Teaching pupils with ADHD

Here are some basic strategies which have been proven to help pupils with ADHD in the classroom.  Remember: don’t panic!  Many children with ADHD will show great enthusiasm and energy for learning at times too.

  • Try to seat pupils close to teacher and away from windows or doors or other obvious sources of distraction
  • Try to sit pupil beside others who are good role models.
  • Use worksheets which have broken the tasks down into simple bite-size steps.
  • Try to alternate lessons, physical with sitting down activities.
  • Set short, achievable targets and give immediate rewards on completion.
  • Use large type and provide only one or two activities per page. Avoid any unnecessary illustrations.
  • Keep classroom rules clear and simple.
  • Give the child responsibilities; use him/her as a volunteer to write on board etc.
  • Use praise and attention when behaviour is good.
  • Maintain eye contact with the pupil during verbal instruction, but do not insist on the child making eye contact with you
  • Encourage the child to verbalise what is to be done, first to the teacher and then to him/herself.
  • Use checklists for each subject which the child can tick on completion.
  • Try to provide a visual timetable of lessons or activities; children with ADHD like predictability. You could perhaps have the timetable symbols on velcro and when that activity is finished actually remove the symbol and place on the finished or done side. This gives a reminder of what has already happened and what is to come; it also allows for quick substitutions for the suddenlys. Build in a choice or two along the way to give the child some element of control.
  • Use consistent routines for getting out and putting away equipment.
  • If child has a temper tantrum, take him/her aside or remove him/her from class as quickly as possible. Remain calm, talking quietly. Do not let him/her see you are upset.
  • Some pupils with ADHD will be helped by listening to soft music on headphones, although there are possible implications for the rest of the class
  • Consider having a seat/area for a pupil with ADHD to move to for individual work but try to ensure that there are also plenty of opportunities for social interaction/ group work too.
  • Remove all objects not required for the task from the pupil’s desk
  • Assist the pupil with personal organisation as much as possible.  This is especially an issue in post-primary schools where pupils may have a wider range of subjects and associated books to remember.
  • Make sure that the instructions for homework are clear and that the pupil has correctly noted what is required before leaving.
  • Maintain close communication with parents/guardians who can assist in organising the child for the day ahead (correct books, homeworks etc)
  • Reward appropriate social behaviour whenever possible

Further Information

An excellent guide to ADHD and how to facilitate learning in the classroom for pupils with ADHD is provided in the 2004 publication of ADHD: A Practical Guide for Schools (see http://www.deni.gov.uk/adhd_-_a_practical_guide_for_schools.pdf )

A short but very insightful Teachers’ TV video looks at the challenges of meeting the needs of children with ADHD in a primary classroom (see http://www.teachers.tv/videos/primary-behaviour-adhd-in-the-mainstream)

Checklist for ADHD indicators (source: Questions Publishing)
Teaching Children with ADHD

Some questions to consider (Please post a comment):

  1. In your experience which of the above strategies are most effective in working with children with ADHD?
  2. Are there any further strategies you would want to add to the list?