There is much that can be done within the classroom
to help children who have symptoms commonly associated with ADHD
and related special needs.
Photo: Microsoft, cannot be reproduced.
These are some ideas:
1. Work with the student on a personal level.
Children need personal attention at home and many need personal attention in school. This takes time and effort from teachers, parents
, and mentors
. It also takes effort to find suitable after school programs, which are of value for many children. Citizen schools is one after school program in Newark, which gives children help with their homework, and helps them to develop their abilities. Other after school programs help young people to get meaningful vocational experience and to develop practical skills that can be useful in the workplace, as well as aiding in building the self-esteem of young people
Paraprofessionals in the classroom, assigned to work one on one with children, can do much to help a child to focus. (Especially is this so if part of the reason for a child's inability to concentrate is due to problems in the family, or lack of structure at home). A personal assistant can raise the quality of education for individual students who might otherwise struggle. In terms of cost-effectiveness, in the long-run, providing personal assistants to students with attentional difficulties, is probably more cost effective than pursuing pharmaceutical treatments
and can accomplish more.
2. Clarity and structure
in the teaching environment are helpful.
Breaking down large tasks into a number of smaller tasks is of much value in teaching children with special needs.
"This can be very helpful when dealing with students who frustrate easily when presented with a complicated task. Meeting success in the subsequent tasks or hierarchy of smaller tasks can be encouraging and motivating for ADHD students
because they experience continued success in the sequence of smaller, progressive steps leading to the objective or stated goal."
see: http://maxweber.hunter.cuny.edu, special education resource.
3. The cut and dry, reading, writing and arithmetic may not work for many students.
Creative, engaging, interactive teaching strategies that keep students involved and interacting with their peers and keep them interested are vital. There are many distractions competing for a children's attention. In Vailsburg Middle School in Newark, there were weekly planned educational activities which broke up the monotony of the school week, fully engaging a large number of students, and effectively taught lessons that were part of the curriculum.
Examples were an outdoor entrepreneurship day, where students ran small businesses, selling products, food stands, or services. For social studies and geography, students designed presentations of a foreign country, Japan, India, France, China, Brazil, etc., and became experts in the country they were assigned. Two (non-Asian) girls representing India dressed in saris for their presentation. There were around 30 different countries represented, and the remaining students were assigned to visit each table and gather information from the "experts," on 20 different countries. These planned activities weekly helped all to be excited about learning.
4. Communication between school and the family
Parents can keep open lines of communication with teachers, speaking regularly by phone as to the progress of their child, and to see what can be done to help. Teachers who visit, in the beginning of the school year, the homes of the children and meet with the parents, or who have periodic meetings with parents, keeping communication open, are in a position to help children make real progress during the year.
5. Positive reinforcement
Legitimate praise, small privileges, jobs in class are helpful and help to build self-esteem in a child. A reward system gives positive reinforcement. At awards ceremonies, thoughtful teachers give awards to struggling students, most improved, best spirit, and best effort. All of this gives positive reinforcement and encouragement for students who might otherwise easily be left behind or have a poor self-image, even if their grades aren't the best.
6. Work on improving one's own teaching style.
Nurturing, patient teachers who are a source of love to children are not rare and are a blessing to children. Compassionately listening to children and youths is of value in their psychological development, helping them to form trusting relationships. Screaming, berating, name-calling, accomplishes nothing, doesn't motivate, and is a temporary stop-gap, which, we often learn is ineffective, doing more to alienate than motivate.
7. Encourage children and teens to keep a journal
For a child with behavioral problems, or who might be feeling overwhelmed, writing regularly in their own journal can be of value in helping to unburden feelings. This is especially true of children who have experience abuse. Many classes in the younger grades have journal time first thing in the morning. If that journal writing could include a few sentences about what happened yesterday, or about a child's feelings, any conflicts or, contrastingly, anything positive that they can write about, things to be thankful for, it can help a child to open up, to unburden themselves or to count their blessings.
One child wrote in first grade, something to the effect of, "I feel sad today and every day." Later he talked about why he felt that way. Journal writing as a teen or adult helps one to organize one's thoughts, is a helpful memory aid, is therapeutic, and can be beneficial in many ways for professionals
, teachers, or persons in the business world. It helps one to arrange and tidy up one's mind, and is a good coping tool.
