Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have
developmentally inappropriate attention, hyperactivity and/or impulsive
behaviour that can be disruptive in the classroom. In the first article of a
two-part series for teachers, the Learning Assessment & Neurocare Centre
point out the realities of the condition, and provide suggestions and
strategies for coping with children with ADHD.
Neurobiological aspects of Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is a complex neurobiological
disorder. Researchers believe that
people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have a few structures
within the brain that are smaller and that their neurotransmitters - chemical
messengers of the brain - do not work properly.
This gives rise to very poor concentration, impulsivity and/or
hyperactive behaviour that significantly interferes with and impairs everyday
Managing ADHD in the classroom
The purpose of classifying behaviour
enables specialists to understand and help the child, suggesting strategies for
those who live and work with them.
Children with ADHD often test the limits of teachers and parents. To
help the child you need to remain in control and respond positively, not
allowing yourself to get drawn into a negative behavioural style.
Planning for a child with Attention Deficit
- School can be a hostile place for a child
- Be aware of problem situations.
- Accommodate skills difficulties.
- Acknowledge and note vulnerabilities.
- Find out about potential problems before
the child enters the class so you can plan ahead and avoid the possibility of a
- Assess situations with the ADHD child in
mind. School trips or a school play are likely to make the child very excited.
Establish one or two essential rules before the event and make sure the child
knows what the rules are and what will happen if they do or do not comply. It
may be necessary to plan for a parent or classroom assistant to be present at
- Try to control the level of stimulation the
ADHD child is exposed to. A child with
ADHD is easily aroused.
- Give short, clear instructions: try not to
“flood” the child with information as they will “switch off.”
- Tell the child what to do, rather than what
not to do, for example, “please put your feet on the floor” rather than “take
your feet off the table.” Giving positive rather than negative instructions is
better for morale of both the teacher and child.
Rules, rewards and punishments for children
- Have only few rules in classroom; make sure
they are visible and the child knows the rules and consequences of compliance
or non-compliance. Rules should be
phrased positively, for example, “be kind to others, listen when the teacher is
speaking.” Praise and reward appropriate
behaviour and achievements - try and ignore minor behaviour.
- Enforce rules consistently and
quickly: ADHD children cannot await
rewards and forget why they are punished if there is a delay.
- Children may need help in appreciating
rules, procedures of classroom and find them hard to remember.
- Reinforcement and meaningful rewards are
more effective than punishment, as is a positive attitude, comment or smile.
- Set boundaries and limits for a child in
the classroom and playground.
- Make it clear that it is the behaviour not
the child that is unacceptable.
- Remember the threat of punishment has
little effect on child with ADHD because of poor appreciation of cause and
effect and consequences of actions.
- Use reward systems, giving the child
opportunities to be rewarded frequently.
Change reinforcers as ADHD children become bored very quickly. Use
positive reinforcers but remember ADHD children also need mild negative
consequences. If punishments are too extreme, the child will give up trying to
- Punish carefully - avoid lecturing,
criticising, ridiculing, sarcasm, and so on.
- Work on one difficult behaviour at a time -
remember you are teaching the child to behave just as you teach him to read.
- Remember the child has a disability and try
to be kind to them and to yourself.
- Make sure the child knows it is their
choice to be rewarded or punished.
- Don’t presume that the child will behave
well because of getting a treat or reward.
- Try to provide opportunities for the child
with ADHD to retreat, like giving small jobs that are not used as a punishment.
- Whenever possible, try to give the child
with ADHD opportunities to be responsible - don’t resent doing so because he
doesn’t deserve it - think of him as being disabled.
- Make sure that the child is given a second
chance to succeed as soon as they have failed, for example, “as soon as you say
you are ready to be quiet you can leave the naughty chair and return to the
room”, and so on.
- Teach the child problem solving skills so
that they feel in control.