Strategies for Dealing with ADD in the Classroom
The Feingold Association
ContentsWho needs this help?
Begin by identifying the problems
A special diet
Ask the child
One thing at a time
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Who needs this help?
For some children, a change in diet is all that is needed in order to succeed. But for others, diet is only a piece of the puzzle and remedial help will be needed as well.
Begin by identifying the problems
There are practical steps parents and teachers can take to enable a child with "ADD" to learn and succeed, but most parents and teachers don't really know how to accomplish this. A good way to begin is to try to determine when the child seems to have problems, why, and to identify the dysfunction. A child may have a problem with only one teacher, one subject, or in one room in the school. For example, large, noisy rooms such as cafeterias and gyms tend to overwhelm some children.
After a need is identified it should be written into the IEP, the '`individualized educational program" or plan of action the school is required to follow for a child with disabilities. These interventions can be effective if everyone involved -- parents, teachers and school staff participate in the plan.
A special diet
If there is a need identified, such as adherence to a diet, this must be written into the IEP. Once it is completed it is very hard to go back and have something added in. Have your doctor write on his letterhead that the child has a need for a restricted diet, and it must be followed as the parent outlines. This gives you a lot of power.
Ask the child
Not only do the adults need to be involved, but the child should be encouraged to give feedback. Ask the child if he feels the plan is helping him. If a youngster feels something is "dumb" it probably isn't helping. Even young children can be asked, but it's especially important that the older child (10-12 years old) be asked.Also, don't lose sight of the fact that learning should be fun.
The desk and chair need to be the right size. When children are uncomfortable in desks and chairs that are not in proportion, they are going to squirm and fidget. If his feet don't touch the ground, he will swing them. At the very least, place an old telephone book on the floor so the child can rest his feet solidly on a surface.
If you're uncomfortable in your chair because your legs hit the edge of the seat in an uncomfortable way, you will move around in an attempt to become more comfortable.
A youngster should be able to put his elbows on the surface of the desk, and have his chin fit comfortably in the palm of his hand. With these proportions he can write without having to bend over.Back to Contents
Where the child sits is important. Teachers generally want to put difficult kids in a back corner -- as far away as they can. But the problem this causes is that now the child sees everything that goes on in the classroom; the further back he is, the harder it will be for the child to focus on what is being taught.
The best place for a distractible child is right up in the first row, preferably in front of the teacher's desk. This will limit the amount of activity the child is exposed to.
Such a seating arrangement also allows the teacher to use a system of signaling the child. The two agree to a signal, perhaps the teacher touching the child's shoulder, as the reminder that he needs to focus. She can then signal the child without having to call attention to him or interrupt teaching.
Some children need to move around more than others. Some do well until they get "overloaded" with stimuli, and then need to retreat to a place where they can be by themselves and regain control. Some teachers allow a younger child to move around the classroom as long as he does not disrupt the other children. An older child might be allowed to ask to go to the nurse's office, so he can get himself back together.
I've had people tell me the child may abuse the privilege and leave the classroom too often. That's true, but this will tell you more about where the problem is. If it always occurs with the same subject or with the same teacher, then you will have some information about the problem. But the other side of the coin is that when we can give the distractible child more power over his environment, he will often use it wisely.Back to Contents
Structure and consistency are very important for the child who still feels some internal chaos. There should be immediate consequences for mistakes, but for the most part it should be private. When a child is scolded in front of the class it gives the class the ability to ridicule him.
Each party should know in advance what the rules are, and the consequence for not adhering to them. These consequences should be obvious and appropriate. Take the child aside and explain what is wrong. It's important to know that the child understands he broke a rule, and which rule it was. Many times, a distracted child really won't know what he did wrong. See if he can tell you.
It may be appropriate for older children to have a say in planning the consequences. This empowers a child, and he is more likely to follow rules when he had a part in developing them.
It's easy to write a list of rules for children who can read, but for the younger one, pictures can work well. A parent can use this technique at home and the child might enjoy it even more it you have photos of him. For example, a checklist for a school day may be: waking up, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc.
Checklists are helpful for everyone, but they are especially important for disorganized children.Back to Contents
Some children don't deal well with change. A new classroom, new teacher, new desk, new classmates can all be upsetting. What looks like odd behavior may simply be a child's inability to adapt to the changes that are required of him.
Middle school can be especially difficult as the student is expected to change classes, use a locker, etc. Here is where extra help and lots of patience are in order.
Minimal rules and minimal choices are best for these children. In order to stay calm and be more focused they need to clearly know what's expected of them -- they can stand in the middle of a classroom and be totally unaware of what they're supposed to be doing next. It's especially hard if they're in a large, confusing place such as a cafeteria or gym, where they may get overexcited and have trouble calming down. Compensate by gradually decreasing the activity, or by letting the child know that gym will be over in ten minutes so he can begin to calm himself.
One thing at a time
Parents and teachers get exasperated at the child who can't remember a series of directions. Ask him to go up to his room, get a sweater, and bring it downstairs. By the time he reaches his room he hasn't a clue why he's there. Most children hear the first direction, but lose it after that.
When you give this child directions, have the child look at you. Watch his eyes. The minute his eyes go up toward the ceiling, he will not hear the next word you say. You then remind him, "No, pay attention," and have the child repeat the directions. If he does, most likely he will then remember what's been said.
Most kids hear the first direction; then their eyes leave, their body leaves, and they haven't heard the rest. Games like "Simon says" can help with learning to pay attention.Back to Contents
Help the child learn how to break a project down into smaller sections. Children are assigned reports, but they are rarely taught how to do this. Many youngsters, not just those with attention deficits, are told to read a book and then write about it, but don't know how to do it.
If the book is one that can be written in, use a highlighter pen (not a perfumed or smelly one) and show the child how to highlight one sentence in each paragraph which tells what that paragraph says. If the book cannot be written in, or if photocopies are not an option, then have him write the key sentence on a separate paper.
At the end of the chapter put all of the sentences together in a paragraph, and this will tell you what is contained in each chapter. This is helpful even for young children, where the books are short.
This works for math problems too. If the problem is a written one, such as "Mary has two apples and John has three" show the child how to underline the important facts: two, plus, three. It's then nothing more complicated than addition.
Long range projects are very hard for the disorganized student. They need to make lists, but also to use a calendar to plan each step of the project. If a report is due in 4 weeks, they need to see how much should be read each day. Breaking down assignments into smaller, do-able steps can help them to keep on target.Back to top