Classroom Strategies for Students with ADHD

October 4, 2017

What is the difference between ADD and ADHD? ADD stands for “Attention Deficit Disorder.” ADHD stands for “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” A child with ADD struggles with inattention, while a child with ADHD struggles with both inattention and hyperactivity. For obvious reasons, students with ADHD are more quickly and accurately diagnosed, while students with ADD often go unnoticed and are at risk of falling through the cracks.

If you are like me, you likely have students who struggle with inattention and hyperactivity. The good news is that whether or not parents choose to “label” their child or prescribe medicine, our role as teachers remains the same. Our sole job is to use classroom interventions that help every child master the general education curriculum. Because all of my students struggled with attention and hyperactivity to varying degrees, I incorporated ADD/ADHD classroom strategies into all of my lessons to better support all of my students.

I hope you can use the information below to assume the best about students and give them the tools they need to succeed academically and behaviorally.

Signs of ADD

  • Struggles to pay attention to details
  • Struggles to concentrate or sustain attention o
  • Struggle to listen to instructions
  • Disorganized with materials
  • Seems “spacey” or lethargic
  • Needs frequent reminders to start or complete routine tasks
  • Does well one-on-one but struggles with independent work
  • Makes “careless” errors across subjects
Signs of ADHD

  • Struggles to take turns in games and conversations
  • Does not control temper or outbursts
  • Weak spatial orientation skills: Does not have a strong sense of their body in space (accidentally bump into people or things)
  • Energetic or constantly fidgeting
  • Constant sense of restlessness
  • Often acts without thinking (impulsive actions and words)
  • Calls out / talks out of turn
  • Thinks “out of the box”
  • Budgeting attention: May over focus on favored activities or “distractions” while not  focusing on assigned, challenging tasks
ADD Classroom Strategies

  • Provide organization tools
    1. Color-coded folders
    2. Check-lists
    3. Schedules
  • Break projects into small tasks
  • Set up supervision (at home and school) of homework, organization of backpack, and filing papers
  • Provide consistent, low key reminders, prompts and cues
  • Give generous praise when the student meets organization or attention goals
  • Use the child’s name in verbal and written questions and instructions to engage
  • Use auditory cues like a timer to signal start and end of activity
  • Keep instructions simple and structured
  • Develop private joke/common interest with student that can be used to engage student and distract from frustration
  • Offer close proximity seating to teacher and away from windows/doors
  • Teach explicit self-monitoring with goals and stickers
ADHD Classroom Strategies

  • Offer student breaks to move
  • Offer consistent rewards and consequences
  • Provide structure and consistent schedule
  • Incorporate the student as a prop or “actor” in the lesson
  • Offer physical outlets, such as a fidget spinner, stress ball, rubber band, tapping knees or “bouncy bands” for student seat
  • Provide multiple modalities during learning, especially kinesthetic learning
  • Ask student to repeat instructions or important lesson material
  • Use the student as a messenger and other classroom jobs

While I began my teaching career giving warnings and consequences to inattentive or disruptive students, I quickly learned that I was wrong to do so. After a Special Education Professional Development Conference, I realized the importance of treating behavior deficits like learning deficits. I decided to assume the best about students and to provide classroom strategies to help them learn the important academic skills of attention, self-control and focus. You too, can transform the behavior of all of your students by addressing signs of inattention and off task behavior with teacher-tested and student-approved ADD/ADHD classroom management strategies.

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