Tips for Teachers
What to do if you suspect a child has ADD/ADHD
- Keep a record of presence (absence) of the key features and if there is significant cause for concern.
- Contact parents of the child and establish a strategy for Parental input.
- Communication between parents and teachers is crucial. A home-school diary can be used to facilitate clear communication and teamwork.
- Teachers should share the child's successes and not just the problems with parents.
Strategies for dealing with children with ADD/ADHD.
Routine and structure are essential in the day of a child with ADD/ADHD, so be aware of days when the normal school routine might change e.g. Sports Day.
Establish a daily classroom routine and schedule
Many teachers are cautious about making special accommodations for children with ADD/ADHD as it could be seen as favouritism. But some simple accommodations as to the way a teacher approaches a ADD/ADHD student can have marked results.
It is important for teachers to give frequent, immediate and consistent feedback about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Be clear and concise with instructions.
Focus solely on one problem behaviour at a time for the child to work on.
The following strategies may be useful in dealing with specific areas of difficulty:
To Address Academic Skills
- If reading is weak: provide additional reading time; use "pre-viewing" strategies; select text with less on page; shorten amount of required reading; avoid oral reading. If the child also has dyslexia or dyspraxic difficulties, they should be referred for specialist support.
- If oral expression is weak: accept all oral responses; substitute display for oral report; encourage student to discuss their new own experiences; pick topics easy for students to talk about.
- If written work is weak: accept non-written forms for reports (i.e. displays, oral, projects etc.); accept use of typewriter, word processor or tape recorder; do not assign large quantity of written work; test with multiple choice or fill-in questions. Do not insist on neatness and redoing untidy work this will alienate the child from writing. For younger children, teaching basics like pen grip, letter flow and size are essential- A specialised approach may be needed with an occupational therapist.
- If Maths is weak: allow use of calculator; use graph paper to space numbers; provide additional maths time; provide immediate correctness feedback and instruction via modeling of the correct computational procedure.
- Younger children may be overwhelmed to see a full page of Maths problems - consider using a "Maths window" that will display only one problem, helping them to focus better.
- Older children may find sentences in Maths confusing. Sequential learning in algebra, long division and fractions all cause difficulties. The child with ADD/ADHD may require extra support with these concepts.
- If English literature is weak: for the older child - discover what works and focus on strengths. Be proactive and creative to stimulate interest. For example, when studying Shakespeare, a video or CD may be available.
- If exams are likely to present problems: children with specific difficulties may be eligible for special examination arrangements at Junior and Leaving Certificate. More intensive coaching in revision and exam techniques may be required.
To Address Attention Difficulties
- Seat the student in a quiet area near the teacher, and near a good role model, mindful of not isolating the child from the rest of the class, or inadvertently stigmatising the child by seating arrangements.
- Consider appointing / identifying a "study buddy" - someone who will work well with the student with ADD/ADHD, and if possible could provide support in note-taking. Increase the distance between desks and ensure eye contact when giving instructions.
- Shorten assignments or work periods to coincide with span of attention e.g. use a timer, enabling the student to see an end to work. Give assignments one at a time to avoid work overload and allow extra time to complete assigned work. Follow difficult tasks with preferred tasks. Look for quality rather than quantify during class time and remember this when assigning homework.
To Lessen Impulsiveness
- Expect the unexpected and anticipate pro-actively.
- Set up behaviour contracts with the student, to cover areas both in class and during free time. Supervise closely during transition times.
- Instruct the student in self-monitoring of behaviour i.e. hand raising, calling on the student only when hand is raised in appropriate manner, and praising accordingly.
- Ignore minor inappropriate behaviour, comments and questions.
- Increase immediacy of rewards and consequences using time-out procedure for misbehaviour. Use "prudent" reprimands for misbehaviour i.e. avoid lecturing or criticism and attend to positive behaviour with compliments.
- Remind the student to check over work product if performance is rushed and careless.
- Be aware that Impulsiveness may be a response to a difficult interaction or situation.
To Minimise Excessive Motor Activity
- Allow student to stand at times while working, provide alternative seating where possible.
- Provide opportunities for "short breaks" i.e. running errands etc.
- Provide short breaks between assignments.
- Supervise closely during transition times.
- Give extra time to complete tasks (especially for students with slow motor tempo).
To Manage Mood Variations
- Frequently compliment positive behaviour and work product. Look for opportunities for student to display leadership roles in class-
- Review instructions when giving new assignments to make sure the student understands the task. Look for signs of stress build-up, and provide encouragement or reduced workload to alleviate pressure and avoid temper outburst.
- Liaise frequently with parents to learn about student's interests and achievements outside of school. Send positive notes home - as this will boost the student and the parents.
- Encourage social interactions with classmates if the student is withdrawn or excessively shy.
- Make time to talk alone with the student, and try to spend more time talking to students who seem pent-up or display anger easily. Look for ways of providing brief training in anger control, encourage student to walk away, use calming strategies.
To Improve Recall
- Consider using a multi-sensory approach i.e. seeing, saying, writing, doing, Visualisation, mnemonics and memory techniques are worth trying.
- Role-playing activities can help with recall and are usually considered to be fun.
- Computer-assisted instruction will help.
To Improve Organisation and Planning
- Assist pupil with personal organisation e.g. regularly check desk and notebook for neatness.
- Ask for parental help in encouraging organisation and send daily/weekly progress reports home. Facilitate students to have extra set of books at home, if possible.
- Reward tidiness rather than penalise sloppiness. Be willing to repeat expectations. Do not penalise for poor handwriting if visual deficits are present, and encourage learning of keyboard skills to address this.
- Allow students to tape record assignments or homework.
- Arrange for peer support.
- Keep worksheet format simple and keep materials needed to hand.
- Give assignments one at a time and assist students in setting short-term goals,
To Encourage Compliance
- Praise compliant behaviour and give immediate feedback. Ignore minor misbehaviour.
- Seat the student near the teacher and use teacher attention to reinforce positive behaviour. Use "prudent" reprimands for misbehaviour (i.e. avoid lecturing ).
- Set up a behaviour contract with the student and Implement a classroom behaviour management system. Instruct the student in self-monitoring of behaviour.
- Punishments such as "100 lines" cause more difficulties for children with ADD/ADHD Short specific assignments involving some degree of learning or additional practical tasks may be more beneficial.
- Be aware that assembly is usually a vulnerable time for a student with ADD/ADHD, as it is not as closely supervised as regular class-time. The student may be susceptible to bullying, fidgeting or may have difficulty settling down. Arrange for the student to be monitored from a distance when attending assembly.
- Introduce a calming-down period just before assembly starts. Keep assembly short, understand how difficult it will be for some students to sit quietly without fidgeting. Ignore minor disturbances caused by the student fidgeting - they cannot help it.
- Consider allowing the student to have something to fidget with, such as a stress toy.
Children who have special educational needs, may be granted what is referred to as "Reasonable Accommodations in Certificate Examinations" while sitting their Junior or Leaving Certificates. The State Examinations Commission within the Department of Education and Science set out the policy on student accommodations Current procedures are outlined in Circular S11/2000.
The purposes of the accommodations are to
- remove, as far as possible, the impact of the disability on the student's performance and thus enable him or her to demonstrate his or her level of attainment
- Ensure that, whilst giving students every opportunity to demonstrate their level of attainment, the special arrangements will not give them an unfair advantage over other students in the same examination.