Do you need some tips on supporting children with ADHD in the classroom? If so, then this guest post is a must-read!
Countries around the world may differ in their GDP, religion, or lifestyle. What I noticed, though, during these many years of teaching in both rich and poorer parts of our planet, is that the education systems mostly require children to: Sit still. Be quiet. Listen carefully. Follow instructions.
If you’re a teacher, you know that respecting these rules can be difficult for any child from time to time. They all get fidgety and chatty sometimes, but it mostly takes just a gentle nudge from the teacher to make them get back to work.
However, if you’ve encountered a child who exhibits symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), then you’re familiar with the serious challenges both you and the child face. Their inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can be frustrating. You know that the brainpower is there and you want the child to perform as best as they can, but they can’t seem to focus. Also, their behaviour can be quite disruptive for the whole class.
To empower, not control, children with ADHD and to overcome problems their behaviour may cause, try these methods that brave and patient teachers have been discovering for many years. They deal with three major components:
1 – Classroom accommodations
Children with ADHD often have difficulty determining what is important and focusing on their assigned work. As they are so easily distracted, many of them benefit from accommodations that reduce distractions in the classroom environment and help them to stay on task and learn.
One of the most common accommodations concerning children with ADHD is determining where they will sit. Three specific seating assignments may be especially useful:
- Seat the child near the teacher. This seating assignment provides opportunities for you to monitor and reinforce your student’s on-task behaviour. The child should be away from windows or doors.
- Seat the child near a student role model. This may provide opportunity for children to work cooperatively.
- Provide low-distraction work areas. Remove all distracting objects near the child. If the space permits, make available a distraction-free room or area for quiet study time and test taking. Always direct the student to this space discreetly and let them know that they’re not being punished.
Also, there are some instructional tools teachers use when working with children with ADHD:
- Pointers: Teach the child to use a pointer to help visually track written words on a page. For example, provide the child with a bookmark to help him or her follow along when students are taking turns reading aloud.
- Clocks or timers: Note for the children the starting and ending times of the lesson.
- Classroom lights: Turning the classroom lights on and off prompts children that the noise level in the room is too high and they should be quieter. You can also use auditory cues.
- Proper furniture: The desk and chair used by children with ADHD need to be the right size; a child should be able to put his or her elbows on the surface of the desk and have his or her chin fit comfortably in the palm of the hand. You can also provide resistance bands on chair legs to help satisfy the need to move.
2 – Information delivery and teaching methods
Keeping in mind the short attention span of ADHD students, you’ll need to adjust your teaching methods and tests.
- Give instructions one at a time and repeat as necessary. Establish eye contact. Simplify instructions. Repeat them orally for the ADHD student and give them to the child in writing as well.
- Use visuals. These can be charts, pictures, colour coding.
- Break long assignments into smaller chunks. Give frequent, short quizzes. Test the student with ADHD in the way he or she does best, such as orally or filling in blanks.
- Let the student do as much work as possible on computer.
- Include different kinds of activities. Vary the pace. Many students with ADHD do well with competitive games or other activities that are rapid and intense.
- Summarise key points. If there’s homework, have a few students repeat what it is, then have the class say it in unison, and write it on the board.
- Accept late work and don’t grade neatness.
3 – Behavioural interventions
You need to prevent behaviour that takes time from other students and also help the child with ADHD perform the best they can. These tips may help you in achieving that:
- Define the appropriate behaviour while giving praise. Praise should be specific for the positive behaviour displayed by the student, and not for avoiding the negative.
- Give praise immediately
- Establish warning signals. Work out some warning signals with the ADHD student. This can be a hand signal, a gentle shoulder squeeze, or a sticky note on the student’s desk.
- Ignore mildly inappropriate behaviour. As long as such behaviour is unintentional and isn’t disruptive, ignore it.
- Allow for short breaks. Let him or her squeeze a rubber ball or tap something that doesn’t make noise.
- Discuss proper behaviour with the student. You should always do this privately.
- Ask for help. If the school has a psychologist or a pedagogist, consult them. Also, ask your colleagues for some good ideas.
Teaching children with ADHD can be a challenge indeed, especially if the school doesn’t provide the necessary tools, space, and support. However, as teachers, we must always adjust, find new ways of dealing with problems, and learn patiently as we go. This only makes us more confident as teachers and makes our students perform better.
Dimitris works as a full stack marketer at Movinhand. Movinhand helps educators get the salary they deserve. We promote teachers around the world and get them the best possible offer within 10 days of signing up.