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7 Ways Teachers Can Support Students With ADHD

With the rising awareness on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, many young people are being diagnosed with ADHD early on. This is a promising contrast to the prior norm of neurodivergences falling under the radar: undiagnosed and untreated. Many adults later in life are now coming to terms with their ADHD diagnosis – thrilled to finally understand how and why their mind works the way it does, whilst perhaps feeling resentful that they “didn’t know this 20 years ago”. 


A representation of ADHD

Early ADHD diagnosis is clearly preferable; this allows students to learn how to handle their symptoms, whilst simultaneously giving them a sense of identity and belonging. There is nothing more isolating than feeling misunderstood – especially not even understanding your own brain!  


What Are the Symptoms of ADHD in Children? 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has many clues in the name: the main symptoms include hyperactivity and a short attention span. In the classroom, it is crucial that you look out for signs of ADHD in your students; is there a child who is easily distracted, and constantly fidgeting? Or perhaps a student who is particularly forgetful, or struggles with keeping quiet.


As teachers, you need to be hyper-vigilant for these signs, and ensure you don’t immediately dismiss them as bad behaviour. Beyond this, there are ways that you can actively support students with ADHD – whether suspected or officially diagnosed. What’s more, as a school, you may be able to arrange a specialist referral for your student, to help them on their diagnosis journey.

7 Ways to Support Students with ADHD

Consistency is Key 


Consistency helps neurodivergent students navigate through the overstimulation of the day-to-day. From consistent expectations to clear instructions and regular feedback, consistency and clarity in the classroom will make life much easier for both students and teachers. For example, you can provide students with a clear schedule to ease transitions between classes, and ensure that classroom rules and expectations are consistent and visible - students find visual reminders very helpful! Many students with ADHD find it particularly beneficial to repeat rules and instructions out loud. What’s more, they will be far more likely to thrive with frequent feedback. Consistently check in to see how they’re doing with their work, and try to give continuous feedback for behaviour – particularly praising positive progress. Prioritise Positive Reinforcement On this note, it is important that you prioritise positive reinforcement, and encourage students with praise. Many pupils with ADHD are greatly misunderstood in the classroom; behaviour that they cannot control is brandished as ‘acting out’ or ‘disruptive behaviour’. Therefore, praise for anything they get right is all the more valuable. We’d recommend giving immediate feedback, whether positive or negative – however, be selective about which negative behaviours you give consequences for.


Whilst it is important that all students receive consequences for disruptive behaviour, be mindful of the symptoms of ADHD, and how some actions may be beyond the child’s control. Pick your battles: minimal behaviours which don’t impact the rest of the class can be ignored, whilst more severe disruption must be confronted – and fast. You need to help students with ADHD identify and understand the behaviours which are unacceptable, and actively help them to navigate this. Again, anger and frustration won’t help the situation! Instead, opt for a calm, measured approach. 


Limit Distractions

 

One of the main symptoms of ADHD is difficulty paying attention for a sustained period – and, therefore, being easily distracted by your surroundings. Try to limit both visual and aural stimuli: from classroom clutter to background noise. For example, there are often endless distractions outside the window, so avoid seating students with ADHD by the window or door.


However, whilst some students find external stimuli distracting, having an object or toy to fidget with can provide sensory comfort, easing the difficulty of sitting still for long periods at school. Check out these examples of classroom-friendly fidgets for inspiration!


Young student with ADHD struggling with distractions

Allow Regular Breaks

 

Likewise, due to the struggle with sitting still and maintaining focus, you should allow pupils with ADHD regular breaks throughout the day. Every student is different: some may require several breaks in one lesson, whereas others may find it easier to sit for a prolonged period. Either way, there are many strategies you can employ to get students up and about! Whether you allow them more regular toilet breaks, or ask them to run errands for you – even handing out worksheets can help! – this will give them the opportunity to recalibrate and burn off that energy! Nurture Their Hyperfocus It is helpful to think of ADHD not as a disorder, but more so a different form of brain function. ADHD may cause students to be more easily distracted, but it also provides the gift of hyperfocus. This is the ability to intensely fixate on a task or activity that one finds particularly interesting.  Take some time to discover what particularly interests your students, and nurture their ability to hyperfocus by giving them extended tasks on the topic. However, it is also important to teach them to reign this in when necessary; whilst you allow them to hyperfocus on an activity, ensure there is a clear ‘finish time’. This will benefit them in the future, as they will utilize their hyperfocus without getting too immersed in the task, at the detriment of everything else! It’s a careful balance – but we know you can do it!

 

Be Patient 


As previously mentioned, when disciplining a student with ADHD – or any student for that matter - the last thing you should be doing is losing your temper. Try to be patient, even in the face of adversity; if a student with ADHD is acting out, it’s likely that their mind is in a chaotic, overstimulated place. You can counter this with your own calmness and kindness – we assure you, it will go a long way!


Happy student feeling fulfilled

Provide One-on-one Support


ADHD affects students at varying levels, and some pupils may benefit from classroom assistance. Whilst support staff members may not always be available, peer work is another effective way to inspire classroom collaboration. Encourage partner work – a ‘study buddy’, if you will! - for the benefit of all your students; this will enhance social skills and encourage teamwork in the classroom.


ADHD can feel extremely isolating, so the most important thing is to remind your students that they’re understood, supported, and certainly not alone.


 


Blog Post Crafted by Lizzie


Lizzie is one of our experienced English tutors. She is also an actress, singer and composer. After graduating from the University of Birmingham with a BA (Hons) degree in English Literature and Drama, she went on to teach secondary school English for a year, and has been tutoring alongside her other passions ever since!




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