ADD/ADHD in the Classroom: Intervention #1 – Move it! (Part 3)

You are, by now, probably convinced of the fact that some form of accommodation of the desire to move around is one of the key elements of an ADD/ADHD friendly education. Many kids with ADD/ADHD crave opportunities to move and incorporating this desire into your teaching methods in creative and non-disruptive ways can greatly enhance your chances of making sure that they progress educationally. Here are some more suggestions for making movement an integral part of your teaching:
Schedule regular ‘stand up’ breaks: Most of us think of breaks in teaching in terms of the scheduled breaks (recess, lunch etc.) that rolls around every few hours or so. There is no doubt that these breaks have their place in the teaching day as an opportunity to recharge batteries (and bodies!) to be ready for another round of learning. However, relying only on them and rushing through the rest of the day without ample opportunity for ‘mini-breaks’ because you ‘have a lot to get through’ is a recipe for disaster. You may think that your students are able to get through hours and hours of soaking in new information but study after study has shown that attention and recall trails of dramatically if students are pushed too hard. It is, therefore, imperative that you interrupt your teaching every now and then (every 20 minutes or so seems ideal) to give students the chance to stretch their legs for a moment or so. This is especially important in cases where students are required to spend the best part of the day in a single classroom. You may think that taking this approach will only lead to chaos but you might be surprised how quickly your kids will adapt to this new rhythm – This might even be attributed to sheer thankfulness on their part.

Allow individual ADD/ADHD kids to move more:
If you have an ADD/ADHD kid in your classroom that are especially prone to hyperactivity you may want to consider some creative ways in which he/she can be allowed to move a bit more. You are the best judge of what would work in your circumstances. It might be that you can regularly ask him/her to do small tasks (i.e. collecting completed work sheets from other students) or send him/her on errands. If the hyperactivity is especially severe you may have to explain the situation to the rest of the class after which you can allow this student more freedom of movement, even while you are teaching. This is obviously an intervention that should be handled with a great deal of sensitivity and I would therefore recommend that you consult the child’s parents before resorting to it.

Encourage extra-curricular sports:
Our culture is becoming ever more sedentary. This is true even of the lives of school aged kids. Most of them will be much less mobile than kids of previous generations. This lack of movement, due to being driven to school and also spending the majority of free time indoors in front of the television or games console, can lead to some very negative health outcomes. This is especially true in cases where students are coping with hyperactivity. You should therefore do everything in your power to encourage them to ‘get out more’. Part of doing this is to ensure that the promotion of sport and exercise is an integral part of your teaching.

Investigate some radical options:
This is perhaps not a suggestion that will work in all circumstances, especially as it is guaranteed to lead to some confusion and resistance, but there are some schools in which a ‘sitting optional’ policy has lead to some positive results. This means, as the term indicates, that students are free to adopt any body posture as long as it is clear that they are paying attention. This freedom means that students can stand up and perhaps even move around while still participating in the lesson. It is clear why this option would be attractive to those who are affected by ADD/ADHD. What is less clear perhaps is what the impact on students who are not hyperactive would be. Critics of this approach also argue that sitting still is an important life skill and that it would be impossible to progress in many careers and professions without having mastered it. I would, in light of this, encourage you to read up on the latest research before embarking on this course. It will also be necessary to provide thorough explanations to all stakeholders on what you intend to do and why. It should, lastly, also go without saying that you will have to have superior classroom management skills if you even want to consider going down this route.
It is my sincere hope that you have picked up at least some useful tips for dealing with hyperactivity through reading the last few articles in this series. Next week we will begin to look at ‘reduction’ (as opposed to accommodation) as a means of dealing with this issue. See you then!