ADHD Students: Effective Behavioral
When teaching ADHD students, effective teachers use a number of
behavioral intervention techniques to help students learn how to
control their behavior. Perhaps the most important and effective
of these is verbal reinforcement of appropriate behavior. The most
common form of verbal reinforcement is praise given to a student
when he or she begins and completes an activity or exhibits a
particular desired behavior. Simple phrases such as “good job”
encourage a child to act appropriately. Effective teachers praise
children with ADHD frequently and look for a behavior to praise
before, and not after, a child gets off task.
The following teaching strategies provide some guidance regarding
the use of praise when teaching ADHD students:
Define the appropriate behavior while giving praise: Praise
should be specific for the positive behavior displayed: The
comments should focus on what the ADD child did right and should
include exactly what part(s) of their behavior was desirable.
Rather than praising a student for not disturbing the class, for
example, a teacher should praise him or her for quietly completing
a math lesson on time.
Give praise immediately when teaching the ADD child: The sooner
that approval is given regarding appropriate behavior, the more
likely the student will repeat it.
Vary the statements given as praise: The comments used to praise
appropriate behavior should vary when teaching the ADD child. When
students hear the same praise statement repeated over and over, it
may lose its value.
Be consistent and sincere with praise: Appropriate behavior
should receive consistent praise. Consistency with respect to
desired behavior is important in order to avoid confusion when
teaching the ADD child. Similarly, students will notice when
teachers give insincere praise, and this insincerity will make
praise less effective.
It is important to keep in mind that the most effective
methods focus on behavioral intervention strategies and praise
rather than on punishment. Negative consequences may temporarily
change behavior, but they rarely change attitudes and may actually
increase the frequency and intensity of inappropriate behavior by
rewarding misbehaving students with attention. Moreover,
punishment may only teach children what not to do; it does not
provide children with the skills that they need to do what is
expected. Positive reinforcement when
produces the changes in attitudes that will shape a student’s
behavior over the long term.
In addition to verbal reinforcement, the following set of
generalized behavioral intervention techniques has also proven
helpful when teaching ADHD students:
Selectively ignore inappropriate behavior. It is sometimes
ADHD teaching to selectively ignore inappropriate behavior.
This teaching technique is particularly useful when the behavior
is unintentional or unlikely to recur or is intended solely to
gain the attention of teachers or classmates without disrupting
the classroom or interfering with the learning of others.
Remove nuisance items:
teacher often finds that certain objects
(such as rubber bands and toys) distract the attention of the ADD
child. The removal of nuisance items is generally most effective
in teaching after the ADD child has been given the choice of
putting it away immediately and then fails to do so.
Provide calming manipulative:. While some toys and other objects
can be distracting for both the students with ADHD and peers in
the classroom, some children with ADD can benefit from having
access to objects that can be manipulated quietly. Manipulatives
may help children gain some needed sensory input while still
attending to the lesson.
Allow for “escape valve” outlets: When teaching, permitting the
ADD child to leave class for a moment, perhaps on an errand (such
as returning a book to the library), can be an effective means of
settling them down and allowing them to return to the room ready
Activity reinforcement: Students receive activity reinforcement
when they are encouraged to perform a less desirable behavior
before a preferred one.
Hurdle helping: When teaching the ADHD child, offer
encouragement, support, and assistance to prevent students from
becoming frustrated with an assignment. This help can take many
forms, from enlisting a peer for support to supplying additional
materials or information.
Parent conferences: Parents have a critical role in education of
students, and this axiom may be particularly true when teaching
the ADHD child. As such, parents must be included as partners in
planning for the student’s success. Partnering with parents
entails including parental input in behavioral intervention
strategies, maintaining frequent communication between parents and
teachers, and collaborating in monitoring the ADD child’s
Peer mediation: Members of a student’s peer group can positively
impact the behavior of students with ADD. Many
schools now have
formalized peer mediation programs, in which students receive
training in order to manage disputes involving their classmates.
If there is an
plan in place, the
504 ADHD plan will outline accommodations needed
to give the student the opportunity to better perform. These
accommodations can include allowing extra textbooks, using a
keyboard for taking notes or allowing the student to take
Effective teachers also use behavioral prompts when teaching
ADHD students. These prompts help remind students about expectations
for their learning and behavior in the
classroom. Three, which may
be particularly helpful, are the following:
Visual cues. Establish simple, non-intrusive visual cues to
remind the child to remain on task. For example, you can point at
the child while looking him or her in the eye, or you can hold out
your hand, palm down, near the child.
Proximity control. When talking to a child, move to where the
child is standing or sitting. Your physical proximity to the child
will help the child to focus and pay attention to what you are
Hand gestures. Use hand signals to communicate privately with a
child with ADHD. For example, ask the child to raise his or her
hand every time you ask a question. A closed fist can signal that
the child knows the answer; an open palm can signal that he or she
does not know the answer. You would call on the child to answer
only when he or she makes a fist.