Students with ADHD have difficulty with attention and self-control. And at school, that can look like inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and disorganization — all of which can get in the way of learning. What classroom accommodations can help students with ADHD? Here are some strategies teachers can try.
Setting up the classroom environment
- Use flexible seating, like wiggle chairs, standing desks, footrests, seat cushions, or resistance bands on chair legs.
- Increase the space between desks or work tables (if social distancing guidelines aren’t already in place).
- Designate a quiet work space in the classroom.
- Set up preferential seating close to the teacher and/or away from high-traffic areas.
- Post a written schedule for daily routines and rules. When possible, let the student know ahead of time about schedule changes.
Building organization skills
- Use an assignment notebook or an electronic calendar.
- Provide an extra set of books to keep at home.
- Provide folders and baskets of supplies to keep desk organized.
- Color-code materials for each subject.
- Provide typed notes or an outline of the lesson to help with taking notes.
- Teach note-taking strategies, like using graphic organizers and mind-mapping software.
- Have a buddy take notes for the student.
- Give directions out loud and in writing, and have the student repeat them.
- Provide a lesson outline that details instructions and assignments.
- Keep instructions simple, clear, and concrete.
- Use pictures and graphs to help create visual interest.
- Provide a rubric that describes the elements of a successfully completed assignment.
- Help the student break long assignments into smaller chunks.
Completing tests and assignments
- Allow understanding to be demonstrated in different ways, like oral reports, posters, and video presentations.
- Provide different ways to respond to test questions, like saying the answers or circling them.
- Minimize the number of questions and problems per worksheet.
- Schedule frequent short quizzes, rather than one long test at the end of each unit.
- Give credit for work done instead of taking away points for late or partial assignments (with a plan for moving toward completing assignments).
- Grade for content, not for neatness.
- Give extra time and quieter space for work and tests.
- Use a behavior plan with a reward system.
- Use a nonverbal signal (like a sticky note on the desk or a hand on a shoulder) to get the student’s attention and indicate the need for things like taking a brain break.
- Talk through behavior problems one-on-one.
- Check in frequently to monitor the student’s “emotional temperature” or frustration level.
Do you have a student who you think has difficulty with attention and self-control? See a fact sheet about ADHD.
Do you think your child may need accommodations? Get tips for talking to teachers about ADHD.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.