Teaching ADHD Students - Strategies and Practices for Teachers.

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Teaching ADHD Students: Effective Behavioral Intervention Techniques.

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 ADHD school teaching 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 teaching ADHD children 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 helpful with 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: The ADHD 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 to concentrate.

  • 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 progress.

  • Peer mediation: Members of a student’s peer group can positively impact the behavior of students with ADD. Many ADHD schools now have formalized peer mediation programs, in which students receive training in order to manage disputes involving their classmates.

  • If there is an ADHD 504 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 ADHD remedies

Effective teachers also use behavioral prompts when teaching ADHD students. These prompts help remind students about expectations for their learning and behavior in the ADHD 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 saying.

  • 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.


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