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Reach and Teach Students with ADHD - What You Need To Know


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Getty Images

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Become Informed:

When working with students with ADHD, be sure to read everything you can about ADHD. Become knowledeable about what the best practices are that lead to better behavior and that maximize learning. Be sure to talk to parents and previous teachers to find out as much as you can about the child and as much as you can about the strategies that have previously worked. Be sure to talk to colleagues that have had similar students and find out what their best practices are/were.

Rules and Routines:

Rules and Routines are a must, you need to have a very structured approach and adhere to it. Be calm, understanding and positive but stick to your rules. You will also need to know how to respond when the rules get broken. Your rules and routines need to be predictable for the students, do not lower your expectations but be sure that your rules and routines are acceptable. Always provide consistent and appropriate feedback or consequences regarding the unacceptable behavior. Do not center the child out, have one to one conversations whenever possible, brief and to the point, always making eye contact.

Understand the Child's Learning Style:

Take note of how this child learns best. Often, it means shorter, smaller chunked time frames for most activities. Always be aware of the child's frustration level, do not let the child become frustrated. Modify, intervene or accommodate whenever needed. Provide hands on whenever possible, use engaging activities and limit seatwork. Remember to 'pick your battles', in other words, know what to ignore, some quiet off task behavior may just be what is required at that particular time. Help the child become organized. Understand that this child will do minimal homework. Learn to keep the child motivated.


Communication about expectations in a firm, fair and positive manner is required more often with the child who has ADHD. Keep the doors of communication open with the parents, remember that your goals are shared and that you both want what works for the child. No surprises, this child will need a predictable environment. Always speak clearly and be to the point, it is also helpful to have the child repeat instructions and directions to ensure that understanding is fully in place. Be sure to avoid power struggles which will only lead to frustration.

Attention and Impulse Control:

The 2 main challenges you will encounter with the child who has ADHD, will be the constant craving for attention and the impulsive nature. Behavior contracts are often required if they're used effectively. Learn what works for the child's impulsivity. The classroom environment should be clear from distractions if at all possible, place the child strategically where the extraneous stimuli is minimal. Always make sure you have his/her full attention before talking and always establish eye contact. Use cues that work (signal, hand touch etc.)Reward good things! Catch them doing something well and catch them frequently.

Monitor Closely:

During times of transition or times when activities are somewhat unstructured, be sure to keep a watchful eye. This is the time you will need to supervise the child more closely. Prepare the child for transitions. For instance, remind the child you're going to the library and ask him to tell you what the rules/routines are for walking in the hall and the behavior expected in the library. Provide immediate and ongoing feedback.

Behavior Modification:

Behavior modification can work when you decide on the specific behavior to change - one at a time. The child with ADHD will often have several (disorganized, impulsive, very active, weak memory, inability to focus, easily distracted, excessively chatty, always on the go, squirmy and fidgity etc.) decide on one specific behavior at a time to modify and use the behavior contract to support the desired change. See Behavior 101

In Summary:

Supporting the child with ADHD can be extremely challenging, it will take endless patience and the desire and commitment to maximize your support all year. It is important to understand that the child cannot help himself, ADHD is neurobiological and the child isn't ADHD because he wants to be! These children often have difficulties forming lasting friendships and any support you can provide with peers will also be very helpful. There is no one size fits all with these students, and each will require a different approach. Find out what works and stick with it. Always be on the alert to ease frustration and to let the child 'walk it off'. Let the child know you care and be sincere. Do not yell, be kind, firm and patient. Thank the child for acceptable behavior as often as you can. Remember that a consistent behavior plan brings the most success, work with parents to ensure that home and school have similar routines and expectations. Remember why you got into this profession: to make a difference, even when the going gets rough.

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