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Recommendations for teachers

Given the frequency of ADHD, teachers should be familiar with the type of problems that these children cause in the classroom so they’ll know how to identify them and implement the necessary mechanisms to help them.

The typical litany accompanying the judgment parents and teachers make about these children include comments like:

"He arrives late, has difficulty making plans, it seems like he doesn’t listen, he’s got his head in the clouds, he can not focus, he jumps from task to task, he does things halfway, he does not finish his work, he makes mistakes by not paying attention in details, he forgets about the instructions, he is easily distracted, he is disorganized, he avoids tasks requiring mental effort, They can’t always find what they want, he breaks things, he loses things, he is restless, he is moving all the time, he gets bored easily, he does not stay seated for a long time, he has difficulty having fun in silence, he often hums, he disrupts the class, he often speaks and acts without thinking, he sees the consequences of his actions when it is too late, he is irritable, he needs constant supervision. He argues and back talks, he responds impulsively, he gets frustrated easily, he does not know how to lose, he always wants to win, he fights about anything, he does not know how to wait his turn, he is sometimes rejected by his peers, he expects immediate satisfaction to his demands, he has little tolerance for frustration, he is often on the defensive. "

Many teachers also see the low self esteem of these children, caused by constant failure, anxiety, behavior problems and problems with social maladjustment.

BUT IT ISN’T ALL BAD: children with ADHD can be very spontaneous, more fun than other children, very loving, optimistic, intelligent, curious, honest (say what they think), very imaginative and creative collaborators, ambitious, passionate, adventurous , sensitive, outgoing, intuitive, persistent and a number of positive adjectives. They have a lot of energy, great memory, even though they don’t remember where they left their textbooks, they can forgive easily, can do many things at the same time, they can create order from chaos, they may think of silly solutions to solve problems, they are always willing to help and make new friends, they get along well with adults, they like risk, they try new things, and they are not conformists.

What to do

In principle it may seem an too much of a task for many teachers to make adjustments for children with ADHD, with the number of children they have to pay attention to in class. However, in most cases of ADHD (not very serious, and without other associated pathology), small changes in the way of being with them in class, in how to teach them and how to make sure they finish their work, and some adjustments when assessing their work, can be very profitable for both the child and the teacher. The child will feel better, more understood, more motivated, more competent, and will produce more in line with their abilities. For the teacher, there will be more quiet in the classroom, will have fewer interruptions, will not have to walk around as often correcting inappropriate behavior, and will feel more satisfied as a teacher by being able to improve the learning of this group of students. Often it requires less effort to take measures to prevent having to deal with a child with ADHD than not adequately addressing the issue.

These children are the perfect example of the fact that, while not having a disability, they so need differential measures in teaching methodology in order to learn appropriately. In educational terms, they depart from the norm, the same system that can be effective for the majority of children is not appropriate for these children. The education system must have the flexibility and creativity required of it in order to take on the education of these children in a standardized environment.

Just as they test the educational capacity of parents, children with ADHD test the ability of the education system to absorb their difficulties without doing more damage. Plans to work together in schools, disciplinary rules, the unification of criteria among teachers when it comes to responding to the children’s problems, programs that allow them to learn the methodology and not only the academic content are essential to accommodate these children without stigmatizing them or taking them out of the normal educational environment.

Teachers cannot be responsible for diagnosing these children, nor stating their level of alteration, the presence of added complications, etc. It is not within their realm or the goal of their studies. But they should be able to not only explain their material but also to know the abilities and difficulties their students have with learning. They must be able to identify the kind of intelligence the child has and know if this poses an issue for the acquiring the information that the child has to learn at every stage of education. Identify children who may have a problem with ADHD or children in general that are unable to adapt to the standard educational system, if they are able. They must be able to detect which children are unable to pay attention long enough to learn what is taught. They must know if the children cannot complete tasks in an organized fashion or if the children are unable to retain information in an appropriate manner. Or they must know if the children cannot seem to change their behavior given the results, or if they think strangely or childishly or if they are not able to complete the work they should be able to do for a child their age.

The identification of children with learning problems within the existing system in a class should result in:

  • Making the necessary changes in the classroom, according to the difficulties found for the children
  • In-depth knowledge of the child, more than their difficulties, trying to access their skills, to empower them within the school environment
  • Share the problems encountered with other educational team members, to provide a uniform response from the school
  • Refer the child for evaluation, if deemed necessary by the psycho-pedagogical teams, basically if the usual measures that can be put into place within the classroom are not sufficient enough to improve the adaptation and performance of the child.
  • Determine, in an individualized way, if the child needs special support, and what kind of support. Do not attempt to adjust the child assistance available, but adjust the aid to the child's needs.
  • Determine whether, despite all the ordinary steps that can be taken with regular educational staff, the child still has difficulties and may require more targeted help. The school should request this.

