This article features Jenn Pedde. Jenn is the community manager for the MSW program at the University of Southern California in the Virtual Academic Center, which enables students to become social workers. She’s an avid traveler, and enjoys photography.
As children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) grow older and enter adolescence, some of the outward signs of their condition may decrease. Although they may be less active and have more control over impulsive behavior, many middle school and high school students continue to experience problems with focus and attention in the classroom. Issues related to poor concentration and distractibility may intensify, affecting their grades and their ability to learn. Without intervention, many teenagers with ADHD develop poor self-esteem, difficulties in relationships and substance abuse problems.
The U.S. Department of Education has identified the following three components of a successful educational program for students with ADHD and this may be of some help to teachers who struggle with keeping the focus of their students.
Academic Instruction Tips for ADHD Students
Many students with ADHD have problems staying organized and keeping track of assignments. Strategies can be adopted in middle school and high school that will help these students throughout their academic career. One of the ways that teachers can help is to provide a daily organizer and devote classroom time for copying assignment information (all students can benefit from this type of support). Daily expectations for each class should be clearly defined and posted in written form.
ADHD students in middle school and high school can also benefit from assistance in developing study skills. Teachers can provide instruction for note-taking during class. These students can also benefit from tips on how to keep their workspace uncluttered to minimize distractions.
Whenever possible, teachers should identify areas where an ADHD student needs extra assistance and create strategies that will help the student review material that was previously presented in class lectures.
Feedback is also important for ADHD students. Providing timely progress reports to parents can help keep older ADHD students on track. As with any student, parents and teachers should avoid criticism and sarcasm when discussing areas for improvement, and should instead try to provide reassurance and support.
ADHD Behavioral Intervention
Many older students with ADHD are still learning to control their behavior. A variety of intervention techniques can be used to help these students with self-control in the classroom. Using punishment for poor classroom behavior is a temporary solution that rarely changes a student’s attitude. Instead, teachers should use consistent and sincere verbal praise to help reinforce positive behavior. Providing an ADHD student with an “escape valve” (such as leaving the classroom on an errand) can sometimes be used to defuse undesirable behavior and allow the student to burn off excess energy.
Parents of ADHD students should be viewed as partners in the educational process. Teachers should communicate frequently with parents about behavioral concerns and involve them in intervention strategies.
Peer mediation can also be an effective tool for mediating disputes between students and reinforcing positive behavior.
ADHD Classroom Accommodations
Many of the classroom strategies recommended for younger students with ADHD are still effective for students in middle school and high school. Teachers should try to seat ADHD students at the front of the classroom or near the teacher’s desk to make it easier to monitor their progress and attention level. An alternative seating arrangement is to place an ADHD student near a peer role model who can provide academic and social support. If space permits, a quiet area of the classroom with few distractions should be provided to ADHD students for study sessions and test taking. Teachers should be discreet about assigning students to this area to avoid any stigma or the appearance of punishment.
Additional recommendations that can help older students with ADHD succeed in school include classes with low teacher-student ratios and regular meetings with private tutors or peer tutors. The Department of Education also suggests using technology and audiovisual materials for instruction and homework, as these media can be more interactive and thereby increase focus.
Editor’s note: For more ideas on accommodations that help ADHD students and can benefit your entire class to become better learners, visit http://mypage.iu.edu/~rllsmith/ADHDweb.htm or http://www.ldonline.org/article/8797/.