Beating ADHD in the Classroom


In previous posts we look at some of the things that can typically happen when ADD/ADHD ‘shows up’ in the classroom’. This raises the obvious question, how should educators react to all of this? Should we simply throw up our hands in despair and hope for the best? Should we immediately see to it that the ‘trouble makers’ are drugged into submission?
If you’ve paid close attention to the previous articles in this series you would know that neither of these extreme responses is necessary.
As a qualified professional in the area of education you would know that the best way to deal with the curveballs of life is to be well prepared with skillful, creative and well executed classroom interventions. This series is designed to help you to think how some of these interventions might look like in the case of children with ADD/ADHD. This will help you to be well prepared and ready to turn a potential crisis into an opportunity for learning and growth.


Before we discuss specific interventions it would be good to give some thought to your ADD/ADHD game plan. This is the general strategy into which you will slot your specific interventions. The importance of having such an overarching game plan cannot be overstated. Following a coherent strategy will keep you from merely being reactive (as you will see individual incidents in a wider perspective).
It will also ensure that the different interventions that you make use of will ‘pull together’ to improve the general classroom atmosphere and the ability of the individual child to learn. Here are some of the key elements of an ADD/ADHD in the classroom game plan:


1. Understand what you are dealing with: As an educator you will already be utterly convinced of the power of education to change lives. It should therefore come as no surprise to you that the first and strongest pillar of an ADD/ADHD game plan is to educate yourself thoroughly about the condition: What it is, how it impacts children, how it can be addressed etc. Being armed with this knowledge will prove to be of immense value when you actually ‘get down to business’.


2. Eliminate alternative explanations: One of the most important truths about managing a classroom is that you should never ever jump to conclusions. This rule is perhaps doubly relevant when it comes to suspected ADD/ADHD. Simply assuming that ADD/ADHD is the cause behind every single disturbance in the classroom (and acting accordingly) can be very dangerous and have long lasting negative consequences (especially since other serious causes e.g. mental illness, deteriorating eyesight, relationship problems etc. can be missed in the process).


3. Get parents on board: One of the key aspects of any game plan is to get a team to work, think and play together. Your ADD/ADHD classroom interventions will be so much more successful if you can apply this principle in your interactions with the child(ren) involved. Letting parents know what you are doing (and why!) will greatly facilitate the feeling that you are willing to work with them towards the ultimate common goal – Achieving the best interest of the child. Communication should not only be ‘one way’ however. Make sure that you really listen to parents. Ask them lots of questions. Get to the point where you can see their kids through their eyes. This will open up insights that can translate into magic in the classroom. Interacting with parents on this level might be time consuming and even emotionally draining but the payoff will almost certainly make it worth your while.


4. Do not try to go it alone: Many teachers subconsciously think of themselves as ‘Lone Rangers’. Heroically solving every problem through their own wit and ingenuity. This might seem like a worthy ideal but it is no way to run a classroom, especially if you are dealing with the effects of ADD/ADHD. The only result will be tired, bewildered and ‘frayed at the edges’ teachers! Make sure that you surround yourself with people who can support you on a variety of levels ranging from emotional (we all need a shoulder to cry on sometimes!), professional (perhaps an experienced older teacher who has been ‘around the block’ with ADD/ADHD kids a few times) and ‘informational’ (someone who understands the condition and are able to offer expert advice). Having a ‘panel’ like this in place will not only boost your confidence, it will also banish the idea that you have to face the challenges alone.


The items listed above are not ‘rocket science’, nor would implementing any of them be particularly difficult. I suppose that it all comes down to a conscious decision to handle the fallout from ADD/ADHD as professionally and compassionately as possible and then resolving to act on this decision through making some concrete decisions. May you find all the strength you need as you do this! (Please check back for the next article where we will continue to discuss the idea of an ADD/ADHD game plan).