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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

BEST Books for Younger Challenged Readers (Ages 4-8)

The last article in a series of 3 (different age groups)

As the holiday season draws to a close, so does our series of three articles here with book lists and resources for challenged readers in various age groups. We thought that providing this information at this time would help parents and teachers discover books for gift giving to reluctant or struggling readers.

This last article is intended for younger readers (age levels provided with each selection). Some of the books listed are geared toward children who daily experience the challenges of dyslexia. Others touch on more general reading problems. One book even deals with bullying, which is an issue that, unfortunately, many students face in our schools today. At the end of the resources list, you’ll even find a link to a site that offers FREE e-books, which can be very helpful to young challenged readers (as e-readers and other tech devices for e-books can help diminish visual stress experienced by some challenged readers.)

We hope you’ll agree that each of these selections offers more than just one more book for a child to read. They each have something “special” to offer a young person whose self-esteem is at stake because of a struggle to read.

Happy reading---AND Happy Holidays, dear readers!

BEST Books for Younger Challenged Readers

Tacky the Penguin---by Helen Lester & illustrated by Lynn M. Musinger (ages 4-8)
This delightful tale of an odd penguin that doesn’t fit in with the “perfect” penguins in his colony is well suited to budding out-of-the-box thinkers who often do things differently from their peers. Stories give children a way to think positively about themselves and Tacky is a hero for children who struggle with differences. A Read-Along Book/CD combo is also available.

It’s Called Dyslexia---by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos & illustrated by Nuria Roca (ages 4-7)
Whoever said that learning to read and write is easy? The little girl in this story is unhappy and she no longer enjoys school. When learning to read and write, she tries to remember which way the letters go but she often gets them all mixed up. After she discovers that dyslexia is the reason for her trouble, she begins to understand that with extra practice and help from others, she will begin to read and write correctly. At the same time, she also discovers a hidden talent she never knew existed!

Thank You, Mr. Falker---by Patricia Polacco (ages 5-8)
"This story is truly autobiographical. It is about my own struggle with not being able to read. This story honors the teacher that took the time to see a child that was drowning and needed help...Mr. Falker, my hero, my teacher, not only stopped this boy from teasing me, but he also noticed that I wasn't reading well and got a reading specialist to help." -Patricia Polacco

The Alphabet War: A Story about Dyslexia---by Diane Burton Robb and Gail Piazza (ages 7-10)
"When Adam was little, he loved to sink into his mother's warm lap and listen to her read." Yet, reading becomes a frustrating, daily battle once Adam starts school. Finally, in third grade, Adam learns that he has dyslexia...and begins a journey back to enjoying reading.

FREE e-Books for Young Readers---from Pearson Education, Ltd. (for Primary Grades)
Everyone deserves a rest when they’re at home, but it’s also important for children to keep up with their reading practice if they can. To help make reading fun at home, this resource provides FREE access to a range of e-books for teachers, parents and children. No sign-up, no login, no fuss.


Young People’s Books Focusing on Dyslexia

Finding FREE Kids Books Online: Holiday Edition!

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

BEST Books for Older Teens with Reading Challenges

Second article in a series of 3 (different age groups)

It can be daunting for a parent or teacher to successfully find just the right book for the older teen who is struggling to read. No matter what the cause of the reading issue, a teen’s self-esteem can be significantly affected by this struggle. Most teens just “want to blend in” and be “normal”, often times avoiding strategies and cumbersome tools that can cause them to “stand out” or not be “like everyone else.”

To help older teens (and adults) with these issues, it can be a real lifesaver to own an e-book or iPad to help them “blend in” with their friends who have no reading issues. In fact, having access to this technology can positively impact their reading experiences---and it’s COOL, too!

Most e-books have matte-type screens to help readers with lighting and glare issues. These tech devices can also allow the reader to increase font size when needed. In addition, the non-white background of text pages can help readers who experience visual stress with the usual white pages of a traditional text.

Another option to keep in mind is that audio books might be a good option, especially for an auditory learner. These types of “listening” books are available at local public libraries and in bookstores. Many are even FREE and easily accessible online (see link below here).

Besides addressing the reading struggles for an older teen, there is the problem of finding the right book, the book that will increase the chances of reader engagement. Knowing the teen’s areas of interest is always a good place to start. Choose a book with a topic the teen cares about and will more likely choose to read.