8. Color and Pictures: This generation of children, is very visually oriented
It has been noted that color helps students with ADHD
to concentrate on their work. Textbooks with pictures and assignments with color are a help for concentration. Clear, personalized instructions, examples, reinforcement and preferably, illustrations and pictures will help him or her keep glued to the assignment.
Picture prompts are an effective assignment for most children and youths. Filling the classroom with color, pictures and charts on the wall, art work of students and posters makes a difference and adds warmth to an old classroom.
Many children with ADHD children are highly visual. Art in the special education classroom gives the children quiet, focused time, it rests their minds and gives the teacher's mind a rest also. A suggestion has been made by educators to incorporate art projects in classroom assignments in other subjects. The visualization and hands-on work, in otherwise dry subjects, is an effective memory aid, and engages students.
Emphasis on art projects is a positive contribution to a special education programs. Developing murals or mini-murals in school have been used both for their aesthetic value, as well as for their educational value. This is effective from preschool on into high school. A picture is worth a thousand words and pictures are long remembered after the words are forgotten.
One recent mural in a high school in Newark was so wonderfully created by students, a multi-colored world map, for the students who designed it, better than any geography lesson could ever be. The design was traced from the image produced by a projector shining the image on the stairwell wall. As one walks up the stairs everyday, there is a beautiful color image of the world to fill your eyes with the non-verbal idea of unity and cultural diversity. (East Side High School, Newark).
9. Relaxing music
It has also been encouraged in the classroom to feature relaxing music
, light classical, mood music, peaceful music. Bach, Debussy, Mozart, Chopin, etc. or other quiet mood or cultural music, helps keep a calm atmosphere in the classroom and in the classroom halls! It helps to expose children to other types of music that can become part of their lives, more gentle that much of the music today. The same is often true in preschools where relaxing music
is played at nap time.
Children who are educated in forms of music other than what they are accustomed to, predominantly hip-hop and rap in the inner cities, alternative rock, heavy metal in other places, will have a lifelong advantage and a more diversified and rich musical background. This can positively affect the mental health of a child and adult. Children gravitate to certain types of music, (which some adults might not enjoy or understand), often times, because that is all they know.
Expanding one's interest, and education a child's and teen's
interest in different forms of music is positive both educationally and psychologically, as well as for the immediate benefits in the classroom atmosphere.
In East Side High School in Newark, NJ, the principal, who had been hired, in part, to restore order to a school that was slightly out of control, doesn't allow ipods in class (or the hallways), and also plays light classical music over the intercom in the mornings, Mozart and similar themes. It helps to create a calm atmosphere in the school and the firmness in the way of ipods helps teachers to clearly know the limits of the students. Some young people
(in East Side High) have stated that they listen to music (on the ipod and in other contexts) eight hours daily.
Certainly this does effect the mind, but also, it can interfere with the learning process and intellectual assimilation of knowledge. Restricting ipod use and encouraging teachers to enforce this school policy, can help youths and children to have both a balanced view towards music, and to be undistracted in terms of their education.
In school which are failing academically and below standard, restricting ipod use, TV and movie time in school, using educational videos rather than entertainment videos with no educational (or even redeeming) value, and cartoons, (often used in many grade schools, and even some high school classes as time fillers and baby-sitters), can help to improve both the quality of education, as well as the chances of a child and young person's academic success. (Many movies used in public schools as time-fillers often times, teach lessons very much the opposite of the goals of character education, they might be termed "anti-character education" tools.
Additionally, restricting use of entertainment films and cartoons in the classroom and school can help to reinforce something that is taught, an attitude that many Asian students adopt, but that is increasingly less common in the United States, a hardworking, positive ethic towards one's education. Using television and entertainment movies regularly in school teach a lazy work ethic, which leads to underachievement rather than excellence.
10. Children need homework
Homework is a worthwhile, mentally strengthening activity for children after school. Parents need to keep on top of their children's homework assignments. Check with the teacher if children are keeping pace with their homework.
11. Block out distractions
Blocking out distractions in the classroom helps students to concentrate. Give attention to the seating arrangements. Continue fine-tuning the seating chart throughout the year. This can be especially helpful in certain special education settings. In one special education class in Paterson, with some very difficult young men, the desks were spaced four feet away, some of the boys had partitions or "privacy boards" put up around their desks to block out distractions. It worked well, it was some of the roughest group of boys and one of the most productive classrooms. There was also an attentive classroom assistant in this class.
