Classroom accommodations for ADHD

By Amanda Morin

Expert reviewed by Ginny Osewalt

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.

Giving instructions

  • 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.

Managing behavior

  • 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. 

What’s next

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.

About the author

About the author

Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days. 

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

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.


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