ADHD, otherwise known as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, was initially considered a condition that only children had, one that didn’t extend beyond childhood. Now, scientists and doctors understand that this neurological disease lasts a lifetime. Educating students with ADHD is important from the beginning.
Nearly 6.4 million American children receive an ADHD diagnosis, according to the ADD Resource Center. This number continually grows, indicated by the 42 percent increase in ADHD diagnoses over the past eight years. While 6.1 percent of diagnoses improve through medication, numerous strategies exist to help manage this disorder.
Symptoms often appear early, with an average age of seven at the time of diagnosis. This formative period requires parents, teachers, and doctors to work as a team, helping kids learn to adapt to and manage their ADHD symptoms.
Below are six strategies students, parents, and teachers can implement for managing symptoms of ADHD in the classroom.
Communicate Expectations Clearly & Quickly
It is essential to create a classroom with simple rules, expectations, and schedules. These should all be communicated with the student upfront and clearly with visual cues and reminders located throughout the space.
Teachers should also have the student repeat the instructions back to them. A child might hear the instructions, but they might interpret the words differently.
Tip: Display the rules on a desk via index card as a gentle reminder.
Tip: Simplify time management with a simple schedule. You can use taped index cards, timers, or verbal cues to help a student stay on task and schedule.
Keep Distractions Minimal
Students with ADHD are highly susceptible to distractions. If possible, provide them with an environment set up for success. Seat them away from common classroom distractions like doors, windows, pencil sharpeners, etc. Additionally, it is beneficial to limit clutter, noise, and excessive movement around the space.
Tip: If the above suggestions do not adequately provide the ideal structure for a student, try sitting them near the front of the room or in front of the teacher to provide support.
Tip: Using “white noise” or soft music can provide the right amount of noise for a student with ADHD to focus.
Reward Positive Behavior
Punishments and consequences are the last resort for trying to motivate a student. Instead, rewards and incentives can be critical drivers for student success. The primary goal is to create a positive space for learning and development; somewhere students want to go to every day.
Tip: Never take away a student with ADHD’s recess or activity time as a punishment. Physical activity is beneficial for all students and provides an outlet for excess energy.
Use Breaks and Tools
Kids with ADHD tend to struggle with sitting still throughout the average school day, so giving them frequent opportunities to get up and move around can be a big help.
Tip: Give a student with ADHD a classroom job! This idea provides chances for them to move around as well as an opportunity to grow their confidence. It can be cleaning the whiteboard or pushing in chairs.
Tip: For times when sitting is necessary, provide the student with a minimum amount of stimulation like a stress ball, noise-less fidget spinner, or silly putty.
Plan Lessons Accordingly
Kids with ADHD may have issues achieving regular sleep schedules, which can affect their behavior and attention span in class. As a general rule, students tend to be less fatigued earlier in the day, while before- and after-lunch are non-ideal times for productivity.
Tip: Plan to have the class tackle the most difficult subjects and assignments when they are most alert and engaged.
Provide students with a support system, from a student aide to guidance counselors. If these are not available as resources, it can also be beneficial to organize peer support.
It is often a mutually beneficial experience to pair a student with ADHD with a willing and helpful peer both in class and for assignments. A child’s “study buddy” provides encouragement, study help, and re-focus.