George Lucas Educational Foundation

How to Handle Students with ADHD at School

How to Handle Students with ADHD at School

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“Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”

ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by distractibility, hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour, and the inability to remain focused on tasks or activities. Signs of ADHD may begin to appear as early as age two or three, but the symptoms change as adolescence approaches.

Many symptoms, particularly hyperactivity, diminish in early adulthood, but impulsivity and inattention problems remain with up to 50% of ADHD individuals throughout their adult life. Children with ADHD have short attention spans, becoming easily bored or frustrated with tasks. Although they may be quite intelligent, their lack of focus frequently results in poor grades and difficulties in school.

ADHD children act impulsively, taking action first and thinking later. They are constantly moving, running, and fidgeting and often have trouble with fine motor skills and, as a result, may be physically clumsy and awkward. Their clumsiness may extend to the social arena, where they are sometimes shunned due to their impulsive and intrusive behaviour.

Tips For Handling ADHD Children in School

Teachers at schools must understand the struggle a student with ADHD goes through and ensure that an ordered, safe, predictable classroom environment is set for such students. Educators must establish a courteous, working relationship with the student’s parents. Learn about their child’s strengths, weaknesses, interests and achievements outside the school.

Teachers should be aware about the teaching methods which are most effectively used at home by the parents. Teachers must communicate often and send encouraging notes home so that the parents are aware about the progress of the child. Teachers must speak to the student individually.

Be very loving ,patient and express interest in his or her work at school by observing patiently how he or she learns best. Decide together on a sign or a code that you can use to remind the child to focus on the task. For example, make eye contact with the child ,touch your ear or pick up a particular object to signal the child for attention. Make classroom rules clear and concise. Discuss them orally and post them on the class notice board for easy reference.

Teachers can also use a point system, tokens, stars, or other methods to reinforce and appreciate appropriate behaviour in the classroom. Notice and provide feedback on any improvement in the areas of behaviour and academics to the parents .Avoid any form of criticizing the child in front of his or her peers.

One very important thing that teachers must do is give directions in simple, concrete terms and simplify instructions, tasks and assignments. Always get the child to complete one step before introducing the second step. Divide lessons into relatively short segments and use a variety of teaching aids such as movie clips, audio lessons, and group workshops to reinforce the child's interest in the lesson. Provide the ADHD student opportunities to display his or her skills, talents or leadership ability in front of the entire class. Include stretching exercises, or movement activity when you notice the child’s attention span is low.

Modify required homework to accommodate students who are severely impacted with ADHD. Avoid giving them long home or class assignments. Pause before asking questions or ask the inattentive child a question to gain his or her focus. Always Use the student’s name while addressing a question to him or her. Walk around the room and pat the child gently on the shoulder or tap the place in the child’s book that is being read to help him or her stay focussed.

Seat the ADHD child in close proximity to you and in the area that has the least amount of distractions for example doors, windows and naughty students. Watch for signs of increasing stress in a hyperactive child. You may want to reduce the workload or provide an opportunity for the child to release some energy. For example, have the student assist you in carrying books to the staff room, minding the class, running errands for you etc. Provide opportunities for physical activity. Choose the hyperactive child to hand out note books ,collect assignments or do other classroom jobs that can help release pent up energy and contribute to his or her feeling of self-worth.

Be flexible and allow a child with the ADHD disorder to sit in any comfortable position in his chair if it helps the student complete assignments. Encourage sensitivity as the child interacts with peers. If he or she lacks social etiquette , it might be helpful to say something like, “Rina looked unhappy when you spoke to her. What is a kinder way to ask for something?” If the student interrupts peers often, remind the child to listen first before talking. Establish a collaborative relationship with the school counsellor, coordinator or any other specialist in the school to ascertain the best seating arrangement in class for the child with ADHD.

Dear Teachers, ADHD children can perform better within a familiar, consistent, and structured routine at school with positive reinforcements for good behaviour and subtle consequences for bad. Family & classmates and teachers should all be educated on the special needs and behaviour of the ADHD child. Communication between parents and teachers is especially critical to ensuring an ADHD child has an appropriate learning environment. The key factor for handling such children is PATIENCE. Mrs. Tina Olyai Director Little Angels High School Gwalior M.P.

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.

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new teacher's picture

Lots of good ideas here. One question though, in a class of 20+ with just one child with ADHD, how can I keep my other students from feeling jealous or complaining why one student gets to be my "helper" so often, or why she gets to go out of the classroom for a quick break when they don't?

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

New Teacher.... I think being honest with the class is the best way to go. I will almost always have a classroom meeting explaining that during the year most of the class will need certain things to foster success (Not singling out the ADHD).

"For example, Joey might need a number line to learn negative numbers, but Jill won't. Jill might need a little more time to finish her story, but Bob won't. James might need to take a walk to help him think and Jamie might need to use a grip on his pencil to help his writing."

The speech doesn't work all of the time, but it helps.

Alex Shevrin's picture
Alex Shevrin
Community college teacher, former school leader, Edutopia community facilitator

I've seen this image floating around on Twitter and I think it would be a great visual way to explain this concept to kids:

Also, I've found that strategies that are helpful for a kid with ADHD or on an IEP or needing any kind of 'special' accommodations are typically actually best practice for working with all students. I wonder if students in your class can have rotating roles and jobs in the classroom to keep them ALL engaged rather than singling out one student to have those opportunities.

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

Alex- that is a fantastic graphic- I will be using that tomorrow.

New Teacher, I agree with Gaetan. I am totally upfront with my students from day one- every one of them needs and knows different things. We talk about this often and over time the students usually get it.

My school also works to provide many of the adaptive strategies and tools we use for specific students, to other students who don't necessarily need them, but may benefit from them. I may have two students who need movement break several times a day, but I have four more who occasionally may benefit from them and join the movement break on occasion. I will occasionally send other students who may not benefit much from the movement break per se, but may be able to learn how to take turns, communicate, or practice some other necessary skill. And sometimes it is just a fun thing to do that helps keep the joy in school for all students. We do the same with all our OT tools like wiggle cushions, fidgets, pencil grips, T-stools, etc.

new teacher's picture

Thanks guys for all your replies. The graphic is great, I'll definitely be sharing that with my class.

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