How to Help a Child Facing ADHD Challenges in School
ADHD is a ‘disorder’ that predominantly affects adolescents and children but can show symptoms well into adulthood. It stands for ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder’. Typically, symptoms you will exhibit if you have ADHD are; a struggle to focus, constant fidgeting, often forgetting things, talking a lot, and daydreaming. Although ADHD is technically defined as a ‘disorder’ it is by no means a negative thing. As a student, you still can excel, as long as you understand the right ways to utilise your ‘superpower’.
How to Support a Child With ADHD in School
The main problem with ADHD is that is often seen as misbehaviour or laziness when in reality it is simply the way your brain works. You may feel as if you are constantly in trouble in the classroom, even when you put in your best effort to behave. This is why your teachers need to understand that you suffer from ADHD so that you can work as a team to comprehend your hyperactive tendencies. It is important to work as a team with your teacher as they are a large portion of your education experience. Letting your teacher know that you have ADHD is an excellent way to open up this conversation and begin your teamwork!
If you feel nervous to tell your teacher, or embarrassed that you have ADHD, there is absolutely no reason to be ashamed. Some of the most famous and successful people in the world, have ADHD – they have just learned how to use their ‘superpower’ rather than let it overcome them. Examples of celebrities who have ADHD are Paris Hilton; who has a net worth of $300 million and Justin Bieber; who is arguably one of the most popular singers on the planet.
How to do Well in School With ADHD – Top 5 Struggles & Strategies to Deal with Them
1. Sitting still is difficult.
In high school, classes can last up to 1.5 hours. This means that you are sitting still for long periods – which is extremely difficult if you have ADHD. Many ADHD students minimise their learning abilities by finding excuses to leave the classroom, for example taking the long way to the bathroom. This can minimise your time in the classroom, and thus have effects on your learning!
The best way to combat this is to find sensory activities that you can use to ‘multitask’. By ‘multitask’ I mean that you should find activities that allow you to eradicate your need to fidget, whilst also allowing you to concentrate. Examples of this are fidget cubes and spinners. If you can’t find these in stores, multiple places sell them online for only a few dollars.
My personal favourite is the fidget cube! As you can see in the picture it is a small cube that has ‘gadgets’ on each side. It is thus a transportable toy that you can bring to class with you and use.
2. There is a lot going on in the classroom, which means plenty of distractions!
Classrooms are filled with distractions, which means that if you have ADHD, it is almost impossible to pay attention. Distractions include posters, your friends, and even anything that is happening outside of the classroom.
The best strategy for avoiding distractions is to do your best to create a ‘distraction-free zone’. Working with your teacher, create a space within the classroom that has as minimal distractions as possible. Ideally, this would be a seat at the front of the classroom, that is far away from windows and friends. This is similar to your ‘Neurospace’ which you learn about in the CAS program. This allows you to gain the most from your time in class.
Unfortunately for people with ADHD, it is difficult to sit with friends inside the classroom as they become a big distraction – but don’t worry, there is plenty of time to spend with them at recess and lunch!
3. You may feel as if your brain is moving faster than your body.
In general, most students with ADHD are highly intelligent, they just struggle to present their intelligence on paper. The problem is, that many students have thoughts that move way faster than their body – which means that the completion of assignments and exams is tough. You may feel that when writing long response questions your ideas are all over the place and that your handwriting is super messy.
The main strategy for dealing with this is teamwork! Having an APT, older sibling, or parent assisting you to facilitate your thoughts, working as a scribe for you, can almost instantly change your results. The best method for this is to have your ‘assistant’ write down the answers for you, as you speak them out loud. In NSW, if you can provide proof of your ADHD diagnosis, you are allowed to sit exams in these special conditions – where you have a scribe with you whilst you sit the exam.
It is essential to understand that this is not cheating!! All of the ideas are still completely your own, someone is just helping you present them in a way that makes sense.
4. Filtering your thoughts is tricky
As we have already established, students with ADHD have a brain that is pretty much moving at 100000 miles an hour. You probably feel like you have lots of thoughts at once, or are constantly jumping from one thought to another. This means that a lot of ideas and thoughts are blurted out without thinking. This can cause students to get into trouble, as it can typically interrupt the teacher or disrupt the classroom.
Unfortunately, there are no strategies that will help you in the short term with this one, however, there is one strategy that can help you in the long run. The strategy is called ‘positive reinforcement’, which is a program that rewards good behaviour. People with ADHD tend to react well to positive reinforcement. This can be achieved by working with your teacher to organise a program which only rewards good behaviour, and ignores negative behaviours. An example of this is sticker charts, in which you work towards receiving one large overall prize.
5. The ability to stay focused.
If you suffer from ADHD you will relate when I say that it feels as if your thoughts are all over the place. This can often cause you to forget special events such as exams or the due dates of assessments.
The best strategy for this is to create written timetables. Having a hard copy of your monthly timetable at a place where you can easily access it is an important part of excelling when you have ADHD. I have a large white-board calendar that sits right above my bed – so it is the first thing I see when I wake up. The below template is retrieved from Twinkl.com.
Inside the classroom, work with your teacher to make sure that you don’t lose focus by making sure that you are completely aware of all instructions. This can include having them written down for you or having them repeated to you individually.
Overall, it is important to remember that ADHD is not a negative thing. Although I have only dwelled on the struggles in this post, it is important to understand that ADHD is more of a superpower than a disorder. As long as you make sure that your teacher is aware of your superpower, and utilise the above strategies, you have the ability to excel in the classroom.