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Guidelines for teachers of AD(H)D learners

Written By : Justine Loewenthal
Registered Counsellor and EEG Technician


Generally speaking, ADHD learners have poor social relationships with their peers. These children receive much negative attention from their teachers, and this causes their peers to increase their rejection of the child. And so a vicious cycle begins. The ADHD-type behaviour makes teaching the child difficult, causing the peers to reject the child. This worsens the disruptive behaviour and the academic and social difficulties

Some minor modifications in the classroom can help to improve peer and child-teacher relationships and can make teaching ADHD children far less trying.

  • Many ADHD children have low self-esteem as a result of academic and social problems. Therefore, it is essential to always punish the behaviour – not the character of the child.
  • If visual-motor integration and poor psychomotor speed are areas of concern for the child, give the child a copy of what will be expected to be copied off the board as this will improve the pace of work.
  • Highlighters and colour should be encouraged to separate concepts in their books, as ADHD are frequently right-brained and more visual.
  • If work is not completed in the classroom, it should be sent home to finish so that they are not left behind.
  • Incentives, e.g. badges or running errands, for completing work can be used.
  • Minimize distractions around the child. ADHD children should not be seated near windows, doors, heaters or other noisy children.
  • A checklist comprising what will be covered during the school day can be handed out each morning in order to make ADHD children aware of what will be expected of them during the day. They can make notes on this checklist of anything they are not sure of. The teacher can spend a few minutes going over the checklist with the child at the end of the day to clarify any uncertainties.
  • The teacher and the ADHD child can create a gesture or sign to make the child aware of times when the teacher feels that the child is not focusing in class. Classmates will not be aware of this sign and this will therefore not result in negative feedback in front of his / her peers. When the child is scolded in front of the class, negative perceptions are forms. The peers will follow the teacher's example.
  • Praise and punishment for behaviour must be immediate in order to it to be most effective.
  • Eye contact should be maintained with ADHD children as much as possible.
  • A well managed, structured environment should be adhered to as far as possible. As change is often not handled well, try to prepare children well in advance for any changes in schedule.
  • Where possible, endeavour to incorporate ADHD children's interests into lesson plans to achieve maximum participation and enjoyment.
  • Help children to find their areas of strength and focus on these to improve their self-esteem.
  • A small clock or timer placed on the child's desk will help them to keep track of time when a time-limit on a task is imposed.
  • Be sure to provide plenty of recognition and positive attention for good behaviour and tasks completed well.
  • Encourage planning using lists to promote better organizational skills and time management. Discuss the importance of prioritization.