Children with attention deficit disorder and/or learning disabilities can be a challenge for any classroom teacher. This page provides some practical suggestions that can be used in the regular classroom as well as the special education classroom. By looking through a given list of interventions, a teacher will be able to select one or more strategies that are suited to a specific child in a specific environment.
Ideas for Attention Deficit Children
Children whose attention seems to wander or who never seem to “be with” the rest of the class might be helped by the following suggestions:
- Pause and create suspense by looking around before asking questions.
- Randomly pick reciters so the children cannot time their attention.
- Signal that someone is going to have to answer a question about what is being said.
- Use the child’s name in a question or in the material being covered.
- Ask a simple question (not even related to the topic at hand) to a child whose attention is beginning to wander.
- Develop a private running joke between you and the child that can be invoked to re-involve you with the child.
- Stand close to an inattentive child and touch him or her on the shoulder as you are teaching.
- Walk around the classroom as the lesson is progressing and tap the place in the child’s book that is currently being read or discussed.
- Decrease the length of assignments or lessons.
- Alternate physical and mental activities.
- Increase the novelty of lessons by using films, tapes, flash cards, or small group work or by having a child call on others.
- Incorporate the children’s interests into a lesson plan.
- Structure in some guided daydreaming time.
- Give simple, concrete instructions, once.
- Investigate the use of simple mechanical devices that indicate attention versus inattention.
- Teach children self monitoring strategies.
- Use a soft voice to give direction.
- Employ peers or older students or volunteer parents as tutors.
Strategies for Cognitively Impulsive Children
Some children have difficulty staying with the task at hand. Their verbalizations seem irrelevant and their performance indicates that they are not thinking reflectively about what they are doing. Some possible ideas to try out in this situation include the following:
- Provide as much positive attention and recognition as possible.
- Clarify the social rules and external demands of the classroom.
- Establish a cue between teacher and child.
- Spend personal discussion times with these children emphasizing the similarities between the teacher and child.
- Get in a habit of pausing 10 to 16 seconds before answering.
- Probe irrelevant responses for possible connections to the question.
- Have children repeat questions before answering.
- Choose a student to be the “question keeper.”
- Using a well known story, have the class orally recite it as a chain story.
- When introducing a new topic in any academic area, have the children generate questions about it before providing them with much information.
- Distinguish between reality and fantasy by telling stories with a mix of fact and fiction and asking the children to critique them.
- Assign a written project that is to contain elements that are “true,” “could happen but didn’t,” and “pretend, can’t happen.”
- Do not confront lying by making children admit they have been untruthful.
- Play attention and listening games.
- Remove un-needed stimulation from the classroom environment.
- Keep assignments short.
- Communicate the value of accuracy over speed.
- Evaluate your own tempo as teacher.
- Using the wall clock, tell children how long they are to work on an assignment.
- Require that children keep a file of their completed work.
- Teach children self talk.
- Encourage planning by frequently using lists, calendars, charts, pictures, and finished products in the classroom.
Suggested Classroom Accommodations for Specific Behaviors
|When you see this behavior||Try this accommodation|
|1. Difficulty following a plan (has high aspirations but lacks follow-through); sets out to “get straight A’s, ends up with F’s” (sets unrealistic goals) Assist student in setting long-range goals: break the goal into realistic parts.|
|2. Difficulty sequencing and completing steps to accomplish specific tasks (e.g. writing a book report, term paper, organized paragraphs, division problem, etc.)|
|3. Shifting from one uncompleted activity to another without closure.|
|4. Difficulty following through on instructions from others.|
|5. Difficulty prioritizing from most to least important.|
|6. Difficulty sustaining effort and accuracy over time.|
|7. Difficulty completing assignments.|
|8. Difficulty with any task that requires memory.|
|9. Difficulty with test taking.|
|10. Confusion from non-verbal cues (misreads body language, etc.)|
|11. Confusion from written material (difficulty finding main idea from a paragraph; attributes greater importance to minor details)|
|12. Confusion from written material (difficulty finding main idea from a paragraph; attributes greater importance to minor details)|
|13. Difficulty sustaining attention to tasks or other activities (easily distracted by extraneous stimuli)|
|14. Frequent messiness or sloppiness.|
|15. Poor handwriting (often mixing cursive with manuscript and capitals with low-case letters)|
|16. Difficulty with fluency in handwriting e.g. good letter/word production but very slow and laborious.|
|17. Poorly developed study skills|
|18. Poor self-monitoring (careless errors in spelling, arithmetic, reading)|
|19. Low fluency or production of written material (takes hours on a 10 minute assignment)|
|20. Apparent Inattention (underachievement, daydreaming, not there)|
|21. Difficulty participating in class without being interruptive; difficulty working quietly|
|22. Inappropriate seeking of attention (clowns around, exhibits loud excessive or exaggerated movement as attention-seeking behavior, interrupts, butts into other children’s activities, needles others)|
|23. Frequent excessive talking|
|24. Difficulty making transitions (from activity to activity or class to class); takes an excessive amount of time to find pencil, gives up, refuses to leave previous task; appears agitated during change.|
|25. Difficulty remaining seated or in a particular position when required to for a specific activity.|
|26. Frequent fidgeting with hands, feet or objects, squirming in seat.|
|27. Inappropriate responses in class often blurted out; answers given to questions before they have been completed.|
|28. Agitation under pressure and competition (athletic or academic)|
|29. Inappropriate behaviors in a team or large group sport or athletic activity (difficulty waiting turn in games or group situations)|
|30. Frequent involvement in physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences|
|31. Poor adult interactions. Defies authority. Sucks up. Hangs on.|
|32. Frequent self-putdowns, poor personal care and posture, negative comments about self and others, low self-esteem|
|33. Difficulty using unstructured time – recess, hallways, lunchroom, locker room, library, assembly|
|34. Losing things necessary for task or activities at school or at home (e.g. pencils, books, assignments before, during and after completion of a given task)|
|35. Poor use of time (sitting, starting off into space, doodling, not working on task at hand)|