ADHD - Helpful Strategies For At Home and School

Having ADHD means that you pay attention in a different way to how people without ADHD do. Most likely, your teachers, parents, friends, colleagues and partner may complain that you have difficulty concentrating, following directions and focusing or that you are impulsive.

Common issues associated with ADHD are having trouble paying attention in class or meetings, finding it hard to sit still, low marks at school, trouble meeting deadlines, losing papers, impulsiveness, getting distracted, talking too much, difficulty in relationships, getting into fights and anxiety issues.

Some people are relieved when they receive a diagnosis of ADHD because it helps them make sense of their struggles and their strengths. Other people are devastated as they make the diagnosis mean that they are not normal and will never succeed.

All of us have challenges in life, and when you are diagnosed with ADHD it can be helpful to remember that you are not alone in your struggles. A diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t need to be the end of the world, and there are many successful people that have a diagnosis of ADHD. In this article I will focus on how parents and teachers can help students with ADHD reach their full potential.

Parents

As a parent you can help your child not only meet the challenges of school but to flourish and reach their full learning potential. It is vital that you communicate your child’s diagnosis and needs to the school and classroom teacher so that you can work together to come up with an effective learning strategy.  At the start of the school year it is important to organise a case conference that includes the classroom teacher, Learning Support Coordinator and possible the School Psychologist or Counsellor. In this forum you can discuss your concerns, and the school can explain how they will support your child’s learning and development at school.2

Home Tips

  • Clear boundaries around behaviour- have clear rules and consequences written down and discuss with your child
  • Structure- morning routine, school routine, bed time routine, use timers
  • Create a visual reminder of routines and put on the wall of your child’s bedroom and bathroom
  • Organisation at home is important- colour coding textbooks and homework
  • Break down instructions- one at a time or into workable chunks
  • Check for understanding- get child to repeat instructions back to you
  • Limit screen time
  • Exercise- improves concentration and helps sleep
  • ‘Green’ time- research has shown that time in nature reduces symptoms associated with ADHD
  • Social skills- have conversations and role play different scenarios if your child is having difficulties socially
  • Nutrition- cut out processed foods and preservatives. Be aware of any foods affect your child’s behaviour
  • Look for good behaviour and provide positive reinforcement
  • Highlight key words in text books and homework sheets
  • Help your child break down assignments into achievable parts
  • Focus on your child’s strengths

Common challenges in the classroom

  • Trouble following instructions
  • Not writing homework in diary
  • Forgetting to do homework
  • Cannot complete work without direct instruction
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Talking in class
  • Daydreaming

How can schools and teachers help?

Effective Instruction

  • Make eye contact before speaking
  • Break down instruction
  • Check with student for understanding
  • Use visuals when possible e.g charts
  • Encourage students to seek clarification or for information to be repeated in a different way
  • Use a signal to refocus student
  • Check that the student has written homework in diary
  • Keep classroom noise to a minimum

Acommodations

  • Use peer assisted learning to increase interest and engagement
  • Seat near the front of the classroom
  • Build rest breaks into the lesson
  • Maintain structure in the classroom
  • Provide scaffolding and structure for all activities and assignments
  • Colour code materials and resources
  • Extra time in assessments
  • Rest breaks during assessments
  • Provide a printed hand out or electronic copy of notes in advance
  • Allow the use of a digital recorder
  • Allow student to use a computer
  • Allow student to play with a stress ball while working
  • Email parents details of assessments and when they are due

Self Esteem

  • Focus on their strengths
  • Acknowledge and look for good behaviour
  • Acknowledge their achievements with verbal praise and also merit certificates
  • Set achievable goals

Psychological Intervention and ADHD

Cognitive behavioural therapy can be very helpful for children and adults with ADHD as the focus is on exploring self-defeating thoughts and patterns of behaviour, teaching emotional regulation and developing self-esteem through identifying and building on the client’s strengths.  This style of therapy is also used to help parent’s better handle disruptive behaviours and develop techniques for coping with and improving their child’s behaviour.

One of the most common forms of therapy that is used at home and in the classroom is behavioural therapy. This therapy focuses on ways to deal with immediate issues with the aim being behaviour change. Children may be asked to monitor their actions and reward themselves for positive behavioural change such as thinking through consequences before acting. Examples of behavioural therapy in the classroom or at home are reward charts.

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