AD/HD in Your Classroom: 10 Tips for Teachers

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by Lisa Küpper
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) 

Profile of AD/HD at School

Student jitters. Squirms. Gets distracted. Often doesn’t bring the right materials to class. Forgets to turn in homework. Blurts out answers or talks too much to friends when you’re talking. Doesn’t keep on track during seatwork time. Doesn’t seem to know how to stay focused on your instruction or how to finish work efficiently.

Does this sound like someone in your class? If so, this blog is for you.

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About AH/HD

AD/HD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The symptoms described above are often associated with AD/HD, a disorder characterized primarily by problems maintaining attention, excessive physical activity, and impulsivity.

You’ve most likely heard about AD/HD and worked with many students who possibly have AD/HD—or ADD alone, which affects a person’s ability to maintain attention but doesn’t involve hyperactivity or impulsivity.

Of course, not every disorganized or distracted student has AD/HD or ADD. It’s a question to be investigated, especially if disorganization and distraction are affecting the student’s academic performance or school behavior. In fact, schools are required to evaluate students suspected of having a disability and to provide special education services to those found eligible for those services because a disability is affecting their school performance or behavior.

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Practical Tips

How do you address the learning needs of your students with AD/HD? We’re pleased to offer 10 practical suggestions that you can use right away in your classroom.

  1. Get informed. Learn more about AD/HD and how it affects individual learning and behavior. The more you know, the more effectively you can respond. Start with NICHCY’s fact sheet on the disorder. Dig deeper by visiting the organizations and articles you’ll find listed in the resources section of the fact sheet.
  2. Really get to know your student. Find out what specific things are hard for the student. For example, one student with AD/HD may have trouble starting a task, while another may have trouble ending one task and starting the next. Where do you find out this information? By talking to the student, participating in the meeting where his or her IEP or Section 504 plan is developed, or talking with the student’s parents.
  3. Be clear; be positive. State expectations clearly and positively (e.g., “Please walk” instead of “Don’t run”), and model expected behaviors, so that students know what those behaviors look and sound like. Give cues and positive prompts in advance of an activity to remind students of expected behavior (e.g., remember to raise your hand if you have a question or point to add to our discussion). Give positive feedback often and be specific (e.g.,”nice job today, with raising your hand”).
  4. Collaborate with parents. Work together with the student’s parents to create and implement an educational plan tailored to meet the student’s needs. Regularly share information about how the student is doing at home and at school.
  5. Help student get organized. Show the student how to use an assignment book and a daily schedule. Also teach study skills and learning strategies, and reinforce these regularly. How do you find out the specifics of these interventions? Start with NICHCY’s The Power of Learning Strategies and go from there!
  6. Find an appropriate outlet. Help the student channel his or her physical activity. For example, let the student do some work standing up or at the chalk board. Provide regularly scheduled breaks that allow the student to get up and move around. There are also many other classroom accommodations that work well for students with AD/HD, as you can see in Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students.
  7. Make things visible. Post rules, schedules, and assignments. Clear rules will help a student with AD/HD. So will having a predictable routine for classroom activities such as handing in homework, transitioning from one activity to another, and asking for help. Call attention to changes in the schedule.
  8. Provide explicit directions. Give directions step by step, both verbally and in writing. Many students with AD/HD may also benefit from doing the steps as separate tasks.
  9. Address behavior concerns. If behavior is a problem, talk with the student’s IEP team (which includes his or her parents) about the need to address the student’s behavior. Ask for a functional behavioral assessment of the student and use the results to develop a positive behavior intervention plan. Visit NICHCY’s Behavior Suite to learn more.
  10. Set high expectations. Have high expectations for the student, and be willing to try new ways of doing things. Be positive and supportive. You can really make a difference in this student’s life and success in your classroom!

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NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resource’s Library at http://www.parentcenterhub.org/resources. This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to http://www.parentcenterhub.org.