Therapists Discuss: How to Help Children ADHD Students Focus in the Classroom

ADHD is characterised by problems with impulsiveness, inattentiveness and hyperactivity, and in many cases this can impact school performance. If your child has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or you suspect they might have ADHD, you may have some concerns about whether they are able to focus properly in the classroom and get the most out of their lessons.

In this blog, we look at what child ADHD experts have to say about how to help ADHD students thrive in the classroom. Whether you’re a teacher or a parent, these strategies should provide a better understanding of where you can support children with ADHD in their learning.

Establish Rules and Routines

For those with ADHD who experience inattentiveness, having a straightforward routine can be key in helping them to engage, and can encourage children to stay on task both at home and at school. If a child with ADHD understands clearly what to expect in terms of rules and attends the same environments regularly, they will be less distracted compared to a new environment that contains lots of new and distracting stimuli as well as new rules to remember. 

Teachers can help students by finding ways of setting out a clear routine, using schedules and class rules. It can also help to encourage children, and even older students, to remind themselves of the rules at the start of each day. This will not only provide a recognisable focus, but will also help students with ADHD feel safer and more comfortable at school.

Another useful tip for teachers is to make sure class rules and routines are established positively. For example, instead of asking a student not to do something (“No running in the classroom”), use positive and more descriptive rules such as “when you come into class, walk calmly to your seat”. This will help students to remember the rules, view them in a positive light and approach the school day with more confidence.

At home, parents can establish routines too, for example when it comes to completing homework. Finishing homework at a specific time each evening will help students with ADHD understand when they need to focus, and will allow them to prepare to focus. 

Provide Accommodations

There are a number of ways you can make your classroom a place where students with ADHD can make concentrating easier, and these accommodations can help neurotypical students, too.

  • Minimise distractions: Students with ADHD can become easily distracted by their peers or other stimuli around them. When helping children to focus, it can be useful to make sure that the area around them does not have too many overstimulating distractions available. This might involve positioning the desks so that they are not facing a window with a busy and distracting view, or putting away objects that can be distracting when it is time to focus.

    It can also help to see that students with ADHD are not seated too close to one another, as they may accidentally encourage distraction amongst themselves. Instead, it can be more helpful to sit students with ADHD beside students who find it easier to focus well, to remind them to try and focus too.

 
  • Allow for movement: Some students with ADHD tend to fidget and will be keen to move around. Teachers should be prepared to allow for this on occasion, and provide useful movement-based tasks for these students. For example, handing out worksheets to the rest of the class or clearing a whiteboard can help a student with ADHD as they will be able to satisfy their urge to move around. 
 
  • Provide positive feedback and rewards: Positive feedback can encourage the repeat of desired behaviours overtime. It is useful to note that students with ADHD respond best to feedback that is immediate, e.g. letting them know that they did well to complete and hand in their assignment will directly encourage that behaviour immediately, as opposed to later when they get their assignment feedback. Teachers can also try and vary the rewards they provide the class to keep the children interested and to prevent boredom.

 

Develop Relationships

It’s important for teachers to develop strong relationships with both students with ADHD and the parents of these students. Doing so will allow for better communications about the child’s needs, a more streamlined routine in the classroom and at home, and easier management of general progression at school. Here are some things that teachers and parents can work on together:

  • Encouraging openness about any issues: It can be helpful for teachers and parents to both be equally aware about a child’s issues with learning. If a student is struggling with their homework, this can be communicated to the teacher so that any necessary accommodations can be made in terms of the level of work that is being assigned, or the instructions given. Similarly, if a student is struggling with their academic performance or appears to be misbehaving in the classroom, it can be helpful for the parents to be informed so that they can work on any difficulties at home too, and seek professional support if needed.

 

  • Monitor the child’s approach to work and completion of tasks: Those who are involved in the student’s learning can try to monitor and understand the child’s approach to tasks, as there may be small adjustments that can be made to help the child thrive. You may even learn that in some cases, how a child chooses to complete a task might not be the way that you had advised, but is okay for them to complete in the way that suits their needs. Both parents and teachers could also take time to review any work completed to ensure it is set at the appropriate learning level for the student.

 

  • Develop learning routines: As mentioned earlier, having a routine for education both at home and at school can make a significant difference to a child’s learning. Parents and teachers should support each other in developing these routines – for example, homework can be set and completed on the same days each week at a time when you know the child has better levels of concentration

 

Adjusting teaching methods and the class environment for the needs of every child in the classroom can feel like a challenging job, but hopefully these tips have helped to shed light on where teachers and parents can provide the most valuable support.

If you think your child might need support managing their ADHD symptoms, or you are concerned about their ability to focus at school, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our child ADHD specialists here at Psymplicity Healthcare. We can support your family and your child to get the help they need. 

However, if you are noticing repetitive actions or habits, or some of the signs discussed in this post, consider speaking to one of Psymplicity Healthcare’s experienced medical secretaries about a private autism assessment. Remember there is always help at hand, for both you and your child.
Mavish Sikander

Mavish Sikander

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity.

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