Many students with ADHD perform well academically in early elementary school. This is particularly true for cognitively advanced students with ADHD who have areas of intellectual strength. Psychologists have observed that these kids can listen 50% of the time and learn 90% of the material. They may have learned some of the material before entering school or pick up on it so easily that they do not need repetition. Helping students with ADHD who have average intellectual abilities require more crucial intervention.
The symptoms of ADHD can become more pronounced as students move into later elementary school and middle school. In part, this may relate to missing out on learning basic materials due to inattentiveness. However, it is even more likely that the new executive-functioning demands of school such as being organized, using planning skills, and managing time overtax students with ADHD. It is the executive-functioning demands that prompt an evaluation for many middle school students who have not previously been identified with ADHD.
Helping students with ADHD is crucial at both the elementary and middle school levels. These students may need different interventions to assist them at each of these times. Here are some of the best strategies for helping students with ADHD:
Coach students in asking for classroom help in an appropriate manner. Instruct them in the optimal time and place to ask for help from people such as teachers, aides, or other students. If asking for help becomes another way to distract themselves, they could be offered a specific number of “help passes” a day. This would help them in prioritizing when help is necessary.
Put on a show to capture students’ attention before giving them directions. Call students by name to make sure they are listening. Use cues such as “listen” and “look at me” to ensure attention. Some students may require restating directions to them privately. Ask students to restate directions they have been given, as students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder often need to hear themselves say them or to restate them in order to recall and follow them effectively. Emphasize the most important information and give an alert to students to help them recognize when the most important information will be presented. Provide this information slowly and use gestures that summarize important points to maximize attention.
Keep students guessing in order to keep them engaged. This can be particularly helpful in large-group presentations, when students can easily drift off. Occasionally ask a particular student to participate. Ask a question of the class and select different students to answer it so that they all need to be alert and waiting to be called upon.
Consider alternatives to printing and cursive for illegible writing. Many youngsters with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder have associated fine-motor issues or qualify as having a Developmental Coordination Disorder. Overemphasis on the skill of neat handwriting is likely to result in frustration and disengagement from learning to express themselves through writing for these children. Even early-elementary students could benefit from learning keyboarding skills that can lessen the amount of handwriting they have to produce in the classroom.
Use processing-speed interventions to increase work time and help with attention. Strategies that increase students’ attention span could include the use of incremental periods of time to work on homework assignments. Over learn material so that retrieval time for memory is short. Play card games such as Spit that enhance hand-eye coordination and processing of visual material. Play video games that require visual processing speed, particularly those involving letters, numbers, or words. Follow this link: (https://learningworksforkids.com/playbooks/?tab=all&sort=asc&sortby=title&skill=skills_time-management).
Enhance homework completion with peers, extra books, and rewards. Have teachers assign a classroom “buddy” so that students can observe a more organized student’s approach to planning. Teachers of middle school students are encouraged to have classmates exchange cell-phone numbers so they can text each other if they have forgotten assignments. Parents may wish to keep a second set of school books at home to compensate for organizational difficulties and to ensure that children completes necessary work. Use an incentive program for homework completion in which bi-weekly rewards are provided based upon successful completion of homework. Online homework assignments, supervised after-school homework, or study hall periods may also be of assistance.