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Categories: 2011, August
IN 1992, A DEDICATED GROUP OF COMMUNITY AND SCHOOL PROFESSIONALS JOINED
WITH PARENTS FROM CHADD OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA to form an
“ADHD Partnership.” They began working together to design
materials that could be used to train school staff and parents to meet
the academic and emotional needs of students with ADHD. Their pioneering
efforts proved very successful in Fairfax County, Virginia, and today,
their teen video workshop is being used to train secondary school staff
in other parts of the United States.
CHADD designated the Northern Virginia ADHD Partnership the Innovative
Program of the Year in 2010. For more information about the partnership,
visit their website at adhdpartnership.com or refer to the following
Attention articles: “Joining Forces”
(Promising Practices, February 2010) and “Identifying Your School
Advocates” (October 2010).
The Northern Virginia ADHD Partnership generously offered their ADHD Tip
Sheets for inclusion in Attention’s annual education
issue. We hope you will find these tip sheets helpful as your children
and adolescents start the new school year. Please feel free to share
them with teachers, schools, and other parents.
What characteristics make an effective teacher
for students with ADHD?
Effective teachers create a calm and safe environment by adopting
strategies with flexible accommodations and maintaining a structured
learning environment with firm rules and boundaries that promote
learning success for each student. These skills are dependent on the
teachers’ knowledge base and understanding of the learning process
for children with ADHD. The teachers’ philosophy affects how they
create, adapt, and implement strategies in the classroom for educational
and behavioral differences in students.
Planning, creating and implementing effective strategies and
accommodations in the classroom.
A clear and knowledgeable base of
information on instructional and behavioral needs of ADHD learners is
necessary. There needs to be current and clear information about the
medical nature of this disorder so that teachers will respond to the
learners’ needs with compassion and understanding to help them
become more responsible learners.
The understanding of the
underlying neurobiological nature of this disorder will provide teachers
with the insight to use more effective positive remediation
The teachers’ philosophy and
approach will be negative if they do not understand the involuntary
aspects of ADHD and resultant characteristics. However, this is not an
excuse or justification but rather an explanation to shape the need for
an educational plan. If a teacher’s mind set is negative, it will
not be a positive year for either child or teacher.
Essential components for classroom support to enable teachers to
reach and teach effectively are as follows:
Support from administration to explore and
implement varied strategies and accommodations is necessary to build
positive expectations and attitudes about diverse learners and
Support from school district and
administration is needed to provide on-going in-services and other
education opportunities on ADHD-related topics for both teachers and
Collaboration is crucial among
peer teachers and specialists as a TEAM to communicate experiences and
ideas in order to plan and develop strategies for success in the
Note: These interventions will improve
teachers’ attitudes about diverse learners and increase their
competencies/skills. Teachers need to feel empowered to meet this goal
of being an effective teacher. Knowledge is power.
Key tips for effective teachers:
Respect for each student to establish a positive
rapport. Humor and sincere caring are essential.
Positive focus on each
child’s abilities and assets with provision of a strength-based
instructional program. Differentiated instruction and compassionate
communication with other professionals are crucial. Recognize and accept
that each child has uniquely different abilities and needs.
High expectations for each student
in order to create a positive learning environment. Behavioral theory
encourages the use of praise and support to build self esteem and
promote effective social relationships with adults and peers.
Parent involvement and open
communication with the teaching team in order to be effective.
In-services and programs for parents are needed.
Note: Student-teacher dynamics are shaped by the
above and are essential for engaging students in this learning
Students need to feel empowered for effective learning to occur.
Building their self-esteem (which may already be fragile based on their
prior experiences) is an integral part of their education which is
needed to feel safe and accepted by others. If students are actively
engaged in their education, they can learn to be self-advocates.
Parents need to feel empowered in order to maximize their participation
and support. They can be allies of the teacher/school as well as
advocates for their child if they trust that their child is
Parents are important partners with the schools
in the academic life of students with ADHD. Schools play a crucial role
in helping parents as well as students to be successful. Ongoing
communication is necessary, and a positive and respectful relationship
will benefit the child, the parent, and the school. Parents share a
history with a child and have valuable information for the teacher about
which methods have worked in the past. The following will help you to
have successful parents.
Parents need to educate themselves about
Some parents are very educated about ADHD while others know
very little about it. Parents need to be educated about parenting a
child with ADHD, common characteristics of ADHD, social skills issues,
and educational methods that work best with these children so that they
can participate in educational planning for their child.
Encourage parents to join a support group or meet
other parents who have children with ADHD.
Parenting a child with ADHD can be very baffling. Strategies
that work well with other children may not work with the child with
ADHD. Parents can be a huge support to each other. Organizations like
CHADD (chadd.org) are very helpful. Many books are available on ADHD but
frequent meetings with other parents, lectures, or attending workshops
and conferences are more effective in helping them.
Referral to knowledgeable professionals and
procedures for accurate diagnosis.
It is very important that children be referred to professionals
who have expertise in ADHD. A thorough evaluation needs to be done in
several areas: medical, social, psychological, and educational.
Ongoing communication is vital among student,
teacher, and parent.
It is helpful for parent and teacher to meet prior to the
beginning of the school year and maintain contact on a regular basis.
Choice of teacher for students with ADHD is crucial for success. A
positive relationship between teacher and parent yields positive
results. Self-advocacy should also be fostered with the students.
Structures may need to be in place at home to
foster organization of school assignments and homework.
Parents can help their children with their homework by having
needed materials at home and a structured and quiet time to do the work.
A second set of books at home has proved beneficial. Long-term
assignments can be organized into smaller pieces with due dates.
