Friday, July 8, 2011

ADHD at the Elementary Level

By the time most children are identified as ADHD, 3rd or 4th grade, the problems they have experienced in school include short attention span, difficulties with organization, distractibility, hyperactivity, and problems with self-control *(Parker, p. 22).  Developmentally, these children are behind their same-age peers and are often already stigmatized as a behavior problem by their teachers.  As sad as it may sound, some teachers naively "give up" on these children because they have tried interventions and failed to find a "fix" for the challenges ADHD children present in the classroom.  The ADHD child is more of a hindrance to classroom progress, regardless of what other talents and strengths this child may possess/exhibit.  It is not the intention of most teachers to pigeon-hold any child.  Frustration over attempted and failed interventions combined with a teacher's lack of knowledge and understanding about ADHD is an environment in which only difficulties and failure can occur for both the child and the teacher. 

Key at this level is the teacher's classroom style and attitude. At this academic level, demands requiring attentiveness, organization, planning, and independent work increase, and typically, so do the ADHD child's problems *(Parker, p. 23).  Work completion often is one of the first struggles noted.  A teacher gives time for work to be completed in class but the ADHD child does not get it done regardless of the amount of time given for the task.  Other challenges that often present themselves for the child include the simple act of starting a task or assignment and homework.  Each of these tasks require multiple skills put into action simultaneously.  The ADHD child will have troubles with such a task.  Another problem that often occurs is with socialization *(Parker, p. 24).  The ADHD child is often rejected by peers because their behavior disruptive in nature and they struggle with social cues.  Boundaries become a challenge as well as the ADHD child struggles to recognize and/or respect the boundaries of others.

All of these frustrations add to the challenges the parents face at home.  Parents begin to dread the phone call from school.  It is critical that parents and teachers work together to support the child.  Parents are a tremendous resource and need to be kept informed of what is happening at school.  In addition, parents are usually eager to be involved in the teacher's efforts to support the ADHD child.  In order to best support the child, it is imperative for the school to foster a partnership.  Keeping parents informed of activities in the classroom, homework help tips, tips about educational programs to watch or good books to read are all things that can foster a relationship between the school and home *(Pffifner, p. 124-25).

Some strategies that can be used by the classroom teacher to help support the ADHD child include:
1.  Seat the child close to teacher's desk or chalkboard.  This helps with continuous monitoring. 
2.  Seat the child away from windows, things that hang low,  or extremely stimulating objects.
3.  Walk around the room near the ADHD child often and praise him/her for staying on task or redirect as needed.
4.  If the child has trouble sitting, allow him/her to stand and complete a task as long as they are not disruptive.
5.  Operate a well-organized classroom.  Work centers should be uncluttered and kept full of materials. 
6.  Have an effective classroom routine for tasks.  Stick to the routine.  Teach major academic subjects (such as reading) in the morning, if possible.  This is the time of day children are the most focused.
7.  Alternate between activities.  Allow for movement whenever appropriate.
8.  Keep the lesson lively, short, and paced appropriately.
9.  Involve all students in the lesson whenever possible.  Engagement is critical for all level of children. 
10.  Keep directions simple and repeat often.  Have another student restate the directions.  Keep directions simple and repeat often.  Keep directions simple.....I think you get the point.

There are many other strategies that support learning for all students.  These are only a few that the ADHD child will benefit from the most.

*Note:  Resources are those used in the previous article.

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