Saturday, December 28, 2013

With a New Year, New ADHD Strategies for Teachers

The first article in a series of three (for teachers, parents and adults)

A new year is fast approaching and with it will come the making of resolutions for personal improvement for millions of persons. For some this will mean losing the pounds gained from all the recent holiday goodies. For others, the resolutions will affect less visible needs for change. Resolutions made to improve personal habits, goals, relationships and more may take precedence for many individuals as we begin 2014.

For children and adults challenged with ADHD, making age-appropriate resolutions for the new year are very important and can produce significant improvements in daily life---for personal habits, goals, relationships AND health. However, what new and effective ADHD strategies could result in such positive developments for these children and adults in the coming new year? We believe that a little planning and resolution writing NOW will make your New Year 2014 much more productive AND successful, especially if you, your students or others you care about have ADHD.

We're here for you all year long to help with tips, strategies and resources for challenged readers. Many with ADHD frequently visit our blog for this information. Today, we are providing in this article some new tips and strategies (with a few resources included, too!) to help teachers of students who struggle with the symptoms of ADHD, particularly as we are about to begin this new year. We hope that this information might come at a good time when the second half of the school year is about to begin as well and "fresh" ideas may be more appreciated and welcome. Perhaps some of the strategies included in the following list will become part of your classroom list of ADHD strategies for 2014!

Effective Strategies for Teachers of Children with ADHD

Before BEGINNING: Make a list of the most distressing or disruptive ADHD symptoms experienced for a particular individual. Use a highlighter (choose a favorite-colored marker) to highlight the top 3 symptoms that cause the most problems for your child, for you or for another adult with ADHD. FOCUS on these 3 symptoms, addressing only 1 symptom each week or so until improvement is evident. Younger children may need more time and encouragement than older children or teens. Finally, keep these three, highlighted issues in mind as you choose strategies from the list to follow.

1. "Catch" them doing something good!---First of all, resolve to "catch" EACH of your students doing something good as you begin the new year and thereafter whenever it may be appropriate without being patronizing or less than genuine. It will be especially important (and perhaps challenging for the teacher!) to do this for your students with ADHD. They very much need to hear, as well as do their classmates, that they are capable of doing what is right and good, even if it is not as often as one would like. This will also improve self-esteem and respect in and for the children. Again, it will be especially effective with those having ADHD challenges.

2. Direct instruction---Attention to task is improved when a student with ADHD is engaged in teacher-directed activities as opposed to independent seat-work activities. Also, the teaching of note-taking strategies increases the benefits of direct instruction. Both comprehension and on-task behavior improve with the development of these skills.

2. Tasks & assignments---To accommodate a short attention span, academic assignments should be brief with immediate feedback provided (about accuracy). Longer projects should be broken up into smaller, more manageable parts. Short time limits for completing a task should be specified ahead of time and can be enforced with timers.

3. Peer tutoring---Class-wide peer tutoring can provide many instructional benefits for students with ADHD. For example, it provides frequent and immediate feedback. When set up properly with a token economy system(see below here #17), peer tutoring has been found to yield dramatic academic gains.

4. Scheduling---Based on evidence that the on-task behavior of students with ADHD progressively worsens over the course of the day, it is suggested that academic instruction be provided in the morning. During the after-noon, when problem solving skills are especially poor, more active, nonacademic activities should be scheduled.

5. Novelty---Presentation of new, interesting and highly motivating material will improve attention. For example, increasing the novelty and interest level of tasks through use of increased stimulation (e.g., color, shape, texture and other use of the 5 senses ) reduces activity level, enhances attention and improves overall performance.

6. Structure & organization---Lessons should be carefully structured and important points clearly identified. For example, providing a lecture outline is a helpful note-taking aid that increases memory of main ideas. Students with ADHD perform better on memory tasks when material is meaningfully structured for them.

7. Rule reminders and visual cues---The rules given to students with ADHD must be well-defined, specific and frequently reinforced through visible modes of presentation. Well-defined rules with clear consequences are essential. Visual rule reminders or cues should be placed throughout the classroom. It is also helpful if rules are reviewed before activity transitions and following school breaks.

8. Auditory cues---Providing students with ADHD auditory cues that prompt appropriate classroom behavior is helpful. For example, use of a tape with tones placed at irregular intervals to remind students to monitor their on-task behavior has been found to improve arithmetic productivity.

9. Pacing of work---When possible, it is helpful to allow students with ADHD to set their own pace for task completion. The intensity of problematic ADHD behaviors is less when work is self-paced as compared to situations where work is paced by others.

10. Following instructions---Because students with ADHD have difficulty following multi-step directions, it is important for instruction to be short, specific and direct. To ensure understanding, it is helpful if these students are asked to rephrase directions in their own words. Also, teachers should be prepared to repeat directions frequently and recognize that students often may not have paid attention to what was said.

11. Productive physical movement---The student with ADHD may have difficulty sitting still. Therefore, productive physical movement should be planned. It is appropriate to allow the student with ADHD opportunities for controlled movement and to develop a repertoire of physical activities for the entire class such as stretch breaks. Other examples might include a trip to the office, a chance to sharpen a pencil, taking a note to another teacher, watering the plants, feeding classroom pets, or simply standing at a desk while completing classwork. Alternating seat work activities with other activities that allow for movement is essential.

