caddell, PsyD

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