Overcoming Challenges in Teaching Students with ADHD
There are students in your classroom who have ADHD.
Their names come easily to your mind because they are the most fidgety, the easily distracted, the most likely to have forgotten homework or supplies, or your class clown. A few are harder to recognize, as they sit quietly looking into space, seldom raise their hands, or email you frequently regarding assignments. You see these students’ potential but can’t figure out why their grades don’t rise as high.
It can be frustrating when you find yourself calling out the same small group of students for their classroom behavior. Helping students with ADHD control their behavior and stay on task can sometimes feel like you are neglecting the rest of their classmates as they work to learn the material you’ve presented.
Scholastic Teacher talked with classroom teachers for their real-life experiences working with students affected by ADHD and identified “10 Common Challenges and Best Practices for Teaching Students with ADHD.” Among the best practices discussed are:
- Rethink the Seating Chart. “If your students primarily work at desks, seat children with attention disorders next to those with laser-sharp attention. During writing workshop or silent reading, you may need to provide a completely private area for a child with ADD or ADHD.”
- Don’t Take Away Downtime. “Currently, 29 percent of first graders get 20 minutes of recess a day or less—far too little according to experts who study human development. And to make matters worse, some teachers reduce these precious minutes as punishment for kids who don’t follow the rules. Taking away recess ‘is a questionable practice for any kind of student but especially for kids with ADD or ADHD,’ says Dr. Thomas Power, director for the Center for Management of ADHD at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. If you don’t give them adequate time to blow off steam, they will stop trying.”
- Favor Rewards over Punishment. “Students with ADD and ADHD already take a lot of hits—they are told ‘no’ day in and day out and are forced to ignore basic impulses—and may develop a negative image of school early on. Teachers and researchers have found that positive reinforcement works wonders in curbing negative behavior.”
- Play to Students’ Strengths. “[M]any strengths are part of the profile of a child with an attention disorder, including keen spatial intelligence, creativity, and ‘naturalist intelligence,’ or understanding of the outside world. All too often, these strengths are drowned out by the more traditional demands of the school environment: speaking softly and sitting still. Teachers agree it takes time to uncover the strengths of all students, not just those with attention disorders.”
Are you or your school district looking for training to better help your students affected by ADHD and to improve the classroom experience for all of your students? CHADD has recently updated Teacher to Teacher: Supporting Students with ADHD [http://www.chadd.org/Training-Events/Teacher-to-Teacher.aspx]. The program is available on demand for individual educators and as either in-service training for school districts or during the CHADD Annual International Conference on ADHD.
Teacher to Teacher was highlighted as a feature story, “Teacher to Teacher and School Success: A Holistic Approach to Educating Faculty and Staff about ADHD” in CHADD’s Attention magazine after its initial launch. Since then, it has been presented across the country.
“Both new and experienced teachers benefitted from the workshop, in very different ways,” writes Mari Foret, director of communications at Commonwealth Academy, one of the first schools to host a Teacher to Teacher training. “The workshop helped train new teachers in understanding students with ADHD and in implementing classroom strategies. At the same time, it reviewed important concepts for experienced teachers, while exposing them to current research and reinforcing best practices.”
Commonwealth Academy in Alexandria, Virginia, offered the training to all of its teachers, who gave their feedback after completing the program.
“The workshop taught me the necessity of implementing a variety of teaching strategies to help the students focus,” Will Robertson, a chemistry and math teacher, tells Ms. Foret. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about teaching kids with ADHD, but this professional development workshop gave me a pathway, strategies that work.”
Visit Teacher to Teacher: Supporting Students with ADHD to learn more about attending a program workshop, participating online, or hosting a workshop for your school.
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