Working with Children with ADHD in the classroom

Working with Children with ADHD in the classroom

     One of the questions I get asked frequently is how to help children who have been diagnosed (or should be diagnosed) with ADHD. Since ADHD is label for children who have a set of behaviors that all related to executive functioning, my suggestions focus on helping children to develop new skills (rather than just cope). Here are some strategies to try:

Impulse Control Strategies
  • Use a timer to keep the child on task for very short stretches of time. After the timer goes off, the child gets a quick break, then back to work. Gradually help the child extend the time in between breaks. Teach the child how to take appropriate breaks.
  • Instead of asking individual children to respond to questions, use Think-Pair-Share so that more children are involved rather than just sitting and waiting to speak (all children will benefit!)
  • Devise a special, private hand signal to let him know he’s just starting to go off track
  • Use self-talk cards with short positive sayings: “I can finish my work” “I can wait for a break”
  • Provide fidget toys to keep the child’s hand busy. These can be calming sensory items  like a blanket, squeeze ball, wax sticks, playdo, or silly putty. Tell the other children that the child needs these to stay focused, just like some children need glasses. Not everyone gets them because not everyone needs them.
  • Give the child something to hold with both hands while walking in the hallway – like a folder or ribbon.
  • Play body-awareness games like the Noble Duke of York
  • Use self-control/ impulse control games like Simon Says
  • Use individual white boards during group time to reduce time that children sit and listen and to increase engagement (all children will benefit!)
Self-Regulation Strategies
  • Break down tasks into smaller chunks
  • Transition the child a few minutes before the other children and provide plenty of advance warnings about changes
  • Teach the child how to track the speaker with his eyes to help increase attention
  • Use Self-Monitoring Charts
  • Teach child to calm down by reading and practicing Tucker Turtle
  • Children who have trouble regulating their own behaviors can learn how to do this by first regulating others. Put this child in charge of finding out who is not on task, or who is not keeping their desk clean, or who is not walking quietly in the hall. They can move from regulating others to eventually observing their own behavior.
  • Provide a visual marker (tape or carpet square) for personal space on carpet during group time
  • Memory Strategies
  • Play memory games & mnemonics
  • Give directions slowly and repeat them. Ask the child to repeat them back to you.
Planning and Organization Strategies
  • Simplify directions
  • Make cleaning out and organizing the desksa frequent part of your class schedule
  • Prepare an individual daily schedule card that the child can keep at her desk
  • Remove distractions – place desk in calm area
  • Use checklists for assignments to make sure all parts are completed
General Strategies
  • Use visual reminders such as pictures of the daily schedule, pictures of what a clean desk should look like, pictures of how to stand in line
  • Review behavior expectations before activities
  • Keep a consistent schedule and routines
  • Brain exercises – look for computer games and video games that stress focus, attention, and control
  • Maintain a positive, close relationship
  • Allow wiggling, standing by desk, etc if it doesn’t interfere with working
Most important of all: Provide FREQUENT positive feedback. This should be at least four times as many positive comments as corrections. Children who are struggling with ADHD in the classroom needs lots of support to know when they are doing the right thing. Even if you catch the child doing something positive for a half a minute – give positive feedback!
Please share in the comments any strategies you’ve found helpful.

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