Classroom strategies for ADHD

The following article is primarily aimed at teachers, however parents and students should also find it helpful.

It's not surprising that ADHD is usually only diagnosed once the child starts school - as increased demands on the child's attention span can make the condition more apparent. ADHD children are not unintelligent. In fact they are often very bright. But because they have difficulty staying focused, school performance can be severely affected.

To a teacher, the child with undiagnosed ADHD can appear to be a deliberate trouble maker. The child won't listen to the teacher, won't sit still, blurts out answers without being called on, or always seems to have his "head in the air." But with a well managed treatment program in place, the child with ADHD can prove to be a productive and well adjusted member of the class.

An individualized education plan

Classroom Strategies for ADHDSome ADHD children require a highly specialized school environment. But many can excel in a regular school setting. In either case, because no two ADHD children are alike, a personalized education plan is needed which takes into account individual strengths and weaknesses. Generally, ADHD students do better when given extra classroom structure, and shorter work periods.

Because ADHD children are easily distracted, school assignments should be broken down into smaller, less complex units, and encouragement should be provided as each stage is completed. Questions directed at the ADHD child should begin with his name, followed by a pause, to signal the child to pay close attention. Establishing frequent eye contact, and placing the student in the front row, near the teacher's desk, can also help. Students should be asked to put away unnecessary items, and a work area should be provided away from distractions.

Learning disorders & skills development

The child may also need extra help overcoming any associated learning disorders, developing social skills, listening skills, and in task planning, note-taking, and memorization. With appropriate guidance, pairing the ADHD student with other students can aid the child's attention to the tasks at hand, and provide invaluable lessons in group dynamics.

Tests & class work

ADHD Classroom TestsIn order to more accurately assess the ADHD student's knowledge, extra time should be given for tests. Another useful strategy for multi-page tests, is to hand out only one test sheet at a time. Confidence can be built from the start of projects with questions the student can successfully answer, and tasks he or she can easily complete.

ADHD children are more successful when they can see what's coming. Therefore, they should be given clear and consistent transitions between activities. Also, an activities schedule should be posted in the classroom and frequently referred to. Students should be warned of any change in activities, and be given a preview of the main concepts to be covered in an upcoming lesson.

Homework assignments

Homework assignments need to be clearly stated, then repeated, at the end of class. Each day, the child should write down a list of homework which the teacher should check for accuracy. To aid parent-teacher communications and to help avoid meeting only around crisis situations, teachers and parents can work together to maintain a school-to-home notebook, to keep track of homework and other academic and behavioral objectives.

Behavioral objectives

Like parents, teachers should always be on the look out for, and acknowledge good behavior. Older students are usually willing to work towards deferred rewards, but younger children need more immediate re-enforcement. So, reminders of success such as stickers, tokens or progress charts can be useful to offer encouragement.

For everyone's sake, it's important that the child's classroom behavior be effectively managed. Clearly communicated rules need to be set which consistently result in immediate consequences.

Rules ought to be phrased in positive terms of what the child should do. Posting these rules, reviewing them with the child, and asking questions to ensure comprehension, will greatly improve the child's compliance. But focusing on too many behavioral objectives at once is often confusing and counter-productive - so only a few objectives should be focused on at a time.

Time-out & planning ahead

While helping the child avoid boredom, the teacher should also help the child steer clear of over-stimulation. Stressful situations can often be anticipated and averted before they happen. A time-out location can be established, which should be used as a place to calm down - not as a punishment.

In some ways, children know their own learning methods best. So they too should be asked what they think will help. Besides the insightful feedback ADHD children can provide, being involved will encourage them to develop the important skills of self-observation and awareness.

With an individualized education plan, supportive teachers, and involved parents, many of the considerable challenges the ADHD student faces in school can be overcome - and their academic performance allowed to flourish.