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Teach and Reach Students With Attention Deficit Disorders

The Educator's Handbook and Resource Guide

An Outline


  • The educator is an essential member of an alliance which includes the ADD/ADHD child, parent, educator and health care professional. This team approach must be effective if the ADD/ADHD child is to realize his/her potential.

  • The classroom teacher's understanding and caring greatly enhances the child's chances for academic and emotional growth and the building of self-esteem.

  • All human beings have strengths and weaknesses. Everyone learns to compensate for weaknesses as a normal part of growth and development. ADD/ADHD deficits also can be modified; the student can be taught to compensate for many of his/her difficulties. The learning of new skills and compensatory behaviors takes many repetitions and is not related to the student's intelligence. Statistically ADD/ADHD children have normal or above-normal intelligence.

  • Feelings underlay our ability to function and learn. Recognize your feelings and those of your students. Anger, frustration and disappointment are normal emotions adults experience when trying to work with special needs children. Accepting the negative feelings of your students as well as your own can free you to move on, to redirect your efforts in other positive directions. Keep going for there will be opportunities for feelings of satisfaction, pride and triumph when you ADD/ADHD student finally "gets it."

  • These strategies are effective with all students and will facilitate the functioning of your classroom and enhance your effectiveness.


  • Seat the ADD/ADHD student near the teacher and other students who will not be a distraction.

  • Seat the ADD/ADHD student near classmates who are good role models.

  • Seat the ADD/ADHD student near quiet children.

  • Seat the ADD/ADHD student with his/her back to the door, windows or high traffic areas.

  • Team the ADD/ADHD student with one buddy whom he/she can ask for help.

  • Routine is very important.

  • Write the schedule on the chalkboard.

  • If possible discuss, in advance, changes in routine e.g. substitute teacher, field trip, special program, vacations.

  • The teacher and the classroom need to be well organized.

  • Establish a time and place for everything in the classroom.

  • ADD/ADHD students need structure, consistent limits and routine.

  • Rules, expectations and consequences for negative behavior should be explained clearly and posted where students can refer to them if necessary. Expectations should be stated as positive statements. Learning the "do's" facilitates the student's focusing on appropriate behavior. When told "do not", ADD/ADHD students have difficulty determining what they should be doing.


  • Do not give the ADD/ADHD students many choices; limit options.

  • Write assignments on the chalkboard as well as giving verbal instructions.

  • Give one instruction at a time clearly and simply.

  • Make eye contact.

  • Get close to the student's face when talking to minimize distractions.

  • Ask the student to repeat directions to be sure he/she understands what is expected.

  • State the purpose and/or goal of an assignment to help the student establish a focal point about the work. Providing brief information or an outline of the assignment also helps the student focus and organize his/her efforts.

  • ADD/ADHD students do not have a good sense of time; commonly they either take too long to complete a task or rush through making careless errors. Help pace the ADD/ADHD student's work. Make reference to the classroom clock or the child's watch to help him/her begin to develop a visual sense of time passing. Break down the assignment into more manageable, small part, and give the student an estimate of how long the assignment and parts should take to complete.

  • Tasks will seem more achievable.

  • The student can organize and concentrate with less distractions.

  • If the student rushes through tests and assignment, tell him/her to go back over his/her work and correct any mistakes he/she may have made.

  • Help the student keep his/her desk clear and uncluttered.

  • Allow time for periodic movement around the classroom or send the ADD/ADHD student on an errand to another part of the building.

  • Give positive feedback immediately and freely.

  • Give approval for appropriate classroom behavior.

  • Plan to give praise or positive reinforcement on a regular basis especially during the time of day or week when students traditionally have difficulty maintaining attention, staying on task and following classroom routines.

  • Do not use recess or lunch times to have ADD/ADHD students complete work. ADD/ADHD students especially need this time to move around and be physically active.

  • ADD/ADHD students have erratic memories. It takes them longer than others to adapt to routines and learn classroom rules. Even when routines, rules and directions appear to be learned, the ADD/ADHD student will have lapses of memory.

