I would be willing to bet you that every classroom in America has, at the very least, one child with ADD in it. Maybe they haven’t been diagnosed yet, but they have the symptoms loud and clear.
As teachers, it is our job to “level the playing field” for these kiddos. Some people, mostly outside of education, think that this means cutting assignments in half or making assessments less difficult. It doesn’t mean either of those things. Most accommodations for students with ADD have nothing to do with the actual curriculum or material they are studying.
Most students with ADD have normal, or above average, IQs and are gifted in some area. Also, each child is different. Accommodations are not one size fits all. I have picked the accommodations that have helped most of my students. I have also used these strategies with students who haven’t been diagnosed with ADD but they find success with a few little tweaks to help them be productive. You can find more on classroom management here.
1. Create a trusting, caring relationship with the student.
I know. DUH. But it REALLY is the MOST important thing. If you teach, you know it is true. Kids will not tell you they are struggling or how you can help if they do not feel they can trust you. If, for some reason, you just can’t find an avenue to bond with a student, find another adult in your school who can. Every kid needs a cheerleader, and trusted confidant at school to support them and listen.
2. Partner Up with their Family
Ask their family what works at home. How do they motivate their child when he/she needs to finish a difficult, or non-preferred task? What language or words do they use to manage their child’s stress or negative emotions? If you use similar language in your classroom it is helpful and creates a sense of unity between school and home. However, do not give away your power by saying, “I am going to call Mom/Dad and tell them how you are acting.” Although there are plenty of times when you need to call home, overusing this as a behavior modification makes you a sideline player and not in control of your environment. It is important for you to remain “Caption of your Classroom Ship.”
3. Create an ABC and/or FBA
Create a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) or Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence (ABC) chart. If the child is receiving special education services for struggling with certain behaviors, they should already have one on file. You can ask his special education teacher to go over it with you or suggest a new one be created regarding the behaviors you are experiencing in your classroom.
Both of these documents examine a student’s behaviors to find out the root cause and how to prevent future incidents. I have an in depth explanation of FBAs & ABCs coming in the near future, but if you feel you need one completed on a student, I am sure your special education department can help you.
4. Create any object, strategy, or plan that helps reduce, redirect or hinder whatever is keeping the student from learning up to his/her potential.
For example, if a middle schooler is having trouble losing homework and/or returning assignments to class you could create a special binder with an organizational process they are comfortable with and can follow without adult assistance.
A student of mine really had problems bringing papers back & forth from home and school so I purchased two oval buckets at the dollar store. I kept one in the classroom where he put his binder with all his papers to take home and I gave the other one to his mother. She placed in a special spot at home. The student put his binder in the bucket as soon as he got home. He took it out for homework and to show mom but he made sure to replace it so it would be there ready to go in the morning to take to school.
- This can also include a stress ball to squeeze when he/she is getting upset.
- A “secret sign” between you and the student that he/she can give to you when they need help or are struggling with an issue in class and need a small break.
- Or a behavior sheet with goals for each day that you file out before he/she goes home and the parents sign it each evening.
5. The best for the last: Let the student experience success at something every day!!
As teachers, we know that students need to feel what success is to provide them with the motivation to seek out success again, and to develop self esteem about their learning. So make sure, even on a student’s worst day, that he/she has something to celebrate (i.e. They made a good choice, or remembered their homework, or used polite words when asking for help)
This is a small list. There are many, many more ideas out there to help children with ADD to thrive academically and socially. With a little creativity, flexibility and positive thinking, teachers can make a child look forward to school and learning even though they struggle more than their peers in certain areas. And I think all students deserve that, don’t you??
Have a great weekend and Always Pay Attention!