11 Things Teachers Need to Know About ADHD

Amanda Page Oct 15th, 2013 (updated Apr 21st, 2014)
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Most teachers have had a child with ADHD in their classroom. Most know what ADHD is, how it impacts a child’s ability to learn, and how to implement strategies to make classroom life better for these children. But, despite all the information available, some teachers still may not really understand how to best manage their classrooms to help those with ADHD learn. Here are basic points about ADHD that teachers need to know.

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ADHD is a real disorder
ADHD is a real disorder

After years of research and worldwide experts agreeing that ADHD is a real neurobiological disorder, there are still some who believe it is a made up diagnosis - an excuse for bad behavior. All the major medical associations and government health agencies recognize ADHD as a genuine disorder because the scientific evidence indicating it is so overwhelming.” 

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ADHD behaviors are not a cause of bad parenting
ADHD behaviors are not a cause of bad parenting

ADHD behaviors show up in many ways - hyperactivity often shows up as walking around the classroom; impulsivity shows up as blurting out answers in class, and inattention frequently shows up as not paying attention. These symptoms aren’t a result of bad parenting but are part of the disorder and must be treated as such for any improvements to take place.

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Positive reinforcement works much better than negative reinforcement
Positive reinforcement works much better than negative reinforcement

Children with ADHD tend to respond to positive reinforcement to correct undesirable behaviors. When you, as a teacher, react in a negative way, these behaviors may worsen, not improve.

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Children with ADHD do not want to be singled out
Children with ADHD do not want to be singled out

Children with ADHD usually feel like they don’t fit in with their classmates. They feel different and out of place. They don’t want you to call attention to their ADHD or their weaknesses; it is humiliating. Instead of singling them out find constructive, positive ways to help them learn.

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Every child with ADHD is unique
Every child with ADHD is unique

Every child with ADHD is unique and symptoms don’t always appear the same. For example, one child may struggle with hyperactivity, always fidgeting and having a hard time sitting at their desk for more than a few minutes. Another may not have hyperactivity but may become easily distracted, finding it difficult to follow a lesson for more than a few minutes. Each child must be treated as an individual.

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When something goes wrong, it isn’t always the fault of the child with ADHD
When something goes wrong, it isn’t always the fault of the child with ADHD

When a ruckus erupts, it is easy to place the blame on the child with ADHD, after all, he is usually at the center of any confusion or disturbance! But, simple statistics tell you it can’t possibly always be his fault; there are other children in the class and they aren’t all perfect angels all the time. 

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Hands-on, kinesthetic activities and approaches to learning work best
Hands-on, kinesthetic activities and approaches to learning work best

Many children find lectures, worksheets and endless “desk” work boring, mundane or tedious. For children with ADHD, these tasks can be downright torturous. Most children, not just those with ADHD, learn better through interaction; lessons that evoke several or all of the senses tend to be remembered. 

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There are some simple ways to make your classroom more “ADHD friendly”
There are some simple ways to make your classroom more “ADHD friendly”

Keep your day structured and consistent, post daily rules, schedules and assignments on the board, allow for scheduled breaks regularly throughout the day. In addition, specific accommodations, such as seating at the front of the class or using secret signals to get a child back on track are helpful.

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Medication is not a cure for ADHD
Medication is not a cure for ADHD

There are many medications that help to reduce symptoms of ADHD but the most effective treatment is a combination of medication and behavioral strategies. Just because a child is on medication doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do anything else.

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Section 504s and IEPs need to be followed
Section 504s and IEPs need to be followed

When one of these documents were created the parents and educational professionals determined that a child needs and deserves certain accommodations within the classroom and the school to help him succeed. Even if you don’t agree with the accommodations listed, you still need to follow the document. This is a legal document and parents can take legal steps when it isn’t followed.

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Parents need to be kept informed
Parents need to be kept informed

Come up with a regular form of communication with parents. This can be an email each week about upcoming test dates, projects that are due, upcoming field trips or other important classroom information. Try to accommodate any requests for parent-teacher communications. If no request was made but a child with is falling behind, reach out to the parents asap.