When you think of a student with ADHD in the classroom, what do you picture them doing?
Is it the student that is “climbing walls”? Is it a student that seems to not listen to a word that is being said? Is it the student that is daydreaming quietly in their seat? Is it a student that pays attention to every sound that is around them? Is it the student that is sleeping in the back corner of the classroom? Is it the student that just cannot stop talking to their friend? Or is it the student that pays attention extraordinarily well?
If you thought any of these things, you might be right.
ADHD in the classroom looks different for every student. It also looks different depending on the time of day. It also looks different with the number of students in the classroom. It also looks different with every teacher. Outside of the classroom they may be a totally different student.
How do you know if it’s ADHD in the Classroom?
At Sunrise Residential Treatment Center, we rely on our professionals for this one. If they have had an ADHD diagnosis before, our Academic Director and our Special Education Coordinator will share that information with the rest of the teachers. We also have a Clinical Director that can provide on-site testing to determine if a student may have ADHD.
Strategies for ADHD in the classroom?
A student diagnosed with ADHD is typically not stimulating the brain enough. This is when they seem distracted or can also seem bored. Their brain is working all of the time and it wants to be stirred. When a student is diagnosed with ADHD or even if a student is having trouble focusing in class without the diagnosis, we use different strategies in the classroom to help keep them focused. Each teacher’s strategy may look a little bit different, but here are some of the things that we use:
- Proximity Control – Just moving closer to an individual in the classroom can remind the student to focus on the task at hand. This may also be moving the student away from the door or any windows where they can find distractions.
- Chunking – This can be in a couple of different ways. One way is to “chunk” material into small sections that the student can focus on just a little bit at a time. Another is to “chunk” the amount of focus time required. I’ll give a student 20 minutes to stay focused and then they can take a 5-8 minute break to help recharge – in a way.
- Be Direct – Making sure that the student knows what you expect of them in the classroom, whether it be rules, how to do a math problem, or that you want them to write something down, being direct will take the guess work out for that student. If they know what you expect, they may do better performing tasks.
- Guided Notes – Giving a student a guideline of what is being talked about during a lesson will allow them to pay closer attention and know where the class is.
- Allow them to be distracted – As long as it is not disruptive to the other students in the classroom, give them a break of 2-3 minutes of where they get to talk about what is on their mind. Let them stand up and walk around their chair. Give them an extra bathroom break. Allowing them to be distracted, allows them to get refocused.
- Put something in their hands – give them a squish ball or silly putty to keep their fingers busy. Busy fingers = busy brain and stimulation. They are able to focus more on the task at hand.
- Teach Them – teach them to use skills that they know helps them focus.
- Know their Learning Style – knowing how they learn best will help them know what techniques to use in the future.
Ultimately our goal is to teach students how to use their ADHD to their advantage. Being able to learn how their brain works and the style of learning that is best suited for them will allow them to take what they are learning here and use it once they transition out of our school. It will take practice and they can do it!