One special education school in Boston, Massachusetts deals almost exclusively with children who have ADHD and has had success in helping them without the use of medication. A school environment that allows children to have more freedom to control the way they use their time during the school day was part of the key for success. In another setting, one school uses exercise and innovative alternative strategies to help children succeed without medication
. (Szabo, 2006). Educational strategies and adjustments within the school and classroom can help children to improve their powers of concentration and success ratio.
12. Classroom Buddies
Joshua was in 7th grade in a Newark grade school, and seemed to be a little out of touch during class. While all of the children worked on an art project, he drew fantasy pictures of dragons and cartoons. He seemed to be withdrawn into his own world, and was very sensitive. "'Don't worry,' said Monique, he is like that a lot." Monique, a fellow classmate, described how she paints with oil and how her father sells her paintings in front of their house with a cheap frame, like a little flea market. She writes poetry and wants to "be a poet" when she gets older. But the nice thing was her altruistic spirit in helping Josh. She paired up with him, even though he was having a hard time, and helped him through the class. It gave him practical support for the school work and provided emotional support as well. (Newark, NJ, 2006).
A couple of sources on ADHD have given the suggestion of "classmate buddies," pairing up children who are having a difficult time concentrating with another child who can help him or her as a team. It helps the child with attentional problems to accomplish his school work, but also, it provides emotional support, it provides a friend, and it gives the child who might be more well adjusted an opportunity to give and help someone else, which is a valuable lesson to learn in life and can even influence positively the work choices he or she might make in future.
One school system in the Oranges, NJ, similarly has dance classes for special education students of all types. They have a buddy system there a whereby a special education student is paired up with a student from a regular class. This enables the students to enjoy the experience of helping a child who is in need, and it gives the special education student the help and support he needs, from a peer, which is of great value. (Newark Star Ledger, 2007).
(Some of the points in the preceding list are adapted from, or also mentioned in Sandra Rief's, book: How to Reach and Teach ADHD/ADHD Children, 1993. Sandra Rief is a special education teacher for many years and her book has many practical ideas that can be implemented in the classroom for children with special needs.)
* Field Trips
* Making Films
* Picture scrapbooks
* Building and Drawing Things
* Making Collections
* Interviewing People
* Acting Things Out
Giving short speeches or presentations:
One special education class features a daily news presentation by each student in the class.
Long Term Projects
such as decorating halls with painted murals or hanging up collages to hang up on the walls.
Painting permanent wall murals.
One such high school took two years to complete a seascape painted wall mural in Newark. Stunning! (East Side High School, Newark, NJ).
Giving Children classroom assignments:
Check homework, clean up, attendance, office helper.
Drawing and writing small picture books on different subjects:
Drawing (and coloring) solar system, animals, endangered species, small history books.
Visualization---Teaching children portraits:
* Drawing people's faces: have children buddy up, study their partner's face and draw a portrait for one period, add color, and put the name of the person whose face is drawn on the picture, and the signature of the artist. Hang up the portraits in the class.
* Self portraits from imagination, from mirror-good homework assignment.
* Portraits from the imagination of the child of best friend, mother, sister.
* Portraits as homework assignments, of siblings.
* Portraits of animals or pets.
* Portraits can be worked into science, math, history and social studies. A portrait of Einstein, Newton, other famous mathematicians. This can be done in the hallway outside the classroom as well.
The information then is much more likely to "stick" with him, as he has a mental image to attach to what might be somewhat dry academics.
Best Children's Books
list with over 200 positive books for children and teens - for Parents, the Classroom and School or Public Libraries
Pages Related to ADHD and the Classroom
ADHD and Preschool
Children and the Media
See also: Marijuana and School
Children and Breakfast
Children's Mental Health
- Sharna Olfman
ADHD Drug Treatment
Effects, Side Effects
ADHD and Facial
- Peer Rejection, Social Relationships and ADHD
Methylphenidate (Ritalin) and Hostility
Art for ADHD
- Art helps many with ADHD
Radio Broadcast - Wellness Dialogues - Alternative approaches to ADHD Treatment ("Follow" to play)
Best ADHD books