A network to share best practices for children with special needs
Throughout the years, I cannot tell you how many parents and teachers have come to me almost begging for suggestions to help children with ADHD be more focused in the classroom. I have several strategies that I am going to share with you today.
Before I share a few proven strategies, allow me to add a “side note” on ADHD and medication. Whether or not you decide to put your child on medication is an issue for you and your child’s pediatrician. I am certainly not advocating one way or the other. However, if your child is on medication for ADHD, please do not think that the medication is the answer or cure all. Medication without a behavior plan is only masking the problem. The medication helps your child to “slow” down enough to be able to work with a behavior plan. The medication alone is not the answer. So, PLEASE, if your child is on medication, make sure the school’s counselor, resource teacher, or someone who has knowledge of developing positive behavior intervention plans, sits down with you and your child to develop a plan that will help your child replace the inappropriate behaviors with appropriate behaviors. This is critical to your child’s success academically and socially. If you have questions about developing positive behavior plans, I will be happy to answer them!
Okay, let’s get back to strategies to help your child in the classroom!
Often, a child with ADHD will focus on something other than the lesson activity; such as the eraser on his/her pencil or a bug crawling up the wall, or a tiny piece of paper, etc.. When this happens, have the teacher walk by his desk and discreetly place a small note saying, “Pay attention”, or “Stop Talking”, etc. These can be designed and then printed so the teacher has them available all of the time. This does not stop instruction and it does not bring all of the attention to your child; yet, the child is re-focused. It is very effective.
Does your child have a difficult time keeping his/her bottom in the seat? He is either sitting on his knees or turned sideways, etc. (Sound familiar?) . Have him hold both arms straight out by his sides and turn around. The area that is covered by his arms is called his “personal space”. Suggest that the teacher use masking tape and mark off his personal space around his desk. Tell him that he can stand, lean sideways out of his desk, anything that helps his concentrate…..as long as he does not go outside of his personal space. At first, teachers are very hesitant because of the other children. But once they try it, they realize that keeping the child contained within his personal space, keeps him from getting up and walking around or falling out of his desk, etc. It works! Another option: there are seats available on which the child can sit and freely move around in his seat. These also are very effective !
For teachers: If the child is having a lot of difficulty focusing…..do a very quick gathering of data. Determine how many times within an hour, he interrupts or has to be redirected. (A simple way for doing this without interruption of instructional time is to put 15+ rubber bands on one wrist. Every time the child exhibits the behavior being measured, just switch one of the rubber bands to the other wrist. At the end of the time frame, count how many rubber bands were moved. That tells you the frequency of the behavior.) Once the frequency is known, you can start the process of reducing the behavior. If the child needs refocusing 5 times per hour, make it a goal to refocus him 4 times per hour (you can keep reducing the goal until the behavior is down to an acceptable number). Give him 4 pennies to put in his pocket or a cup on his desk, set the timer for one hour (or whatever time frame ), each time the child exhibits the targeted behavior, have a signal for him to go put one of the pennies in a jar/cup on the teacher’s desk. If at the end of the time frame, he still has pennies left in his pocket, then he gets a reward which was agreed upon before the plan began. The children love it and it is very effective in reducing unacceptable behaviors and refocusing ADHD children!
Even on medication, children with ADHD MUST move. If a student is getting fidgety, have him take a note to another teacher. (You have already established this plan with another teacher who is next door or on the same hall) Have the teacher tell him to wait just a minute and she will give him an answer. Have the teacher wait a few minutes, then write something on the piece of paper and give it back to the child. This will give him the opportunity to move and then refocus.
Another way to get the need for movement out, is to have a box containing some books or something that has weight. Tell the child that you need his help in sliding this box to a different spot within the room. In moving the box, the child will spend extra energy and be ready to refocus!
These are just a few simple strategies to help your child control of interrupting behaviors at school. If your child has a particular situation on which you would like some help. Please contact me!
Pictured below is a timer available in the Abilitations Catalog. I recommend it highly because it allows the child to “see” the time that is remaining!
Time Timer: The Time Timers create an awareness of elapsed time which is readily visible. The use of high-color resolution makes it possible to visualize remaining time.
Abilitations Disc O Sit Junior Inflatable Seating and Balance Cushion: Enables your students to work on postural training while seated, or balance activities in seated or standing positions.