Friday, July 15, 2011

Strategies for the ADHD Secondary School Student

It is critical at the middle and high school levels not to engage the ADHD (or other disabled) student in any type of activity that would stigmatize him/her.  Usually, the best way to assure students they can trust the teacher to protect their emotional and mental health is to employ the same strategies with all students.  The strategies discussed in this article are ones which benefit all students.
1.  Use demonstration as much as possible rather than lecture.  Show pictures or video clips or use audio interspersed throughout any lecture.
2.  Use language kids can relate to by using meaningful examples to them.  Current fads and activities should be incorporated when possible.
3.  Use voice volume and tone for emphasis.  Write things on the board so kids can see them.
4.  Limit down time during and between activities.  Being patient is NOT an easy task for the ADHD student.
5.  Peer monitoring and cooperative learning can be a powerful tool at this level.  Involve kids in the learning process and carefully planned activities that engage learners with each other can be helpful in supporting the ADHD student's development of organizational and study skills.
6.  Minimize rote memorization.  Memorizing facts, terms, and definitions seem to be a prevalent instructional delivery method at the middle school level.
7.  Limit the need to recall facts to those that are truly the most critical for students to know.  Consideration should be given to the difference between what is reasonable for students to memorize and what they can use notes on for support (i.e. math formulas)
8.  Larger assignments should be broken into smaller components by the teacher, not left to the student to do this.  Seat work is very challenging for the ADHD child, and the more structure provided by the teacher, the more likely the ADHD student will use time productively.  Otherwise, feelings of being overwhelmed with organization can occur and the student may likely give up and complete nothing.
9.  For tests that include multiple pages, give one page of the test at a time.  Tests are high pressure situations for students, but especially the ADHD student.  The problem if often the student's struggle to transfer the learned material from his/her head to the paper.  Test formats should NEVER be a "one size fits all."  ADHD students struggle most with written tests (i.e. short answer/essay).  Consider projects, presentations, oral reports, one-to-one discussion, or other format that allows the ADHD student to truly show his/her understanding of the material to the teacher.  Use practice tests when possible. 
10.  Use guided notes when lecturing.  Guided notes are teacher-prepared hand-outs that outline or map lectures, but leave "blank" space for key concepts, facts, definitions, etc.  As the lecture progresses, a student then fills in the spaces with content.  Guided notes help students follow a lecture, identify its important points, and develop a foundation of content to study and to apply. 
11.  Use a timer for seat work tasks.  The timer can be used to challenge students to "beat the clock" and slow down students who rush through tasks.
12.  Always remember to structure a homework assignment so the content a student must have reinforced is reasonable in quantity and strong in quality.  Homework can present a huge problem at home, and it should be designed to reinforce individual skills learned.  That means homework may not be the same for every student in the class.  Getting a homework assignment out of a book (i.e. math problems, questions at the end of a chapter in science, or the like) is not nearly as powerful as an assignment created by the teacher.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these strategies have been proven to work repeatedly.  Take time to check some of them out and use in the classroom. 

Sources Cited:

Pfiffner, Linda.  All About ADHD:  Complete Practical Guide for Classroom Teachers
Parker, Harvey.  ADD Hyperactivity Handbook for Schools

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