Classroom Tips for Your ADD Child
by Katherine West
I think that our schools are still operating way back in the dark ages. Why do we do research and find out new psychological data and information to help ADD and ADHD children, yet the teachers and school administrators just stubbornly ignore the statistics, plodding on with business as usual?
I do not see the sense in ignoring the statistics and research, hurting our children with their laziness to change. Yes, I know that schools are institutions and that they are very slow to change, but we, as parents need to nudge our schools along!
I feel very passionately about this subject. You are probably asking yourself, “I wonder how this little Miss Know-it-all would change things?” Since I have a thirteen-year-old daughter that is from moderate to severely ADHD, I have learned many of these tips the hard way.
Yes, we have tried Ritalin. We did the Adderal, which is the newest drug for ADD. They all worked moderately well, until she had a growth spurt. Now she is not on any medication. Our family has had the unique opportunity of have walking on both sides of this issue.
My daughter has been without any drug treatment now for three years. It can be done! It takes patient teachers, with which we have had many struggles. Being drug-free also takes a parent who is willing to be the proverbial squeaky wheel.
What is ADD or ADHD?
ADD or ADHD means Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Some children are only ADD, displaying symptoms of daydreaming, impulsivity, inability to concentrate, problems with staying on task, problems with written expression, impaired social skills, emotional immaturity, and many other factors that can make learning difficult.
Other children are ADHD, which means that they not have many of the above symptoms, but they also exhibit symptoms of increased energy and a need to be in constant motion. There is a common myth among teachers and others that non-compliant behavior is notable in these children. Non-compliant or disobedient behavior is not ADD or ADHD behavior.
How many kids are ADD or ADHD?
Various statistics show that between 1.5% and 10% of children are afflicted with at least one of these diagnoses. Strangely though, several different states within the United States site much higher rates. The public school records indicate that the percentage of students on drug treatment for one or both of these disorders is between 20% and 30%. This is both puzzling and scary! Does this mean that there could be environmental factors? Does this mean that some kids are being medicated without proper diagnosis? There are not conclusive answers for this as of yet.
What can you do to help your ADD or ADHD child?
We finally decided to use interventions. The teachers were not so willing to try this approach. They needed some persuasion. I became her school’s worst nightmare. I demanded change! Most people do not like to rock the boat. Most parents want to be that well-liked parent. I think my daughter’s education is more important. I have never worried about being popular. The list of tips is near the end of this article.
What changes could help our current education system?
Ok, so how would I change things? Well, I would start by changing the way that first-graders are introduced to elementary school. I believe that there should be much more free-roaming and creative play throughout transition from kindergarten to first-grade.
I equate the first grade in our current education system to a sort of ‘kiddy boot camp’. I want to thank Professor Welch, my sociology teacher, for that witty analogy. When I went to kindergarten and first grade in the early seventies- yes, I am that old- it was playtime! We were enamoured with the education system, for it was fun.
The second thing I would change in early primary education is the stifling manner in which children are told to sit down, hush up, and do it the teacher’s way. By encumbering creativity and originality, the current education system is not the best learning environment for our children. What is taught above all? Do it my way! Follow directions! Conform! This is a very dangerous way to treat our children. We stop their creativity when we do this. We tell them that their unique approach isn’t worthy of praise, so they will lose their creativity.
Later in elementary school, I believe there is much that can be done to enrich all children’s learning experiences. We also have a long way to go until we can get an optimum environment for both right-brained and left-brained children. I feel that there is a need for interventions and modifications for ADD and ADHD students, as well as students with other learning disabilities.
How do we help those ADD or ADHD students that get average or above average grades?
Since this is where my daughter falls, I am concerned with the mainstreamed ADD and ADHD children that are capable of average or above average grades. There currently is not a program to help them succeed in a regular classroom setting. Sadly, these bright kids get lost in the shuffle.
Many times these children are gifted, but there currently is no good test to recognize this gift. Due to the nervous energy and inability to concentrate or even to stay on task, these children are done a disservice by current IQ tests.
Who can help me get special intervention for my ADD or ADHD child?
While there is adequate help for the severely learning disabled, the average ADD or ADHD child is cast out upon the open tide that we call the education system and left to drift aimlessly. The only help for these kids is a teacher willing to intervene with a creative approach.
Sadly, there are not enough of these teachers out there. You, as a parent, can try urging the school to do some of these things, or you could try contacting the special needs psychologist for help with setting up an educational plan for your child. Many times they will meet with you and the teacher, and urge the school to cooperate for the child’s benefit. These special need psychologists are your best allies!
Here are some easily implemented interventions that could help your child. If you are a teacher, these techniques could do wonders for your special needs students.
A Few Tips:
1. Use Highlighters (many ADD children are very right-brained and visual)
2. Allow movement in the classroom (If there is movement, the kinesthetic learner will thrive)
3. Send the ADD child on errands. (This not only makes the child feel important, boosting self-esteem, but also gives the child many more opportunities for movement.)
4. Interact physically with the child. (A touch on the arm or head can keep his or her attention on task.)
5. Foster a good relationship with the ADD child. (This will make the child try harder.)
6. Refrain from embarrassing the child or disciplining the child in front of his or her peers. (Since the ADD child struggles with peer relationships this is crucial. This will distance the child from you, and increase the teasing that the child must endure)
7. Encourage the child and the child’s parents to involve the ADD student in many sports and other activities. Usually, the ADD child thrives in a busy environment.
8. Never discipline ADD behavior, but offer those students ways of coping with their impulsive urges.
9. Always discipline non-compliant behavior! This is when the child willfully disobeys rules and limits. (Using positive reinforcement helps, but punishment on the basis of consequences is also effective.)
10. Never punish by withholding sports or other school-related activities. The ADD child NEEDS to stay active. A better punishment option is the restriction of TV viewing or computer time. Extra chores are another good discipline tool.
A simple thing such as a highlighter can make a world of difference in a child’s success in the classroom. Something as nondescript as a touch on the arm from a teacher can be the motivation for an inattentive student to stay on task. The best advice to any parent or teacher is to be creative! Try new things. Never get so complacent that you think you know it all.
I hope these tips and tricks help you educate your ADD or ADHD child. These are just a few of the things that help. In later articles, I will mention countless more helpful techniques for both teachers and parents.
* Before using this information or any other you should first check with your child’s doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist.