Supporting children with ADHD in the classroom
Author Maria Buttuller
Date 2nd Oct 2020
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental spectrum condition that mainly affects children, although it can affect adults, too. It can have an impact on emotions, behaviours, and the ability to learn new things. Notable symptoms include difficulty following directions, getting organised, managing time and focusing on what’s important. For children, ADHD is generally associated with problems at school, and children with ADHD can often have trouble succeeding in a controlled classroom setting.
ADHD is divided into three subtypes:
Inattentive type - where a lack of focus and attention are the primary symptoms
Hyperactive-impulsive type– mainly characterised by hyperactive behaviour and lack of impulse control
Combination type - when inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity go hand in hand
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple test that can diagnose children with ADHD under the age of 7 but, If you think that a child in your classroom is demonstrating ADHD characteristics, here are some effective teaching strategies that you could try:
Begin by having positive expectations. If the child fails to fulfil these expectations, simply deal with the issue there and then, and move forward. Start each new day as a new beginning. Be kind and direct and tell them what you want, focusing on the positives. Try to avoid long discussions about what is right and wrong in their behaviour. Children with ADHD thrive when they are motivated.
Give clear instructions
Give directions clearly and, wherever possible, use visual prompts. Try to provide direct instructions and repeat directions more than once. You can also write instructions on the board, and check that the child understands. Provide the child with a checklist of their own so that they can remind themselves of the work to be completed, and allow them to doodle or make notes when listening to instructions.
Try to alleviate anxiety
Stress in response to adjusting to the demands of a classroom can sometimes lead to the child feeling overwhelmed. To help, allow ‘time out’ if they need to move and, if quiet class work is required, allow de-stress toys. It can also be useful to facilitate a quiet area that the child can retreat to in times of need. This could be a quiet relaxation corner or ‘chill out zone’ in a corner of the room.
Minimise possible distractions
Sit the child near you, at the front of the room and away from colourful displays and windows. If possible, sit the child near a ‘calm wall’ to reduce sensory or distractibility overload. You can also use large type on handouts and make these as uncluttered as possible.
Gain & sustain the child’s attention
Use deliberate eye contact when speaking to the child. Try and break down each task into its smaller component parts. Be consistent, firm, fair and patient and give constant feedback and rewards. Above all, make learning fun! All children hate being bored, but boredom sets in very quickly for children with ADHD.
Children often spend a lot of time in class sitting down. This is where taking movement breaks can help. For example, next time you ask pupils to talk about something in small groups, get them to their feet – it will change the dynamic completely and can help children with ADHD to engage.
If you think that a child in your classroom may have ADHD then the first step is to talk to your school Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). Left undiagnosed, ADHD can have serious consequences on a child’s future life prospects. There is no single test to confirm that a child has ADHD, and diagnosis should only be made by a professional with training and expertise in the diagnosis of ADHD.
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