Today’s article concludes a three-part series aimed at educating parents on ADHD. In Part 1 of this series, we discussed some of the issues associated with accurately diagnosing ADHD in America today. We also explained some of the theory behind what we believe is happening with people who have ADHD as well as exploring some of the latest research.
In Part 2, we provided characteristics, tendencies, and insights related to children who have ADHD and talked about the overall process on how clinicians generally arrive at a diagnosis.
We’ll conclude Part 3 of this series today with some teaching tips for parents in order to help you support your child’s learning.
Teaching Suggestions When Dealing with ADHD in Children
I’m a mom who has chosen to homeschool my child. What teaching suggestions would you have?
If you’re a parent who happens to be homeschooling your child or a teacher in a classroom setting, remember what it is that makes the kid who has ADHD tick. They will be constantly searching for stimulus and structure.
They both love and are naturally drawn to structure and things that are highly stimulating, like a moth to a light. That’s the key. Make your learning environment more exciting and stimulating than the myriad of off task, non-productive distractions they could find.
Here are some tips for teaching a child if they have ADHD:
1. Tailor your teaching to your child’s interests
I would start off by tailoring your child’s schooling to their interests. What are they honestly interested in? Do you have a son who absolutely adores dinosaurs? Have him add, subtract, write about, and do science projects involving dinosaur characters.
As much as possible, find every way you can to incorporate dinosaurs into your learning materials. There are lots of different lessons plans and entire curriculums out there geared towards all kinds of subjects. Make the learning material itself exciting.
2. Try to Avoid Rote Memorization
Many of us were taught our times tables via the old tried and true “drill and kill” method, memorizing them with flashcards for hours on end. While that method works with some kids, it tends to be extremely challenging for those with ADHD.
Instead, as much as possible, find other creative, fun ways to memorize. Drawing vivid pictures of concepts to be remembered often works well. So do mnemonic devices like this one for Math showing order of operations (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally — Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction).
Songs, raps, and melodies that teach key concepts also tend to work well. If a method is boring and challenging to you as an adult, it’s going to be doubly so for a child with ADHD.
3. Engage the Senses
Instead of fighting against your child’s constant drive for stimulation, go with it. Let your teaching environment be the most exciting and engaging experience they have. Let your child choose whatever sense stimulus it is that allows them to focus on learning. The more of the five senses you can engage at the same time, the better.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Reading out loud and/or listening books on tape (Hearing)
- Headphones or music to block out distractions and support study (Hearing)
- Approved food, snacks, and/or gum while they study (Taste)
- Scented pencils — Yes, they do sell those (Smell)
(Smell is one of the most powerful memory triggers, by the way. Children will retain more study material if you can find a way to incorporate smell.)
- Fidget Items — If they’re kinesthetic and need something to keep those active hands busy, consider letting them have a “fidget item.” This could be something simple like a squishy ball, a plush stuffed animal, thinking putty, playdough, or wikki stix. (Touch)
4. Consistent Schedule
Within reason, make your homeschool experience resemble a school schedule. Studies have shown that we as human beings operate best with consistent and predictable schedules (so, getting up at a certain time, breakfast at a certain time, lunch at a certain time, etc. — every single day). Kids with ADHD crave structure, so provide that for them as much as possible.
5. Consistent Rules and Expectations
Although kids with ADHD will often fight hard against them, consistent rules and expectations are something that they also crave. Using a combination of natural consequences combined with rewards that they can earn for appropriate behavior tends to work well.
Books that I’d suggest that discuss these approaches are Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson and Love and Logic by Jim Faye. The key to effective discipline is consistent limits along with positive and negative consequences administered with lots of love and respect.
6. Frequent Breaks at Predictable Times
You will probably get better study results if you break up study periods into manageable chunks followed by short breaks. So, I’d suggest getting an audible timer (many teachers use them) or an egg timer. Set the timer for 20 minutes to study. At the end of that time, give your child a 5-10 minute break. At the end of that time, set the timer again and then study again for another 20 minutes. Repeat the cycle per your schedule.
