ADHD in the Classroom: Learning Strategies That Work

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 -- Winnie O'Leary

Every teacher knows that students are not lacking energy. However, for some students, the tendency toward a lack of focus and overabundance of energy is truly problematic. Some students deal with a condition known as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can make impulse control difficult. ADHD typically appears in childhood and is diagnosed between 6 and 12 years of age. It is diagnosed in boys about three times more frequently than in girls and is not something a child grows out of; it is a condition that must be managed.

ADHD is a broad term covering symptoms expressed as inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, or both. The formerly used term “Attention Deficit Disorder” or ADD now fits under ADHD. There is continuing (and fascinating) conversation around cause, treatment strategies, effective medications, and patterns of diagnosis. However, that’s not our focus in this blog. Instead, we want to focus on resources that are available for teachers and the probable student(s) in their classroom of 25–30 who deals with ADHD. Teachers are often the first to recognize the symptoms and identify children who should be checked for ADHD. The earlier that educators address potential issues surrounding ADHD, the more consistent it’s possible to be with treatment and the happier and more successful affected children and their classroom will be.

For students with ADHD, distractions can be frequent and difficult to overcome. Teachers’ instructions may not register with these students, and they may interrupt conversations, make demands, or speak without tact and say inappropriate things. It’s important to keep in mind that they are not doing so purposely! ADHD impacts the brain’s executive functioning. This speaks to a child’s ability to plan ahead, control his or her impulses, and stay organized. Support and guidance from parents and teachers is crucial to helping students with ADHD develop these forward-thinking skills.

ADHD is NOT a learning disability and is not classifiable under the legislation of the IDEA 2004. However, children who have been diagnosed often DO receive special education services under the “Otherwise Health Impaired” category of IDEA or receive individual accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Because of these gray lines, the way in which services are delivered varies widely between states and even between schools. Regardless of what your school’s specific policies and accommodations for students with ADHD might be, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.

1. Provide Cues

When students are upset, avoid feeding their frustration by arguing with them. To diffuse anger, think about the language you use, and preface what you say to students with an understanding statement. Try something like: “I understand this is hard” or “I realize that you are upset.” Remember, students with ADHD can have difficulty remembering and processing language, and calming language can be helpful.

2. Encourage Self-Sufficiency

Allowing children autonomy helps them to take ownership of their education and improves engagement. This is much easier to achieve when you provide students with the right tools and support. Planners, charts, routines, and clearly articulated rules are all very helpful to keep students who struggle with ADHD organized.

3. Be Consistent

Consistent, reasonable consequences for both positive and negative actions are key to improving behavior. In addition, rewards for good behavior are always appreciated by students and reinforce those positive actions.

4. Offer Different Choices

Give your students some choice in regard to how they spend their time in the classroom. Ask them which activity they want to complete first, which of several projects they would like to do to fulfil a particular standard, or offer a couple of different choices of topics to focus on. No one likes to be micromanaged, and choices help students build a sense of ownership.

5. Don’t Give Up

Be persistent in helping a child with ADHD succeed! You may have to try a number of different methods and make multiple attempts, but it’s always possible to make progress. So, stay positive, celebrate small victories, and build from there.

6. Leverage Assistive Technology (AT)

A diverse assortment of AT tools is available to help students who struggle with many tasks, including personal organization, reading comprehension, and setting up basic math problems, and writing. More on these to come!

Teaching students with ADHD presents unique challenges for educators but also offers opportunities to personalize learning and make a meaningful impact on these students. The right strategies and tools can go a long way in making the process smooth and successful! Check back next week where we will take a closer look at assistive technology and how it can help students with ADHD!

Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s solutions to personalize learning for students with various learning challenges, including ADHD? Find out how our Adaptive Intervention Solution can transform learning

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