In an earlier article I describe the difficulties that a child with ADHD may have with attention. Here I give some tips to aid the child in the classroom. These can easily be adapted for home too.
Eliminate excess stimuli and distractions while working on a task. Remove clutter, competing visual stimuli, noise etc.
Sit the child close to the front of the class to increase the ‘signal strength’ of the teacher’s voice.
Use the child’s name and make eye contact when giving instructions. Get down to their level.
Keep instructions clear and to a minimum.
Allow them time to ‘process’ your message. Ask them to repeat it back.
Give visual reminders, they often find it easier to take in more information through their eyes than through listening. Mark Selikowitz in his book ‘ADHD: The Facts‘ says “Sustaining attention… is generally more difficult for auditory than for visual stimuli, as listening is generally harder than looking. This is especially so for children with ADHD.”
Find their preferred method of ‘stimulation’ and use it: for instance some children may be visually stimulated, others are stimulated by music or movement. Incorporate this into your lesson. Russell Barkley, leading researcher into ADHD points out that children with ADHD often learn best using a multisensory approach. Use of pictures, video, computer technology, colour, texture, hands-on kinaesthetic and other increased stimulation can engage them and enable them to learn. He also mentions that teaching styles are very important: “More vibrant, enthusiastic teachers who move about more, engage children frequently while teaching and allow greater participation of children in the teaching activity may increase sustained attention to the task at hand.”
Giving them time after recess and lunch to calm down and focus can prepare them for learning. Use a highly engaging class activity for 10 minutes to gain their attention before starting more structured work. Do not schedule an activity requiring sustained attention and concentration straight after recess, a sporting activity or something like an assembly. They need time to ‘change gear’.
Use the child’s interests and incorporate these into the curriculum. They find it easier to pay and sustain attention to things they enjoy. Many children with ADHD have the ability to “hyperfocus” on a subject that interests them. Myles Cooley in his book ‘Teaching Kids with Mental Health & Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom‘ writes “Capitalise on student interests. One of the best ways to motivate students is to incorporate their interests into the curriculum.”