7. Chunk Material
Break homework up into small, manageable bits. The idea of eating an elephant all at once is overwhelming, but it can be done one small bite at a time. Take the same approach to schoolwork. With homework, one issue that’s commonly seen with children who have ADHD (especially with math) is that there are often too many problems on a page.
If they’re struggling with completing homework, it may be that they are getting distracted by all the other stuff on the page. They may be focusing on the type of print, the gloss on the page, or they may seeing the patterns on the page or of the words themselves.
In essence, they be hypnotizing themselves because the page is too busy. In a case like this, you can help curb that by cutting a square of paper out and masking the other problems, so that your child only can see 1 problem at a time. This approach works with reading as well and can help overall focus and concentration.
8. Switch Subjects
Whoever said that as a teacher you have to finish one subject before going on to the next? If you’re finding your youngster is consistently getting bored with English after a few minutes, why not try switching things up? If that happens, try going on to Math, then on to History, etc.
I don’t know that I’d recommend doing that all of the time, but sometimes doing that can save everyone a whole lot of frustration. These kids normally tend to jump from subject to subject anyway. They generally have lots of irons in the fire that they are working on simultaneously, so why not support this?
9. Allow Movement Within Limits
If moving around and fidgeting is a problem, go with it. If they like to walk around and read (and they can actually stay on task), let them do it. If they’re a “wiggler,” consider letting them sit at their desk on one of those large sitting balls. Sitting disks have also been shown to be effective for some kids.
10. Be Calm and Teach Calming Techniques
Kids who have ADHD can easily get frustrated and upset. Battling them day after day to complete their schoolwork can also get exhausting for parents as well. Angry word exchanges won’t make things better, only worse. If you’re finding yourself as a parent becoming upset, realize that it’s okay and important for YOU to take a break and calm yourself down before dealing with your child.
Understand too that children can get easily discouraged and upset. If you’re seeing your child become angry, I would highly encourage you to have them take a break and focus on calming them down before they continue on with their schoolwork.
One method that works well for the child who has ADHD to have them close their eyes, sit cross-legged, breath slowly and deeply, and rock back and forth. Every time they rock back and forth tell them to cut their movement in half. Have them rock and cut their movement in half again, and then cut their movement in half again.
Eventually, they will reach a point where they don’t appear to be moving at all … but keep stressing to them to keep thinking in their minds they are still moving, and to keep cutting their movement in half each time. For the kid who needs to constantly be on the move, this can be a fairly effective calming technique.
11. Lots and Lots of TLC
It’s almost an afterthought by some parents. Many parents expect and often demand respect from their children. For those parents who may feel that way, my question to you is, “Do you give respect to your children?” Over time, I’ve found that you will tend to receive back what you dish out. So, if you expect respect from your children (and you should) … be the first to give respect.
And remember above all, be quick to have patience, patience, patience — especially with the child who has ADHD. Remember, God has lent you your children to you for a time. He has given them to you as a divine charge, to raise up to be servants for His kingdom. Love them in the same way as God first loved you. Don’t miss this biggest key of all.
As you can see, diagnosing and learning how to effectively deal with ADHD can be a bit of a complicated issue. That’s why if you’re thinking your child possibly has ADHD, professional help is probably warranted.
It can be extremely hard (if not near impossible) to learn how to live with this issue on your own. The good news is, you don’t have to. They say it takes an entire village to raise a child and that’s certainly the case with the child who has ADHD.
In Christ, God has adopted all believers into one massive extended family known as the Body of Christ. If you’re a parent of a youngster whom you suspect has ADHD, I’d highly encourage you seek out a brother or sister in the faith who is a professional who has both knowledge and giftings in this area. It may turn out to be one of the best kingdom of heaven investments you ever made.
Special thanks to Bob Brown, Ph.D for his amazing knowledge, experience, and insights in helping to write these articles.
“School,” courtesy of amenclinicsphotos ac, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Homework time,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Can’t Study,” courtesy of amenclinicsphotos ac, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Write it Down,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 License