Where to go

The teacher is in a unique position to detect problems of ADHD children since they manifest themselves very clearly in school life. Therefore, in addition to an educational response, the teacher, or school, parents should be involved and aware of their child’s issues and take appropriate measures to manage them. This involves seeking necessary medical assistance and getting information and tools to help them in their educational work in the family environment. Parents often receive the information that their children has problems or characteristics that hinder their learning in a more calm fashion when this information comes from the school, than when a doctor or psychologist tells them for the first time.

When that information comes from the school first it avoids the stigma that many parents feel when they talk about a mental disorder in their child. It also increases the parents’ confidence that the school is attentive to the problems of the children, and not that they came to an erroneous conclusion regarding the educational capacity of the parents without considering the situation properly.

In conclusion, teachers are the right people for:

  • Identifying possible cases of ADHD
  • Implementing the routine management of these children in class
  • Referring children for evaluation by a psycho-pedagogical team at the school or nearby
  • Informing parents of the detection of a potential problem and where to get specific help: classes for parents, a pediatrician and Mental Health Center in the area.
  • Coordinating with the parents for all steps necessary to improve the performance of the child, their methodology of learning and their motivation to study

Strategies in the classroom

The first thing to remember and take into account about children with ADHD: there is a big difference between they don’t want to and they can’t.

There must be a positive relationship between the student and the teacher. That is the only way to have improvement in academic and social development. Not having the willingness to do this automatically generating a vicious circle with continuous punishments, lack of motivation, misunderstanding, etc.

They need more than any other child with positive encouragement, praise and encouragement.

They play with objects, they move around, etc. Better to walk by him, take away what he is playing with, with a smile or touch his hand so he’ll stop, than to signal again and ridicule him in the front of his classmates. A better gesture is one where the whole class is not aware. Embarrassing the child or making an example of him in front of the class will make him only feel resentment and hostility, because these children tend to react badly when they are criticized.

Answers to their work like: "Good, but you can do better ' is not suitable for a child with ADHD. They seek and expect praise because they have struggled in this task and this kind of answer even though it starts with a positive adverb it ends in a disqualification. What the child stays with is that the teacher who has not liked his work. Better to say the same with only positive phrases like: “Good, if you keep it up you’ll make it.

It is somewhat difficult for them to pay attention to two stimuli at once, such as: following what the teacher says and taking notes at once. Especially avoid dictating exam questions.

They forget or lose things needed for school assignments, such as his notebook where he was doing his homework. Try to avoid reprimanding him/her in public. They prefer to be told things alone. Also do not make references to their ADHD condition. It is possible that he/she doesn’t want it known and for them to laugh at him/her.

Let them participate in class, especially when they raise their hand. For them it is more important than for others that someone pays attention to them. When they raise their hand they only want you to know they’ve been working or that they studied. They like to be recognized. Do not forget to reinforce the child's behavior because he/she is behaving like they should, and to behave appropriately they are making more of an effort.

Make them like their classes

Sit them in the first row near the teacher's desk, or anywhere where you are most of the time. It's also good to have another student that acts appropriately as a reference stay in their visual field. That way they can see what book or exercise they should take out all the time and if they need to write something down in their agenda, etc.

Put them with peers who are good students and who can help them complete their work and have it on time and can have complete notes if they haven’t been able to write them all down.

Show interest when they are working right at their desk. Pass by them, watch them and encourage them to continue working.

Use traditional individual desks facing the teacher and not desks with several children, in rows, etc.

Allowing some freedom of movement, activities directing specific posture changes, or with small tasks or responsibilities, provides an adaptive discharge of physical movement and other more disruptive ones: i.e. ask them to go get material, to erase the blackboard, etc.

To help facilitate transitions mark the beginning and end of each activity based on routines associated with those changes, such as a music, a bell or a visual signal.

Plan subjects that need more concentration for the early hours of the morning, when their attention span is better and alternate easy and difficult subjects

Rather than changes in the classroom, teachers are asked for seconds in each of their subjects, the time required to supervise, repeat, recall, prevent, encourage, motivate, reward, approve, empower, and primarily:

"Look into his/her eyes, and stimulate"

Any child that is motivated wants to learn, and this is the case for all children, whether or not he or she has ADD.


Is useless to send a lot of homework home for them to do. Hyperactive children should not have more work load than others at home. Furthermore, it takes them longer to do the same work.

They need to learn and use study techniques that place emphasize more on the concepts. They usually do have difficulty in understanding these.

Provide and teach them to use organizational skills until it is automatic: classification folders, calendars, agendas, visual reminders, lists, etc. In general, use structured materials and programmed learning

Respect their time out of school as a time for other activities, whether directly educational in the form of learning other subjects not covered in the academic curriculum, for leisure activities, family events, etc. This would require planning from the school for the tasks that will be asked of children outside of school with some advanced notice, so that families can organize their homework time at home combined with their daily life.

