Transformative Teaching - Supporting Our Students with ADHD
All of us have experienced times when we find it difficult to focus. Time slips away from us while our mind rushes from one topic to the next. For most of us, these instances are fleeting, but for students with ADHD it is a constant struggle.
We at Infinite Horizons know how important it is to help ALL of our students succeed by creating learning environments and lessons that work for each of our students. In our latest book, Transformative Teaching (Kryza, Brittingham, Duncan, 2016) we honor and support teachers on their heroes’ journey of teaching to the “whole learner” - considering students’ cultural, emotional, and academic needs in the school setting along the with content they need to teach. We discuss many different types of learners and offer strategies that will help teachers meet the needs of all students.
This month we will highlight some of the strategies that help support students with ADHD. We will also dispel some common misconceptions about ADHD.
Myth 1: ADHD isn’t a real medical condition. These people are just lazy and unmotivated. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “an estimated 5 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD” (Parekh, 2015). Research has shown that there are observable differences in the neural connections of those who have been diagnosed with ADHD (Sripada, et al., 2014). It is a legitimate condition that affects students’ abilities.
Students with ADHD often have difficulty with executive function abilities such as planning and attending. In our past newsletters on Jack Naglieri’s P.A.S.S. theory of executive function, we lay out several strategies to help support students in developing these two abilities.
Myth #2: ADHD is the result of poor discipline.
Having clear expectations for behavior, routines, and procedures is vital to a smooth running classroom. But the behavior of students with ADHD is not a result of poor discipline. These students have less impulse control and therefore have difficulty controlling their behavior.
Teachers can help these students by:
Myth #3: ADHD can be fixed with medicine.
- Giving clear directions, one at a time – rather than in a long list or series.
- Finding the best seating arrangements for your ADHD students - Perhaps they need to sit in a quiet part of the classroom. Maybe they need to be near a strong partner. Maybe they need to be close to you or to the front of the classroom to minimize distractions. Or perhaps they need to be in the back of the room where they can stand and wiggle without distracting others.
- Offering breaks – We know that all brains need breaks from effort every now and again. Students with ADHD will benefit from more frequent brain breaks.
- Allowing the use of quiet fidget materials – (e.g. squeeze ball )
- Including movement into our lessons (walk & talks, gallery walks, TPR strategies, etc..)
- Encouraging mindfulness practice.
Although medicine can help students mitigate the some of the symptoms, ADHD cannot be cured by medication. Along with medication, behavioral therapy is suggested. Teachers can help provide support in this area by being intentional and transparent when giving students strategies to plan or attend. Students need to understand why we are teaching them these skills and how they will help them achieve success in the classroom.
Myth #4: It’s not fair that students with ADHD get extra resources or extra support.
First and foremost – it would be against the law in the United States of America not to provide students with IEPs or 504 plans the scaffolds they need for success. “The Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that public schools address the special needs of all children with disabilities, including children with ADHD. Special accommodations, such as extra time on tests, simply level the playing field so that kids with ADHD can learn as successfully as their non-ADHD classmates” (ADDitude Editors, 2005).
Secondly, we need to create a climate in our classrooms that encourages students to understand that different people need different things to succeed. One of our favorite quotes is “Fair doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same. Fair means everyone gets what they need to be successful.”
Myth #5: Kids grow out of ADHD.
Approximately 70% of children continue to experience ADHD in their teen years and 50% have symptoms into adulthood (McGough, 2009). Still many others go undiagnosed through much of adulthood. Since ADHD is something that can affect our students for the rest of their lives it is that we set them up for success by intentionally and transparently teaching them strategies that they need to achieve their goals.
It can be overwhelming to think about meeting all of the needs of the myriad of students who walk through our classroom doors, but the truth is – most of these strategies we share are good for all students. All students benefit from brain breaks. All students learn better when we include movement in our lessons. All students benefit from clear instructions and expectations. Our students with ADHD just help remind us of the urgency of including these strategies in our daily classes.
We want to hear from you! Connect with us on social media to let us know what works for students with ADHD in your classrooms!
Co-authored by: Michelle Leip & Kathleen Kryza