How Teachers Can Help: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

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How Teachers Can Help:

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)



Beth Rutkowski
Lead Clinical Psychologist in LIH Olivia’s Place

Prioritize Seating

Seat the student away from windows and the door, and near the front of the class.  A seating arrangement in which students are in rows, with focus on the teacher is preferable to students seated around tables or facing one another. For testing or quiet study time, create a quiet area free of distractions for the student to work.

Deliver Lessons Clearly

Give instructions one at a time. Encourage the whole class to ask if they need repetition, and repeat whenever there is a request. If possible, work on the most difficult material early in the day. In addition to teaching verbally, provide visual information such as charts, pictures, and color coded materials.  Create outlines for the student to take notes in class, which organizes the information based on the order in which it is presented.

Minimize Challenges with Work

Create worksheets and tests with fewer items to demonstrate mastery. Instead of long exams, give frequent short quizzes. Reduce the number of timed tests. When possible, test the student in the format that they are best able to represent their knowledge, such as orally or filling in blanks. Divide long-term projects into segments and assign a completion goal for each segment. Offer the opportunity to turn work in late or not fully complete in order to obtain partial credit.

Assist with Organization

Allow time for the student to organize materials and assignments for home. Post a visual reminder of steps to take when getting ready to go home at the end of the day.  Make sure the student has a system for writing down assignments and important dates. Periodically check what the student uses it. Color-code materials for each subject.

Assign a special folder to be checked each day with communication between home and school, such as behavior reports, permission slips, project descriptions, etc.

Start the Lesson on the Right Foot

Signal the start of a lesson with a cue such as a chime or a bell. Establish eye contact with the student who has ADHD. Use their first name to get their attention. List the activities of the lesson on the board, and add pictures when possible. Tell students what they’re going to learn and what your expectations are. Make sure students know exactly what materials they’ll need.

Teach with Accommodations

Keep instructions simple and structured. Use props, charts, and other visual aids whenever possible. Include different kinds of activities and allow breaks. Have an unobtrusive cue set up to indicate to their student when they are off-task, such as touching them on the shoulder.  Summarize key points at the end of the lesson. If you give an assignment, have three different students repeat it, then have the class say it in unison, and put it on the board. Be specific about what to take home.

Allow for Movement

Allow the student to move around or fidget, preferably by creating reasons for the movement. Provide opportunities for physical action- do an errand, wash the blackboard, get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, etc. If this is not practical, then permit the student to play with small objects kept in their desks that can be manipulated quietly, such as a soft squeeze ball, if it isn’t too distracting.

Partner with Parents

For best results, teachers must partner with the parents to ensure that their child is ready to learn in the classroom. Have regular communication via in person meetings, phone calls or email. Use a daily or weekly report, if helpful. Provide feedback on any concerns regarding medication effectiveness or worsening symptoms.