Homework binders can help students not to lose work between home and
school. It is not recommended that missed work from the school day be
assigned to parents at night. Tutors also may be helpful for difficult
subjects. Students respond more positively when there is a united
approach to expectations both at school and at home, and when parents
advocate on their behalf with understanding and dignity.
Children with ADHD find organizational skills a challenge. Parents and
teachers may find the following hints a starting point in helping
1. Give the student a copy of class notes to ensure that the
student does not miss important oral details due to attention, memory,
or handwriting difficulties.
2. With the elementary level student, consider scheduling
time for reorganization of desks and book bags, etc.
3. Use assignment notebooks and planners. Check to make sure
correct books/materials are packed to go home. Consider allowing the
student to keep a separate set of books at home to use for homework
assignments. Use checklist to help remember.
4. Consider pairing the student with a peer to assist with
5. If teachers post on Blackboard or other classroom websites, the
assignments can provide consistent communications between students and
parents regarding assignment due dates and expectations. Avoid
overextending time limits and opportunities for procrastination.
Consider breaking long-term projects into smaller segments with separate
6. Develop a system for submitting completed assignments and
maintain consistency for that system (i.e., create a concise routine for
turning in assignments). Use colored folders with specific location for
completed assignments. Provide frequent reminders and notebook reviews.
Use a binder notebook with dividers to avoid loose floating papers.
Utilize weekly progress reports. Communicate to parents about missing
7. For secondary students, schedule an appointment with the student
to initially set up and assist with organizing the student’s
notebook. Schedule additional appointments to evaluate the maintenance
of the notebook and assist with reorganizing the notebook as
Providing multisensory instruction/lesson presentation, utilizing
auditory, visual, and tactical-kinesthetic techniques improves the
ability of students with ADHD to sustain attention and maintain on-task
behavior. Below are some tips that help.
Ask student to repeat directions or share with a
partner before beginning tasks.
Use a timer and rewards, such as points or
tokens, to motivate and reinforce working productivity for a short term
Use active learning and high
response strategies and opportunities: think-pair-share, total physical
response, unison response to signals, or recording answers on dry erase
board, Smart Boards or other interactive technology devises.
Students’ participation in
daily aerobic or physical exercise helps mental alertness.
Use visual prompts. There is a need to cue and
redirect to task frequently.
Provide written or pictorial directions (and task
card) to accompany oral directions.
Use tools or aids to compensate
for memory difficulties: multiplication charts, vocabulary or word
walls, or graphic organizers.
Label, highlight, underline, and
add color to important parts of task.
Sit inattentive students in the
front area in each academic class. There is a social pressure to pay
attention and there are fewer distractions.
OTHER CLASSROOM STRATEGIES
Provide differentiated instruction to boost
interest and motivation: varied formats grouping, choices of activities,
or questioning strategies.
Use novel, engaging, high interest
activities and strategies to get and maintain students’
Provide environmental adaptations,
such as: preferential seating to avoid distractions, and organize work
areas to optimize attention to task and work production.
Increase the use of partners or
buddies to help focus attention to task, clarify directions, assist with
recording of assignments in planner, and practice or review
Consultation with student’s
physician regarding student’s progress is important when
medication is needed. Feedback on work production is a good
measure of the effectiveness of the medication regime.
Smaller classes with increased
supervision and support can minimize the negative impact of attention
difficulties. Whatever the class size, though, placement with teachers
who tend to run organized, structured, but non-rigid classrooms is
Students with ADHD experience a great many
neurologically based memory problems that are misunderstood. It can be
hard for the student with ADHD to retain information recently read or
previously studied. Help with memory problems can be aided by the
The student should be encouraged
to use a tape recorder in classes that are lecture-based, particularly
as the student approaches middle school and high school. Having the
class lecture on tape can help the student complete gaps he/she may have
in his/her notes as a result of either slowed processing speed or poor
oral comprehension and auditory processing.
When learning new facts or
information, it is helpful to present information in a high
known-to-unknown ratio. For example, pretest the student on subset of
math facts or spelling words. Separate “known” from
“unknown” and then present the “knowns” with one
or two “unknowns” each day, until all are
“knowns.” Review of previously learned information can be
handled in this manner as well. Add no more than four new
concepts/facts/words at a time.
A number of memory strategies can
be used to strengthen skills in this area. The student should be asked
to paraphrase instructions or repeat directions to insure that those
presented were understood correctly. Teachers should attempt to provide
visual aids combined with verbal instructions whenever possible. This
could include writing key words on the board when giving oral
directions, providing a copy of information presented on the overhead,
and highlighting in books or other written material during discussion of
critical information. The student should be taught specific memory
strategies and techniques that will improve immediate recall, such as
the use of verbal rehearsal, grouping or "chunking" of information,
making visual images, and mnemonics.
Connect new information to
previously learned information or experience. This will assist the
student in the mental organization of the information which will enable
him to access the information more readily.
Draw the student’s attention
to key phrases and critical information by repeating important points,
calling the student by name to discuss the point, and clearly
identifying that the information is important to remember.
Teach the student
information-gathering skills (e.g., listen carefully, write down terms
and points listed on board, wait until all directions are given before
Teach the student to rely on
resources in the environment to recall information (e.g., notes,
textbooks, pictures, etc.)
Teach mnemonic devices,
association strategies, melody, rhythm or other memory strategies to
assist in recall of information. A mnemonic intervention, CogMed, is now
available in the local area. CogMed, www.cogmed.com, is a helpful training
program for some individuals with functional working memory/attention
problems. Participation in such programs may be appropriate for some
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