A modern-day classrooms use a one-size-fits-all approach. Unfortunately, this leaves students with learning differences on the fringes, unable to receive the support they need to reach their academic potential. One of the key contributors to this problem is the hyper-focus placed on concentration. Students are constantly told to “just focus” and pay attention, but it’s not that simple. Children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) will often have a much more challenging time because of this. They often have difficulty sitting still and focusing for long stretches of time, two things which are integral aspects of the typical classroom.
By understanding the inner-workings of the ADHD brain and utilizing a few universal principles in ADHD education, parents, educators, and support staff can begin to meet the needs of EVERY student, especially those struggling with learning differences.
It All Starts with Understanding
The first step to helping your student with ADHD is understanding how their brain works. The primary issue with ADHD is that it interferes with prefrontal cortex development and function. This part of the brain regulates everything from impulse control to time management, making it critical to success in school. However, students with ADHD often lack the natural compensatory skills to manage themselves. Know that their possible lack of concentration in class or tendency to forget assignments is not a simple disinclination- it’s not from lack of trying. Their mind is just wired a bit differently, and they’re still able and eager to retain information, but they may need to do this in a different way than a typical student. For example, students with ADHD often struggle with lengthy, complicated instructions. Brief, clear instructions work much better and help the student hit their academic potential. This small tweak can make a huge difference at school, but also at home. Below, we’ll analyze more of these minor tweaks in an effort to understand and support the ADHD mind.
Students with ADHD may have trouble keeping track of many assignments at once, so organization is vital. Like an air traffic controller, students are often pulled in many different directions. Competing priorities both inside and outside of school mean that organization should be the backbone of any ADHD support system. Without a straightforward way to organize both their time and school materials, it’s easy for students to make mistakes. This means late grades, zeros, and even a lack of credit for work that was completed, but not turned in. It can be an incredibly frustrating ordeal. However, two small changes to a student’s routine can make all the difference.
First, we need a one-stop shop for all school materials. Our unique binder system works wonders for students with ADHD by providing a way to easily and effectively keep track of all the papers they receive at school. Secondly, the student needs a system for managing competing priorities. Planners and calendars work well in combination to help students remain proactive. For more ideas on time management, check out our step-by-step guide to planning out an academic week.
The truth is that most methods of teaching are incompatible with ADHD learning styles.. Everything from the instructions we give to how often we offer breaks can affect these students’ success, for better or for worse. As we mentioned earlier, instructions need to be brief and clear to be effective. This goes from simple tasks at home to complicated school assignments. Providing a rubric for essential projects, integrating intermediate deadlines into the assignment workflow, and establishing routines in the classroom can help students with ADHD. Furthermore, educators and parents should avoid multi-task requests. For example, when students enter the classroom, don’t expect them to do six things simultaneously. Instead, provide a checklist for the first ten minutes of class that necessitates turning in homework, taking out the textbook, and completing the warm-up. This doesn’t have to continue for the whole year, but it can be helpful in the first few weeks of school. These critical support systems allow students with ADHD to learn and adapt to changes in their environment.
Movement & Visual Appeal
Lastly, we need to be aware of movement and what we call the attention spotlight. Many students with ADHD feel the need to be moving. Because of this, giving students time to shake out all of their pent-up energy often allows them to better focus their attention on the subject at hand. Breaks are beneficial, not only for those with ADHD, but most students. On average, students can only concentrate for one minute per year of age, which is probably on the high end. Integrating short breaks in the classroom or at home can help keep students rolling. Secondly, those with ADHD tend to gravitate toward the most interesting things in the room. This means that, yes, teachers need to compete with the distractions in their classrooms to capture students’ attention. Teach with movement, involve the students in the lesson, and avoid using monotone to truly engage with your audience.
As the old saying goes, it takes a village, especially when working with students with learning differences. So, if you are interested in getting professional support for your student, take a look at our unique executive functioning skill program. Here, your child will be matched with a specialized one-on-one academic coach to work on school and life skills. For more tips to help your child succeed academically, check out our other resources here.