30 Tips for Teaching Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderBy Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Creator of the C.A.R.E.S. Curriculum
The following list may assist teachers who work with ADHD students. For an overview of this disorder see, “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children.”
1. Understand the struggle a student with ADHD has and provide an ordered, safe, predictable classroom environment.
2. Establish a courteous, working relationship with the student’s parents. Learn about their child’s strengths, weaknesses, interests and achievements outside of school. Ask what teaching methods have been most effective with their child. Communicate often and send encouraging notes home.
3. Make time to speak to the student individually. Be respectful and express interest in his or her success in school by asking how he or she learns best.
4. Decide together on a sign or a code that you can use to remind the child to be on task. For example, make eye contact and touch your ear or pick up a particular object. Or, you could hold up one or two fingers.
5. Make classroom rules clear and concise. Discuss them orally and post them for easy reference. Explain the consequences for misbehavior in understandable terms and enforce them consistently. Avoid power struggles.
6. Use a point system, tokens, stars, or other methods to reinforce appropriate behaviors (see Rewards in the Classroom).
7. Notice and provide feedback on any improvement in the areas of behavior and academics (see Effective Praise). Avoid criticizing the child in front of others.
8. Give directions in simple, concrete terms. Simplify instructions, tasks and assignments. Have the child complete one step before introducing the second step.
9. Divide lessons into relatively short segments and use a variety of teaching aids such as films, tapes, computer programs and small group work to reinforce the child’s learning.
10. Provide the ADHD student opportunities to display his or her skills, talents and/or leadership ability.
11. Prepare for transitions by providing a warning when a change is to occur. A musical clue may be helpful. Try playing classical music or a recording of nature sounds during work time.
12. Have all of the students stand and stretch, run in place, or do an exercise or movement activity when deemed necessary.
13. Color code paper for each subject. If available use off white, tan or light blue colored paper for written assignments.
14. Create schedules, outlines, lists, and/or a homework assignment book to help the student keep organized as well as to increase home/school communication. Tape a copy of the class schedule to the child’s desk.
15. Modify required homework to accommodate students who are severely impacted with ADHD. Avoid busy, redundant assignment.
16. Direct young ADHD children to trace their handprints on the front and back of a folder to carry with them wherever they go. Have them place their hands on top of the traced ones to help them remember to keep their hands to themselves.
17. Pause before asking questions or ask the inattentive child a question to gain his or her focus. Use the student’s name or interests in neutral ways during discussions.
18. 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 on task.
19. Seat the ADHD child in close proximity to you and in the area that has the least amount of distractions and stimulation, i.e.doors, windows and active students. Or, sit the child by the pencil sharpener and let him or her get up and sharpen a pencil as often as needed.
20. 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 deliver an “important letter” in a sealed envelope to another teacher or school secretary who understands the child’s need to move.
21. Provide opportunities for physical activity. Choose the hyperactive child to hand out papers or do other classroom jobs that can help release pent up energy and contribute to his or her feeling of self-worth.
22. Encourage the child to use self-monitoring techniques to help focus. For example, allow the him or her to rub velcro or another object attached to the underside of his desk or provide a soft ball for a student to squeeze. (Seek approval of any unusual technique from the principal and parent before use.)
23. Allow a student who seems to be sensitive to fluorescent light to wear a visor or baseball cap in class. Turn off the group of lights nearest the windows or dim the classroom lights.
24. Be flexible and allow a child with the ADHD disorder to stand up or squat in his chair if it helps the student complete assignments. Or, let him or her sit on the floor by you or on a large ball if that helps the child do the work. An air filled pillow or a quiet stationary exercise bike with a desk attached could also be used.
25. Furnish two desks facing each other or side-by-side for one ADHD student. The child can move freely back and forth or lounge between the desks as long as he or she stays on task and in the designated area.
26. Provide a cubicle or quiet area for the ADHD student to use when overwhelmed by classroom activity.
27. If necessary, furnish a specific area marked off by tape that is only his or her space that no one else can enter. In it the student can stand up, sit on the floor, or move around to complete assignments. However, the child must be quiet and remain in the area unless given permission to leave.
28. Encourage sensitivity as the child interacts with peers. If he or she lacks social awareness, it might be helpful to say something like, “Mary 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.
29. Have older students or volunteer parents serve as tutors for these students.
30. Establish a collaborative relationship with the special education teacher, school psychologist, school counselor, administrator and/or other specialist in the school to ascertain the best placement for the child with ADHD.
Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website [www.kellybear.com], 11/04
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Leah Davies received her Master’s Degree from the Department of Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Auburn University. She has been dedicated to the well-being of children for 44 years as a certified teacher, counselor, prevention specialist, parent, and grandparent. Her professional experience includes teaching, counseling, consulting, instructing at Auburn University, and directing educational and prevention services at a mental health agency.
Besides the Kelly Bear materials, Leah has written articles that have appeared in The American School Counseling Association Counselor, The School Counselor, Elementary School Guidance and Counseling Journal, Early Childhood News, and National Head Start Association Journal. She has presented workshops at the following national professional meetings: American School Counselor Association; Association for Childhood Education International; National Association for the Education of Young Children; National Child Care Association; National Head Start Association; National School-Age Child Care Alliance Conference.