Insist on home-school coordination

Specify problems as much as possible, making them physical, material, rather than abstract

Divide tasks into small steps

To alleviate problems with time management, using time references such as clocks, calendars, etc.., helps a lot

Material, immediate aids are very useful

The appropriate school for hyperactive children

There is not only one type of school for hyperactive children, but there are certain characteristics schools should have if they want to teach hyperactive children.

It should be a normal school, and superb in their ability to:

  • Understand the diversity of students in their ability to learn.
  • Understand that not every difference in kinds of intelligence is a disability
  • Be able to understand the students in their individuality and complexity, with his or her deficits and abilities
  • Believe in educating the whole person, not just simple learning of materials
  • Have the necessary flexibility to meet different types of children in their classrooms, making changes in teaching methodology, and with student’s assessment
  • Value and motivate less cognitive aspects of learning, sports, creativity, art, etc.

Coordination with parents

In addition to using an agenda to record tasks and to communicate with parents, use it to record positive aspects. Do not use the calendar to only record the negative.

They need to be reminded and encouraged. It is reassuring for them to know what we have expectations of them. Children with ADD need things to be said more than once. Make a calendar and lists of activities, tasks and exams as predictable as possible and put them on the blackboard or on the child's desk. Announce changes in advance. Stress what is important in the work. Be sure to look them in the eyes as much as possible when saying something important and make sure that they look like they understand. It would be helpful to parents that teachers ensure that homework tasks are properly recorded and that they take home books and notebooks to do it.

Make sure you have the exam dates written down.

The assessment of hyperactive children

Supervise them especially when taking tests in order to help them control the time that have and ask them if they understand the questions. Children with ADD have a poor concept of time, and often complete one task while leaving another unfinished.

Do not give them much work or many things to do at once. Plan them or divide them into smaller tasks.

They study and learn, but they do not process the information in an organized fashion which makes them forget the details and often makes them blank out. Just one missing phrase might make them forget the whole sequence in which it was centered. This means that at exam time, especially in writing, they make so many mistakes. Do not think they have not studied or have not been sufficiently prepared, he surely knows more than what shows. Make sure that he or she knows that during the test and assess them not only by what they do on one test or two. Show them their tests and make sure they know what mistakes they made or send their corrected test home to review with their tutor or parents.

Their ADD condition takes longer than other children to take certain kinds of exams, especially those that are written. With more time and less pressure, they can surprise you with their knowledge. If possible, give them more time on tests.

Clinical Aspects that are useful for teachers

About 3% of the population is hyperactive and 13% inattentive.

All people are different. As concluded by some studies in recent years, some hyperactive children have a part of their brain that works differently than most. This difference is not in itself an illness, as that term is traditionally understood, the brain just works differently and this makes hyperactive need to move quite frequently, in addition to having to change their focus of attention after short periods.

It is usually said that hyperactive people are very impulsive, but this is partly due to difficulty maintaining attention: either to carry out long activities or to perform long cognitive tasks. Hyperactive children reflect on things just fine. Motivation and warning helps them to control their impulses much better.

ADHD in childhood is a risk factor for school drop outs. In adulthood ADD, if well expressed, may be an element of social and work advancement. Hyperactive people tend to be highly valued for their high level of work.

There are some medications that help the child with ADD to stay attentive and quiet, which is in their benefit, to enable learning, but these cannot be considered “cures”. They do not fix an inherent defect, wound or injury. It is rather a prosthesis that in some cases allows for better development.

Not all hyperactive children need medication. In young children, with no serious disorder, environmental measures, education and teaching may be sufficient to help a child function satisfactorily. The medication is not a resource to improve grades, to make a child be still or to turn a hyperactive child into a normal/standard child. It should be a tool to allow the child to learn adequately, to be able to use other educational techniques and other teaching measures, and it might make them more helpful.

Drugs must be prescribed by a neurologist or psychiatrist specializing in children, with frequent and careful follow-up of the dose, frequency of dose and side effects. There are many types of medication and some are effective at a certain time in life and not in others. Each child responds differently to the different classes of medication.

Teachers are with the children many hours a day and are in a situation where it is easy to see both the positive effects of medication, as well as the negative. Their feedback for parents is very valuable.

The positive effects of them are:

  • Improved concentration, fewer interruptions, less impulsiveness, better ability to listen, less issues when completing tasks, more order in their work, more regular performance
  • The negative effects can be observed and the parents should be told about these. To assess whether the dose or type of medication is appropriate look at: excessive focus on a task, sadness, hypersensitivity, nervousness, fatigue, poor appetite, tics.
  • There are also psycho-pedagogical treatments to help hyperactive children to regulate their behavior, and improve their ability with sustained attention. Through continuous and intensive training they can improve their attention span and learning strategies to regulate and limit distractions.
  • There are psychological treatments that may be useful, depending on the age and characteristics of the child. In general, behavior modification, that implies an important role by the parents, is useful. Cognitive therapies that focus on self-control can be very useful for adolescents.

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