George Lucas Educational Foundation

7 Seating Tips for ADHD Students

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Tap, tap, tap. Pause. Tap, tap, tap. Pause. Tap, tap, tap... Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder...No kidding!

Wow! I made it through my first summer day with a bunch of 6-year-olds with ADHD. ESY (Extended School Year) really stands for Especially Silly Youth. Screaming and yelling...screeching and running...don't forget arguing and fighting. I'm sure that it qualifies for hazard pay. 

Fast forward 2 years to Algebra 1...same thing. 

Bedlam is everywhere you look. No one ever told you about ADHD kids before you started teaching. Try these 7 strategies for choosing where ADHD students should sit to help control the craziness.

1. Use proximity control. Stand right next to your kid, scaring the bajeebers out of him/her.  In other words, more presence, less arguing.

2. Keep ADHD students as still and quiet as possible. Yes, it is possible. Put desks in 4’s so you don’t have to move them around later. Silent transitions. Yea!

3. ADHD students’ work areas are a disaster. Digging is par for the course! Have your kid sit with folks who are organized. Learn by osmosis. Let’s hope :-)

4. Did you ever notice that ADHD students look around during their performances? Work it out by surrounding them with students who are skilled at ignoring negative behaviors. What's the point of acting out if no one cares?

5. You and the classroom are boring. Think about it. Put his/her chair away from windows and doors. Just like the IEP says, reduce distractions.

6. Okay, you’re getting to the end of your rope. What do you do? ADHD students should be on an aisle for a clear path for them to walk around and "chill."

7. Everyone has them, the "classroom police." How many times do you need to hear that someone did something that they shouldn’t have?  Put the officer in the same row as your ADHD student. It’s more challenging to report­­­­­­­­ "offenses" if they remain unseen.

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (6) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

edielovesmath's picture
Academic Therapist and Consultant

I agree with you that the disorganized ADHD student hangs out with the tattle-taler. I just made a new seating chart. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Thanks for a great list! Do you find that your organized kids are also the "classroom police?" That was my experience, back in the day.

edielovesmath's picture
Academic Therapist and Consultant

My "class police officer" was on the lookout, sometimes organized, sometimes not. Encourage him/her to discuss "offenses" privately. Just like an undercover cop ;-)

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

You've got some good ideas on the list. In the elementary grades I've had luck with students utilizing OT tools such as T-stools, wiggle cushions, therabands across the desk legs in front to have them rest (and wiggle) their feet on, weighted lap buddy. Depending on the work, I will let students stand at a desk, table, or even work at a shorter break out table so they can kneel. It helps that I have ADHD- I even have my own type of wiggle cushion (memory foam desk chair cushion.) :)

edielovesmath's picture
Academic Therapist and Consultant

Thanks John.

I had OTs with my little ones, but never thought to move those strategies forward. Have you seen this done with 30 in a class?

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Third Grade Level

I use tables in my room, so moving around is very easy to do. In the past, my severe ADHD students would have three desks in the room. They can move whenever they needed to move. ADHD kids usually get the messenger job so they can take a walk and I even had a special agreement with one of the office assistants. I would grab a special envelope that was stamped Return to Mr.P. When she saw that, she knew she had to wait a few minutes, give it back to the kid and send him to class. "The Fake Envelope Trick."

This year I had a student that was so severely impaired by his ADHD that the only form of teaching that could keep him concentrated for more than a minute was when I pulled out my guitar. As soon as I would start playing, he immediately would try to keep time. I found out later his dad is a drummer. I used the guitar as much as I could with him. Tough one, there.

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