Also, it will help to have an idea of what kind of genre may appeal to a particular teen. Is it fiction? Not always. In fact, many reluctant or challenged readers of any age have little or no interest in fictional stories. This is a signal that non-fiction selections may be a good place to start, especially with teen boys. Consider sharing an issue of Popular Mechanics or a book about hunting and fishing. For girls, think about introducing the biography of a famous woman or a “how-to” book about a favorite topic.

As promised and to help you find just the right book for a teen you know with reading challenges, we have gathered links for our second book list here. This one is specifically for older teens. We hope you will find it helpful in “lighting a spark” for reading in a teen you know.

Happy Reading---AND Happy Holidays, dear readers!

Next week’s article & book list: BEST Books for Young Children Who Are Challenged Readers

BEST Books for Older Teens with Reading Challenges

2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers (for ages 12-18)

2013 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

Books Should Be Free---FREE Public Domain Audio Books & e-Books

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

BEST Books for ‘Tween & Teen Challenged Readers

The 1st in a series of 3 articles (by age group)

We often receive calls and emails requesting children’s or teens’ book lists throughout the year. However, we had not created a list for any of the previous holiday seasons to help parents and grandparents choose the best books for young, challenged or readers.

To address this, we have gathered together over the past several weeks a series of 3 NEW book lists just in time for your holiday shopping. Each list is dedicated to a particular age group of struggling or even reluctant readers.

Our first booklist here is for ‘tweens and teens. We think this list could come in handy during the 2013 Holiday Season. In fact, you just might enjoy your holiday gift shopping a little bit more this year while at the same find a favorite book to read WITH your child any time of the year! (HINT: See the second book in the list to follow.)

Happy Reading---AND Happy Holidays, dear readers!

Close to Famous---by Joan Bauer (girls, ages 9-13)
Plucky, twelve-year-old Foster McFee is not going to let her inability to read keep her from reaching her goal of having her own television cooking show. In fact, her ambitions engage everyone around her, including an unlikely reading tutor who forces her to confront the vulnerability she is trying to keep hidden.

What Is Dyslexia?: A Book Explaining Dyslexia for Kids and Adults to Use Together---by Alan M. Hultquist, illustrated by Lydia Corrow (ages 8-11)
Children with dyslexia can be left "out of the loop" when it comes to discussions about the reasons for their struggles at school. This book is designed to help adults explain dyslexia to children aged 8-11. Hultquist offers clear examples and explanations, interactive activities for parents (or other adults) and children to do together, and highlights of the courage and strengths of people with dyslexia.

Eleven---by Patricia Riley Giff (ages 9-13)
Sam, a talented boy who can't read, is trying to discover his true identity through written documents. This action-packed psychological mystery is both suspenseful & touching. (Kindle edition also available)

Hank Zipzer: The World's Greatest Underachiever---A series by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver (ages 9-13)
Henry Winkler's real-life experiences as a young "underachiever" inspire these humorous and exciting stories in the Hank Zipzer series. These books will engage even the most reluctant reader in a fun romp through the days of Hank Zipzer, who always manages to keep things lively and, in the end, helps deliver a message of understanding for all kids, especially for those who share Hank's learning differences.

The Lightning Thief---and others in the series by Rick Riordan (boys, ages 10-15)
Boys will like the books in this series. They are filled with excitement, danger and personal triumph. They can also be downloaded for an MP3 player. A graphic novel version is also available.

Two-Minute Drill: Mike Lupica's Comeback Kids---by Mike Lupica (boys, middle grades)
Chris Conlan is the coolest kid in sixth grade—the golden-armed quarterback of the football team, and the boy all the others look up to. Scott Parry is the new kid, the boy with the huge brain, but with feet that trip over themselves daily. These two boys may seem like an odd couple, but team up when Scott figures out how to help Chris with his reading problem, while Chris helps him with his football and both boys end up winners.'s+Comeback+Kids+by+Mike+Lupica&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3A+Two-Minute+Drill%3A+Mike+Lupica's+Comeback+Kids+by+Mike+Lupica

River Rampage---and others in the Sam Cooper Adventure series by Max Elliot Anderson (ages 8-13)
Max Elliot Anderson brings a lifetime of dramatic film and video production to the pages of his action adventures and mysteries. His books are written especially for reluctant reader boys 8 and up, but they are also loved by avid readers, girls and even adults. If you happen to be a reluctant reader or are a parent of a reluctant reader, your life is about to change!
To purchase a copy signed by Mr. Anderson, email the author for details at:
You can also order via at:

Next week’s article & book list: BEST Books for Challenged Older Teen Readers


Young People’s Books Focusing on Dyslexia

Max Elliot Anderson’s Blog & Website

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