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how to support kids with adhd
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How to Support Kids With ADHD

If you have children with ADHD in your classroom, you’re not alone. Some 3 to 5 percent of all kindergarten through 12th grade students have been diagnosed with some form of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These children don’t misbehave deliberately; they have a neurological disorder that makes it difficult for them to concentrate and control their behavior.

So what can you do when ADHD disrupts your classroom? Read these five tips for how to support these kids and their families.

1. Acknowledge the child’s disorder.

Teachers may make the mistake of attributing a child’s misbehavior to a bad attitude, says Dr. Grant Martin, a licensed psychologist in Seattle, Washington, and author of The Hyperactive Child. Martin says it’s important for teachers to recognize that ADHD is a neurological disorder that causes children to have difficulty focusing or creates an excessively high level of physical activity and impulsive behavior. Some children may have both of these characteristics.

2. Remind kids of clear rules and expectations.

“Structure is so important for kids with ADHD because they’re so easily distracted by any little thing,” says Barb Tjornehoj, a teacher at Christian school in Omaha, Nebraska. “If they see a teacher allowing one student to talk, they will not hesitate to talk, too.”Tjornehoj suggests regularly reviewing rules and classroom values before beginning a lesson because children with ADHD have a tendency to react in the moment and forget class rules. Consistency is also key, she says.

3. Give kids consequences for broken rules.

“Children need to know that when they break class rules or behave inappropriately, there will be consequences,” says Dr. Janice Acker, a clinical psychologist in Woodhaven, Michigan, and former elementary school teacher for 20 years. With children who have ADHD, psychologists and teachers say immediate and natural consequences work better than all-or-nothing losses. Losing a privilege for an activity that’ll occur in 10 minutes is much more effective and reasonable than telling a child he’ll lose a privilege for the rest of the year.

4. Learn kids’ patterns.

Seeking to prevent behavior problems before they occur is one of the best strategies for working with children with ADHD, psychologists and teachers say. And all it takes is a little time to notice a child’s behavior patterns. Is there any behavior a child does every week in class? If so, think of ways to eliminate whatever triggers the behavior. Two kids with hyperactive tendencies sitting next to each other, for example, is a nightmare waiting to happen. Try seating these students either next to calmer students to provide behavior role models or near you where direct eye contact or a tap on their shoulders can redirect their attention.

To respond to a child’s recurring inappropriate behavior, Acker recommends a multisensory approach. “If a student struggles to remember to raise her hand, try writing the specific desired behavior on an index card and just hand the card to the child,” says Acker. “This works just as well as saying, ‘Mary, you forgot to raise your hand again.’ ”

5. Provide positive feedback.

Since children with ADHD often get told what they’re doing wrong, it’s important to let them know what they’re doing right, says David Childs, principal at Mountain Shadows Middle School in Nuevo, California, who has worked with ADHD children for over 10 years. “Children with ADHD don’t often get praised for good behavior, and they need praise like all kids,” says Childs. Find specific behavior to praise, suggests Childs, even simple behavior that might not seem extraordinary. A teacher might say, for example, “Bobby, I like the way you’ve been sitting still for five minutes.”

Look beyond behavior to see the whole child. Children with ADHD need to know that there’s someone who understands why they have trouble listening and sitting still.

Because they often get in trouble, children with ADHD often get labeled as troublemakers,” says Childs. “They often think their teacher is mad at them if they’re constantly disciplined or, in some cases, yelled at.”

That’s why it’s important for teachers to let children know they still love them even when they act inappropriately. Do this by making a special effort to get to know a child. This will help the child not feel rejected if disciplined.

You can also hand out a copy of Group’s Children’s Ministry Pocket Guide to Special Needs to each of your children’s ministry workers which is a handy tool that contains relevant teaching techniques, age-appropriate ways to inspire positive peer relationships, tips for partnering with parents and more!

Want more articles regarding children with special needs? Check out these posts

5 thoughts on “How to Support Kids With ADHD

  1. I feel like these guidelines are important for working with ANY child, REGARDLESS of whether or not the child has been “diagnosed” with a disorder.

  2. Very informative indeed.
    My eldest son has been diagnosed, and what I have found is that spending enough time, getting to know what makes them tick and what ticks them off, is key. Throughout the article, the golden thread seems to be, almost putting yourself in their shoes, seeing the world through their eyes and then acting appropriately and consistently. Oh, and remind them over and over again that they are loved.

  3. having a child who not only was diagnosed with non hyperactivity ADD and Dyslexia, a few things I learned over the years. Every child is different, there may be more than one disorder or disability for each child.

    One of the best things I found that is good for all children is making sure there are not too much information at once and that the child has time to process the information given and that they have someone to go to they trust to ask for help. Time out/a quiet place when there is an overload or stressful situation is also important.

    Children who have been identified as ADHD or ADD do not have an attention disorder as such but if they find the activity interesting to them they will focus on it for more than most children. They will be come obsessed with it. So make your programs well planned and interesting as they will get board and distracted if you dont as it gives them an excuse to try something else or play up.

    thank you for the article and supporting children which struggle and are many times misunderstood.

    • Sierra Archuleta

      Hi Liz!
      Thank you for providing additional great tips on helping children with different disorders or abilities. Our hope is that every child is welcomed and involved in their church’s children’s ministry, and we do our best to provide helpful tips to do this. God bless you!

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How to Support Kids With ADHD

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