12. Active vs. passive student involvement---In line with the idea of providing for productive physical movement, tasks that require active (as opposed to passive) responses may help hyperactive students channel their disruptive behaviors into constructive responses. While it may be problematic for these children to sit and listen to a long lecture, teachers might find that students with ADHD can be successful participants in the same lecture when asked to help (e.g., help with audio-visual aids, write important points on the chalk board, etc.)

13. Distractions---Generally, research has not supported the effectiveness of complete elimination of all irrelevant stimuli from the student's environment. However, as these students have difficulty paying attention to begin with, it is important that attractive alternatives to the task at hand be minimized. For example, activity centers, mobiles, aquariums and terrariums should not be placed within the student's visual field.

14. Anticipation---Knowledge of ADHD and its primary symptoms is helpful in anticipating difficult situations. It is important to keep in mind that some situations will be more difficult for than others. For example, effort-filled problem solving tasks are especially problematic. These situations should be anticipated and appropriate accommodations made. When presenting a task that the teacher suspects might exceed the student's capacity for attention, consider reducing assignment length and emphasize quality as opposed to quantity.

15. Contingency management: Encouraging appropriate behavior---Although classroom environment changes can be helpful in reducing problematic behaviors and learning difficulties, by themselves they are typically not sufficient. Thus, contingencies need to be available that reinforce appropriate or desired behaviors, and discourage inappropriate or undesired behaviors.

16. Powerful external reinforcement---First, it is important to keep in mind that the contingencies or consequences used with these students must be delivered more immediately and frequently than is typically the case. Additionally, the consequences used need to be more powerful and of a higher magnitude than is required for students without ADHD. Students with ADHD need external criteria for success and need a pay-off for increased performance. Relying on intangible rewards is often not enough.

17. Token economy systems---These systems are an example of a behavioral strategy proven to be helpful in improving both the academic and behavioral functioning of students with ADHD. These systems typically involved giving students tokens (e.g., poker chips) when they display appropriate behavior. These tokens are in turn exchanged for tangible rewards or privileges at specified times.

18. Response-cost programs---While verbal reprimands are sufficient for some students, more powerful, negative consequences, such as response-cost programs, are needed for others. These programs provide mild punishment when problem behavior is displayed. For example, a student may lose earned points or privileges when previously specified rules are broken. There is evidence that such programming decreases ADHD symptoms such as impulsivity. A specific response-cost program found to be effective with ADHD students involves giving a specific number of points at the start of each day. When a rule is broken or a problem behavior is displayed, points are taken away. To maintain their points, students must avoid breaking the rule. At the end of the period or day, students are typically allowed to exchange the points they have earned for a tangible reward or privilege.

19. Time-out---Removing the student from positive reinforcement or providing a "time-out" period typically involves removing the student from classroom activities. Time-outs can be effective in reducing aggressive and disruptive actions in the classroom, especially when these behaviors are strengthened by peer attention. They are not helpful, however, when problem behavior is a result of the student's desire to avoid school work. The time-out area should be a pleasant environment and a student should be placed in it for only a short time. Time-out should be ended based upon the student's attitude. At its conclusion, a discussion of what went wrong and how to prevent the problem in the future should occur. While these procedures are effective with ADHD students, it is recommended that they be used only with the most disruptive classroom behaviors and only when there is a trained staff.

(Source: Adapted from LD Online --- Helping the Student with ADHD in the Classroom: Strategies for Teachers

Resources for ADHD Strategies

Creating a Daily Report Card for the Home (for Parents, Professionals & Students)
Describes in a series of step-by-step worksheets how a parent can establish a program at home to help them better manage their ADHD child's behavior problems and to develop more appropriate behaviors.

Organizational and Academic Resources (with FREE Printer Versions) from The Learning Toolbox
Graphic organizers, schedule templates and other printable resources for home and school

School Behavior Tips: Impulse Control for ADHD Children---from ADDitude Magazine
Help children with ADHD think before they act by establishing clear expectations, positive incentives, and predictable consequences for good or bad school behavior.

Helping the Student with ADHD in the Classroom: Strategies for Teachers---from LD Online

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC at


  1. Now how about strategies for _teachers_ who have ADD/ADHD? Pretty please?

  2. Dear Krista Anderson,

    Thank you for your very good question here.

    Unfortunately, there are not nearly as many resources readily available for teachers who are challenged with ADHD themselves as for other groups of individuals (children, teens and others). However, we spent a little time researching your question and were able to locate some information and resources that may be helpful to you. We hope you will think so, too.

    Info & Resources for Teachers with ADHD

    1. Teachers With Adult ADHD: Work Accommodations Available? (from ADDitude)

    2. A Teacher with ADHD? by Nancy Carroll

    3. Guest Post: Living and Teaching With ADHD

    4. ABSTRACT BROCK, LYNNE BEAZLIE. Teachers with ADHD ...(pdf)

    5. Teachers with ADHD---Group created by Mechelle De Craene

    Please let us know if you need additional resources, Krista. We'll be glad to help you further.

    Happy Reading --- AND Happy New Year!

    Joan Brennan