  • When the ADD/ADHD student becomes distracted or is having difficulty concentrating during a lesson, he/she will probably need some help from the teacher to refocus and become attentive.

  • Utilize nonverbal signals agreed to by you and the student in advance.

  • Say the student's name.

  • Gently touch the student's shoulder, head or arm.

  • While talking, point to the student's book or work to help the student focus.


  • Provide the ADD/ADHD student with a daily assignment sheet. Check at the end of the day to make sure the homework assignment is written correctly and necessary books and/or worksheets are taken home.

  • ADD/ADHD students generally learn best by using their three senses; visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Present learning material in different ways so that the student can utilize his/her strongest sensory input and reinforce with the weaker ones.

  • ADD/ADHD students often are overwhelmed by a full worksheet and have difficulty getting started and staying on task.

  • A worksheet can be divided into a more manageable parts with lines drawn between problems or paragraphs.

  • A worksheet can be folded to reveal only one portion at a time.

  • A portion of the worksheet can be covered by a blank piece of paper.

  • To provide immediate feedback, encouragement, and reinforce the steps necessary to complete work, the student can work a portion of the assignment, have it checked and make corrections before going on to the next portion. Placing a book or worksheet on top of a larger piece of colored paper can provided boundaries for the ADD/ADHD student's attention and provide the student with a point of focus.

  • Changing the format of instructional materials can greatly minimize the distraction and clarify and organize assignments. When materials are modified, the ADD/ADHD student is better able to focus and complete work in an organized, timely fashion.

  • Keep printed material well spaced.

  • Separate long columns of printing.

  • Use graph paper for math problems for students who have sequencing difficulties.

  • A blank piece of paper with a box cutout can be used over a worksheet or book to isolate a work or math problem.

  • If possible do not mix types of math problems on the same page. If problems are mixed on a page, the student can circle the similar math signs in the same color.

  • Lengthy written directions are better rewritten in brief, ordered steps. Diagrams or pictures can help clarify directions.

  • Color coding, highlighting or underlining helps the ADD/ADHD student focus attention on key parts of instructions and learning material.

  • When assigning work which requires a lot of reading, provide an outline or worksheet for the student to complete to focus the student on the important points of the assignment.


  • Many ADD/ADHD students have visual perceptual developmental delay and physiologically are not able to write fast, copy quickly, or write all symbols correctly. If the student is a slow writer and copying is difficult, provide notes and math problems.

  • Assignments should be within the ADD/ADHD student's capacity so he/she can experience the satisfaction of accomplishment. Modification of assignment should reflect the student's learning needs. As the student's proficiency increases, assignments can gradually be extended.

  • Help the student divide a project or report into manageable parts. Discuss the steps needed to complete each part as well as the importance of time management. For large projects have several deadlines so the student can hand in smaller parts of the project as they are completed. When possible show the student an example of a finished project or report so he/she can visual how it should look completed.

  • Help the student organize his school supplies.

  • Notebooks can be color-coded to text book covers.

  • One binder for all subjects or one for morning classes and one for afternoon classes can simplify organizing tasks. Pocket dividers for each class as well as a pencil case in each binder are essential.

  • Check notebook once a week to help the student maintain organization.

  • Tell the student when to clean out unnecessary papers.

  • Modification of oral presentations can affect student learning and performance.

  • Give a visual presentation in conjunction with an oral presentation.

  • Give the student an outline or completion worksheet to complete during an oral presentation.

  • If the student is not able to take down a full set of notes during an oral presentation, give him/her a complete set at the end of the lesson or class.

  • Modifying assignments often can enable an ADD/ADHD student to achieve skill mastery.

  • Adjust time requirements on tests and written work to meet the needs of the student.

  • Focus on the student's strongest sensory input. Consider your teaching goals when deciding the learning method to be used. For example some ADD/ADHD students perform better when doing an oral report rather than a written one. In addition, some students may have more success when making a project rather than doing any kind of report.

