How to Teach Children with ADHD


All children, but particularly those with ADHD who need good teaching to stimulate concentration, learn and respond better if the task is innovative, interactive, fun and motivating. Subtle changes of approach by you can make the difference between success and failure.

An engaging teaching style, empathy, a sense of humour and patience, a belief in the child and the teacher’s ability to remain unflappable can make all the difference.

Always face the class and, initially, make eye contact. It is essential to keep instructions concise, brief and as clear as possible, giving one instruction at a time. Many children, especially those with ADHD, can be easily overwhelmed by too many instructions, and short-term memory problems may make this more difficult.

It helps these children if instructions are repeated, as well as having the rules written down. Making clear the consequences of not complying is also important. It is also a good idea to try to develop a private signal or cue for the child to start a task, or to help the child self-monitor if he is being too noisy.

Raise your expectations for their performance -but be realistic in this – and let them know what your expectations are. Let them know that you believe that they can succeed in your classroom, but that there will be a price to pay in terms of effort and organization. Let them know that you will help as much as possible.

Children with ADHD typically show wide variability in response to treatment and also quite marked day-to-day variability – more than most children. You should expect this variability and understand that the methods and programmes used one day may not work the next.

However, try to set boundaries and limits for the child, both in the classroom and playground. These should be clear, concise and constantly reinforced with limited choices. Make clear what is acceptable and what is not, so that the child knows exactly where he stands. It is important to have regular daily and weekly routines and to forewarn the child of any changes as children with ADHD do not react well to sudden changes of routine. The use of contracts, lists and reminders may also be helpful.

When methods fail that have worked previously, try not to attribute this to your inadequacies as a teacher, or think that the child is wilfully choosing to be like this. By recognizing that this is part of the child’s disability, that it will happen no matter how excellent your management strategies, and riding out the difficult days, the good days will be more rewarding for both you and the child.

These children are being charged with a tremendous task – to sit still, pay attention and behave in a structured environment. With even the best teaching that is available, some children find it impossible to cope and they may eventually move into special needs provision. ADHD is often a lifetime disability but if you can teach these children as many new strategies, new habits and new coping techniques as possible, they have more chance of utilizing them and coping better in the future.

Remember, these children don’t choose to be different but they are delayed in the process of developing these skills and/or have significant difficulty in applying them. Try not to be disheartened by the bad days. At the end of a bad day, try to convince yourself that there is a good chance tomorrow will be better, and remember the importance of acknowledging that it is the behaviour, not the child, that you find frustrating.

Filed Under: Lifestyle & Personality

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About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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