ADHD: strategies in the classroom

SND17-wk4-EDUCATION-ADHDThere is no easy solution for the management of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the classroom.

Effectiveness depends on the knowledge and persistence of the school and the individual teacher. Medication, behavioural modification, home and classroom strategies and accommodations can all help children with ADHD reach their potential.

Types of ADHD:

  • Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive
  • Predominantly inattentive
  • Combined ADHD
  • These result in difficulties with: Sustaining attention, effort and persistence; Organisation; and Disinhibition – difficulties with controlling emotions, impulses to act and delaying responses.

Ways to help children with ADHD

Verbal instructions:

  • Keep instructions brief and clear.
  • Say the child’s name or make eye contact when giving important information.
  • Ask the child to repeat instructions to make sure they have taken it in and understood.
  • The child may need prompting, monitoring and encouragement to keep them focused on tasks.

Written work:

  • Highlight important points in written information using *asterisks*, CAPITAL LETTERS or bold text.
  • Limit the amount of information that needs to be copied from a board. Instead, give ‘hand out’ sheets with this information.
  • Use outlines, teach outlining, and teach underlining. Colour code books or timetables.

Other learning strategies:

  • Provide one-to-one instruction as often as possible.
  • A class ‘buddy’, who gets along well with the child, can be helpful to reinforce instructions and directions.
  • Make sure activities have plenty of ‘hands on’ involvement.
  • Schedule the most important learning to take place during the child’s best concentration time(s). This is usually in the morning.
  • Give a checklist for what the child needs to do.

Physical environment:

  • Sit them near the front of the classroom.
  • Plan seating and furniture carefully to decrease distractions. eg, sit the child near classmates who will be good role models.

Reducing over-activity and fatigue:

  • Build rest breaks into activities. eg a 5 min break for each 30 mins of activity.
  • Alternate academic tasks with brief physical exercise. eg the child could do structured tasks or errands such as delivering notes or taking lunch orders.
  • Prepare a number of low pressure fun activities for when the child needs to spend a few minutes calming down.
  • Or provide a specified time-out location to which the child can go when not in control.

Keeping Structure:

  • Children with ADHD can struggle with changes to routine and need to know what to expect.
  • Have a fixed routine.
  • Keep classroom activities well organised and predictable
  • Display the daily schedule and classroom rules. eg attach a flowchart to the inside of the child’s desk or book.
  • Tell the child in advance of a change in the schedule.
  • Give the child advance warning of transitions. eg in 5 mins you will have to put your work away. You may have to remind them more than once.
  • Keep choices to a minimum.
  • Communication between home and school:
  • Use a school-home daily communication book.
  • Communicate both positive aspects of the day and inappropriate behaviour.
  • Be sensitive to parents’ feelings. They have the difficult task of raising a child with ADHD.
  • Help parents feel proud of their child. Find positive things to share with them about their child on a regular basis. This can be done in front of the child.
  • Key Points to Remember
  • Acknowledge and reward achievements and positive behaviour often.
  • Encourage the child to take part in activities where they will experience success.
  • Set achievable goals.
  • Attend to learning difficulties as soon as possible.
  • Talk with the child about the consequences of their actions upon themselves and others.
  • Use visual prompts to remind the child to think before they STOP, THINK, DO.


Rosie Clarke

Rosie is the managing editor here at Multimedia Pty Ltd, working across School News New Zealand and School News Australia. She has spent 10+ years in B2B journalism, and has spent some time over the last couple of years teaching as a sessional academic. Feel free to contact her at any time with editorial or magazine content enquiries.
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