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[Special Education] Strategies & Assistive Technology to Support Students with ADHD

[Special Education] Strategies & Assistive Technology to Support Students with ADHD

Often, teachers have the task of wrangling students who have high energy levels. While many students are able to calm down quickly and easily, it can be more of a challenge for students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 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.

For students with ADHD, distractions and impulse control 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, which can mean that students struggle with the ability to plan ahead, control impulses, and stay organized.  When parents and teachers understand this, their support and guidance toward developing executive function skills are crucial and productive.

We’ve compiled some strategies and assistive technology to help you best reach your students who struggle with ADHD.

  1. Provide Verbal Cues

Provide verbal affirmations to your students when you see that they are struggling. Preface what you say to students with a statement that shows you understand how they are feeling. Something like “I understand this is difficult” or “I realize you’re upset” can make a world of difference for students who are having a hard time in your class. Consider creating a “secret word” between you and your students with ADHD, and use that word in a sentence to remind them to pay attention to the next set of directions. For example, use the word “popcorn” in a sentence to alert your ADHD students to refocus. Use a different codeword for each student or the same one for the entire group.

Strategies you could use in this situation: If a particular student is struggling to pay attention, have him or her come to your desk during classwork time and type out a message for him or her to read. This is a way to get your message across without drawing the attention of the entire class. It gives the student a reason to get up and move and provides him or her with a positive connection to you.

  1. Encourage Independence

When you allow your students to take ownership of their learning, their engagement will improve. Provide your students with support to help them achieve self-sufficiency, such as a calendar or schedule to keep them on track. Clearly articulated rules and procedures will help keep students with ADHD organized.

Assistive technology you could use in this situation: Online alarms or calendar systems with notifications can encourage students to stay on track and work toward deadlines.

  1. Offer Varied Choices

Give your students a choice in how they spend their time completing assignments in and out of the classroom. Offer different options for how students submit their assignments (online or on paper) and how they work best in the classroom. No one likes to be micromanaged, and choice helps students build a sense of ownership. Be flexible—don’t be afraid to try out multiple ways of doing things in order to find out what works best for your students today. You may also find that some of these strategies will work well for students who don’t have a diagnosis of ADHD. All in all, giving every student choices helps equalize the classroom.

Assistive technology you could use in this situation: Noise-canceling headphones help students focus on their work, talking books allow students to listen to text, and voice-recognition software assists students who have trouble typing, allowing them to speak instead. Can you imagine the power of a story FINALLY being put down on paper because a student could record it rather than struggle through the handwriting or typing processes?

Looking for more ways to support your students with learning disabilities? Check out these four differentiation strategies to support students with learning disabilities in online courses!