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Student-Tested, Teacher-Approved: Best Classroom Supports for ADHD

July 26, 2023

Every teacher wants to help their students boost academic performance, build behavioral skills, and improve emotional regulation… but how?

We asked a panel of veteran teachers to share teaching strategies and classroom accommodations that had made a real difference in the lives of real students with ADHD and learning differences. Here are some of their favorites:

ADHD Accommodations That Work

  • Offer movement breaks.
  • Allow quiet fidgeting while working.
  • Provide noise-canceling headphones.
  • Reduce homework load.
  • Provide extra time on tests.
  • Maintain a daily report card.
  • Use preferential seating.
  • Administer tests orally.
  • Provide an extra set of books for use at home.
  • Tap student on shoulder or use another cue to refocus.

[Download: Free Expert Resource for Teachers of Students with ADHD]

Teaching Strategies for More Engaging Instruction

  • Focus on strengths. (An artistic student can draw pictures to summarize book chapters.)
  • Start every class with a few minutes of mindfulness.
  • Use a step-by-step format with visually matching cues.
  • Break tasks into small, quickly achievable goals.
  • Divide the class into small groups and use a buddy system.
  • Create opportunities for students to self-correct their work to feel more motivated and in control.
  • Help a student start a task, then move away and check in frequently.
  • Give real-world examples to illustrate why the lesson matters.
  • Use a daily check-in and check-out procedure for middle and high school students.
  • Use their interests as a launching pad for learning skills.

Teaching Strategies to Boost Executive Function

  • Use timers and visual aids to plan and get organized.
  • Encourage self-directed goal-setting.
  • Lead the class in developing collaborative solutions to a problem to increase awareness and flexibility.
  • Identify students’ strengths and incorporate their successes into leadership opportunities.
  • Reduce pressure and anxiety. Emphasize a growth mindset.
  • Praise students for finding and correcting their own mistakes.
  • Administer the executive skills test in the book Smart but Scattered and share ways to compensate for their deficits.
  • Cultivate a child’s self-confidence.

[Download: The ADHD Learning Series for Educators]

Teaching Strategies to Improve Behavior & Emotional Regulation

  • Give immediate rewards and consequences for behavior.
  • After an emotional trigger, encourage self-reflection when students are calm.
  • Help students brainstorm different ways to respond to a difficult situation next time.
  • Incorporate physical challenges into brain-break times.
  • Stay calm with your body language and words.
  • Give a five-minute break to chat and snack.
  • Lead the class in a quick burst of exercise to refocus their attention before starting the next task.
  • Use checklists and constant communication to share a student’s victories with their family.
  • Practice mindfulness strategies, from meditation to deep breathing, to build a bit of calm.
  • Offer rewards (unstructured time, being a teacher’s helper) for working a specific amount of time.

Teaching Strategies for ADHD: Next Steps

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