Frequently Asked Questions: ADHD in the Classroom

Health Writer

How does ADHD affect a child's schoolwork?

Children with ADD have short attention spans and are easily distracted. When children are not paying attention to what they are supposed to be doing, they are many times doing something they shouldn't be, such as making noises, getting up from their seat or otherwise disrupting the class.

Children with ADHD are forgetful, they will forget their homework, lose their book, not have pencils, pens, paper for class, forget the instructions you gave them 5 minutes ago.

Children with ADHD can be impulsive.   They can have a difficult time waiting their turn or blurt our answers to questions you have only half finished asking.

How can I manage a child with ADHD in the classroom?**    **

  • If possible, seat the child with ADHD in the front of the classroom to minimize distractions.
  • Consider playing soothing music during test or classwork time.   It can sometimes help a child to tune out distractions if there is some type of music.
  • Keep the class time structured and have clear and concise rules so that all students know exactly what is expected of them.Establish eye contact as often as possible during the lesson to keep the child's attention.Develop a sign with the student, walking past their desk and tapping lightly may be a signal to them to focus on the lesson.
  • Use simple instructions.   Keep directions to one or two instructions at a time rather than a list of items to complete.
  • Set limits and make sure the child understands what is expected and what is acceptable behavior.**     hat should I tell the parents if I feel a child may have ADHD?**

It is illegal for a teacher to suggest to parents that their child be tested for ADHD or suggest that a child may have ADHD.   This is because ADHD is a medical diagnosis and a teacher is not qualified to make such a diagnosis. A teacher should list exactly the problems a child is having, citing examples as often as possible.   If the child has a difficult time staying on task, provide examples for the parents of how this is affecting the child, their schoolwork and the classroom environment.

Make suggestions that might help, such as communication with the parents on a more regular schedule.

Be sure to include examples of good behavior in children when communicating with parents.   Otherwise, parents can easily become defensive and feel as if their child is being singled out.

What accommodations are reasonable for a child with ADHD?

If the child's education is governed by an IEP or Section 504, reasonable accommodations are exactly what is set forth in the document and teachers should be prepared to follow through.

If there is not an IEP or Section 504, but informally the parents and teachers want to set up some guidelines to help the child succeed, reasonable accommodations would be based on the teacher's abilities and resources.

Certainly, learning as much as possible about ADHD and classroom management would be important.   Regular and consistent communication with parents is probably the most important of all accommodations.   Most parents are willing to spend time with their children, but many do not understand what problems may be occurring in the classroom and do not know where to start.   Keeping parents apprised of classroom activities, tests, reports and outstanding homework assignments is extremely important.

Seating a child in the front of the classroom or keeping extra pencils in your desk are simple solutions to some common problems associated with ADHD.

How can I stop a child from continually disrupting the class?

Sitting still for long periods of time can be hard for a child with ADHD.   Schedule your class time so that the more intensive and subjects with the most seatwork occur early in the morning.     For younger children, have a break time in between subjects so they can stretch and move about before needing to sit down again.     Walk around the classroom as much as possible and avoid standing in one spot at the front of the room.     Praise children as you walk around, letting them know that you see they are working hard.   "Catch" the ADHD child doing something right and praise him or her for staying on task, completing their work, etc.   In between each subject have all children in the class stand up, stay right next to their desk and stretch for one minute.

Read as much as you can about ADHD and strategies for the classroom, knowledge and understanding are by far the most important gifts you can give your students.