  • Consider the student's communication strengths and weaknesses when determine suitable testing methods. Testing results should reflect the student's knowledge of information of skills taught rather than be a reflection of his/her disability. Be prepared with alternate methods of testing e.g. oral rather than written test, un-timed test, read test to poor reader.


  • Maximize opportunities for the ADD/ADHD student to feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment; then give positive feedback.

  • Hand-drawn smiles, stickers, stars.

  • Written note.

  • Positive, verbal reinforcement.

  • Expect the student to be responsible.

  • Create situations for the student to be responsible. For example give the student a classroom responsibility.

  • Even when the student is not completely responsible respond in a supportive, encouraging way to reinforce effort and satisfaction in success.

  • ADD/ADHD children are concrete thinkers and have difficulty understanding the relationship between cause and effect. This plus their impulsivity contributes to their apparent lack of concern for the consequence of negative behavior.

  • Never embarrass or belittle a child for his/her negative behavior. Negative reinforcement doesn't work and can undermine the student's willingness to try to achieve appropriate behavior. Negative behavior often masks the ADD/ADHD student's fear of failure and low self-esteem.

  • Refocus the student toward positive behavior and activity.

  • Always expect the student to comply with your request and to follow directions.

  • Utilize a system of logical, natural consequences and positive reinforcement rather than a system of punishment.

  • When displaying student's work in the classroom, include the work of the ADD/ADHD student.

  • Capitalize on the student's strengths; maximize strengths to compensate for weaknesses.

  • Encourage the student to share a special interest or talent or to work with another student on a project or class presentation.

  • A special interest or talent can be used as a reward for a job well done.

  • Whenever possible assign choice classroom jobs to the ADD/ADHD student to reinforce appropriate behavior and confer higher social status on the student. Maintain an ongoing system of communication with parents to report difficulties as well as positive behavior and improvement. To facilitate the student's adjustment to school, implement, when possible, the same discipline and reward system as is used at home. Probably the parents have already determined what management techniques are the most successful with their child.


  • Do not label the ADD/ADHD student's behavior in a condemnatory way. If necessary, discuss privately the student's frustrating or angry behavior with an individual classmate.

  • Provide a neutral time-out area for the student to go to calm down and regain control.

  • Use these steps to respond to misbehavior in a positive way.

  • Ignore.

  • If negative behavior continues, interrupt the inappropriate behavior.

  • Restate the rule for appropriate behavior.

  • If the negative behavior continues, use time-out.

  • Resolve conflicts in a supportive, instructional way. Teach the ADD/ADHD student the steps for problem solving and resolving conflicts.

  • Help the student discriminate between unacceptable and acceptable behavior. Teach all the students to confront each other in a constructive way to reach settlement rather than to prolong the conflict.

  • Encourage classmates to include the ADD/ADHD student in activities.

  • When forming project groups, put the ADD/ADHD student with the most popular children as popularity tends to "rub off."

  • The following tactics are appropriate to intervene early in a sequence of difficult behavior.

  • Problem solving skills

  • Teach the student to stop, look and listen. Define the problem, suggest possible solutions and implement and evaluate the chosen solution.

  • Teach thinking and talking skills to incorporate into problem solving and build self-control.

  • Acceptance and redirection of feelings.

  • Encourage the student to express feelings in words.

  • Suggest acceptable outlets of feelings.

  • Help the student see the relationship between negative, upset feelings and inappropriate behavior.

  • Guidance: Give the student a boost or suggestion when he/she is stuck so he/she can resolve his/her own problem.

  • Signals: Nonverbal signs determined by the teacher and student can be used to cue the student that his/her behavior is becoming inappropriate.

  • Regrouping: When the student becomes too frustrated to cope with a task, transfer him/her to a less difficult activity where he/she can experience some success before going back to the original task.

Written by: Nancy L. Eisenberg, M.S.W.and Pamela H. Esser, M.Ed.

Published by: MultiGrowth Resources, 12345 Jones Road, Suite 101, Houston, Texas 77070

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