A classroom is a microcosm of society, and just like in any society, there are outliers who stand apart from the majority. As a teacher, you strive to keep your classroom fair and develop your lesson plans to suit the various spectrums of learning. At some point, you may encounter a student with ADHD who poses a challenge for your standard classroom management techniques and your carefully curated curriculum. A student with ADHD has the brainpower for learning, however their unique brain composition makes it difficult for them to focus on the subject matter. The more you understand this condition, the more you can help your student.
What Is ADHD?
About 11 percent (6.4 million) of school-aged children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD in their lifetime. Boys have a higher ADHD diagnosis rate than girls, and the average age of diagnosis is at 7 years of age. Make sure you know the signs of ADHD so you can recognize when a kid may need special help.
The symptoms of ADHD are grouped into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Behavioral signs related with inattention include: easily distracted, doesn’t follow directions, fails to finish tasks, has difficulty with organization. Hyperactivity can manifest itself behaviorally as excessive talking, always moving, difficulty with volume control, inability to stay seated and fidgeting. Impulsivity includes blurting of answers, unable to wait for his or her turn and interruption of others.
A child with ADHD will cause interruption within the classroom and may have difficulty in the completion of their individual tasks. You must anticipate their behavior and develop appropriate reactions that will keep the mood positive, help the child with ADHD and keep your entire class on track with their learning. In the classroom, children with ADHD may struggle with long-term projects, group work, difficult math equations, reading and writing. Regardless of your ADHD student’s struggles, make sure you never shame him for his behavior, but instead encourage him or her towards academic success.
Have a brief conference with the ADHD student and come up with a secret code or signal for when he or she is distracting the class and must re-focus his attention, like a hand signal or a light shoulder tap. Don’t over-do the signals; refrain from pointing out every instance when he or she is off task and only the moments when his or her behavior is a distraction for the whole class.
How You Can Help
Create classroom accommodations for your students with ADHD. Seating assignment can help limit distractions in the classroom. Make sure they are seated away from the windows and the door, put them near your desk and organize the classroom desk formation in rows, rather than table groups. Deliver task instructions in a clear and concise way. Write on the board step-by-step instructions that the students can easily follow and provide other visuals like charts and pictures.
Allow writing assignments to be completed on a computer, rather than in handwriting. A student with ADHD often thinks faster than he or she can write, which can result in messy handwriting and a loss of cohesive thought. Utilize writing prompt tools to help the student practice their composition skills. Help the student with his or her organization and provide the entire class with five to 10 minutes of desk organization and cleaning time at the end of the day.
Work one-on-one with your ADHD students and come up with a special organization system for them. A strong organizational system may include color coding, a three-subject notebook or three-ring binder, and a planner where he or she can write down important assignments and due dates.
About the author: Joyce Wilson is a retired teacher with decades of experience. Today, she is a proud grandmom and mentor to teachers in her local public school system. She and a fellow retired teacher created TeacherSpark.org to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.