Helpful Suggestions for Teachers and Parents to Help Students with ADHD
What is your idea of a classroom setting? Do you think all students are all the same? Do you think all students learn the same? The answer to all the questions above is NO. Not every student is the same. Not every student learns the same. Take it from me: I had a learning disability all through school. I was one of those that simply learned differently. I wanted to be like some of my peers and just get it. My brain told me otherwise. It would take me a little longer to catch on to certain things in certain subjects. I was just diagnosed with a learning disability. Not a specific disability just an overall learning disability. My disability just meant I learned differently. I needed the extra support and help on an assignment that maybe my other peer got right away. All in all, I just wanted to succeed and not get left behind. There are plenty of other students just like me. They learn differently. In this case, they need to be moved to a certain spot to concentrate more. Which brings me to my next topic – Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – or ADHD.
What Is ADHD?
The CDC defines ADHD as the following: “Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder experience more obstacles in their path to success than the average student. The symptoms of ADHD such as inability to pay attention, difficulty sitting still and difficulty controlling impulses, can make it hard for children with this diagnosis to do well in an education setting.”
Simply put, ADHD makes focusing more difficult. There are three general types: Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined. The inattentive type makes it hard to pay attention and stay focused whereas the hyperactive-impulsive type makes it hard to sit still, remain quiet, or control speech. The most common type is a combination of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. Both adults and children have ADHD and it roughly affects men and women equally. It is estimated that 9.4% of children between the ages of 2-17 have ADHD.
What Does ADHD Look Like?
ADHD can look like many different things! Can you imagine not being able to focus at all and constantly having a million things go through your head every second... or being extremely hyper throughout the day and never being able to come down to a common ground? Those are just a taste of what hyperactive-impulsive ADHD may feel like. Just like anything, ADHD affects each individual differently.
It is not uncommon for ADHD to go undiagnosed. If you notice a student routinely struggles to pay attention, fails to complete homework, speaks non-stop during lessons, or has trouble following instruction, this could be a sign that they are unknowingly managing ADHD. If you suspect this to be the case, it’s important to kindly make the parents aware of the situation and perhaps refer them for a diagnosis. A proper and accurate diagnosis will help better set the student up for success and potentially improve their experience in your classroom.
Classroom Strategies & Management Tips
If you have a student with ADHD in your classroom, try your best to modify or adapt activities to better meet the students’ needs. Keep in mind that this may look different for all students. If your student has been formally diagnosed, it is probable the specialist and the parents created a list of tools and recommendations to help. Speak with the parents and make sure everyone is on the same page – consistency is extremely important!
Easy Classroom Accommodations
Try some of these suggestions to help students with ADHD in your classroom.
Think About Seating Arrangements:
- Use chairs that are flexible! Just a bit of movement will help when they can’t seem to sit still.
- If possible, try placing the student further away from distractions, such as windows or doors.
Use Words of Encouragement:
- Provide frequent feedback
- Comment when they are doing a great job paying attention or following classroom rules
- Make sure their space is clear and uncluttered
- If appropriate, let the student hold a tool, such as a squish-ball or fidget-spinner
Improve Test-Taking Environment
- Provide student with extra time, if required
- Move student away from others and ensure the area is quiet
- Allow time for student to plan and get organized
- Try color-coding materials
Keep in mind that these are just a few common techniques that teachers have found successful in the classroom. The most important thing is to simply be patient and understanding with your student. If you remain consistent with your approach and work with the parents to create a game plan, you will undoubtedly celebrate victories together in the classroom!
ADHD is quite common and it’s very likely you will encounter a student with this disorder. While it may be frustrating or even disruptive at times, it can also be frustrating for the student! ADHD is a very real issue, and we all need to do our best to be supportive and discover how to best help our students. Remember not to paint ADHD in a negative light! It may help form part of one’s identity and should be celebrated. When we learn how to implement effective management strategies, it can even be a strength!