ADHD impacts approximately 5-10% of children, which means as a teacher, 1 in 10 students may present with ADHD symptoms. It can seem like a handful with students squirming, drifting off in space, and disturbing others around them. But it doesn’t have to be.
As a teacher you are in a unique position to help the student learn habits at school that will help them be successful in their home and with them as they move through the education system. Assisting young people with ADHD to learn how to feel and think better about themselves, and to identify and build on their strengths can be an important step in helping them control their symptoms of ADHD. Students with ADHD need to learn how to cope with daily problems and control their attention as well as their impulsivity, teachers and parents need to work together to help students achieve this success.
Tips for teachers:
· Encourage youth to ‘stop and think’. This could take the form of counting to 3 before asking a question, or writing the question down and asking it at the proper time.
· Create a token reward system – where emphasis is placed on the positive outcomes of behaving appropriately.
· Help your students have a regular routine. Posting the routine, reminding them of homework at the end of the day, use organizers to help them keep their days straight.
· Post rules in the classroom where they are easy to see and adhere to. Out of sight, is out of mind.
· Helping kids who distract easily involves physical placement, increased movement, and breaking long work into shorter chunks.
· Post the day’s schedule each day at the front of the room, and cross of items as they are done. Young people with impulse problems may gain a sense of control and feel calmer when they know what to expect.
· Be brief when giving instructions. Breaking them into bite sized chunks by asking the student to do one step, and then tell them the next step once the first is completed, will help all students, but especially those with ADHD
· Incorporate physicality into learning by giving students opportunities to act out stories, or sing songs. Providing them with outlets for their physical energy.
Students with ADHD are often easily distracted and can become that way even in mid-sentence. If you do not know what they are talking about, ask them to help you understand. When speaking with a student, it’s best to not assume you know what a young person is going through (unless you yourself have struggled with ADHD) and instead ask them to tell you what it’s like, and what they need from you to help them be successful.
Meet with parents and talk about their son/daughter’s treatment as well as tactics and techniques they use at home. If you can reinforce successful tactics at home and school, you create an increasingly familiar routine for the student. Rewards programs can extend beyond the classroom and into the home life if a parent and teacher can work closely.
Each student will be different, so developing a toolkit of strategies that you can use with each child will help you find the best fit for them. Make sure to talk to other teachers and parents, to share great ideas and success stories.
--Stan Kutcher, MD, FRCPC and Christina Carew, ABC