ADHD in the Classroom


October is ADHD Awareness Month.

Perhaps you have a student (or several students) who has difficulty staying focused and paying attention. The student struggles to control their impulses or seems overly active. For many school staff members, disruptions and challenges caused by a child diagnosed with ADHD are a common occurrence.

In fact, surveys suggest that teachers view disruptive behavior as the most challenging classroom problem, and it’s the most common reason that teachers or parents refer children for mental health or educational services.

Nearly all school staff members – not just teachers – interact with students with ADHD. If you haven’t yet worked with a child with an ADHD diagnosis, chances are you will. Understanding the disorder, how it manifests in children, and learning techniques to help children with an ADHD diagnosis will enable you to help them succeed in school.

ADHD is a chronic disorder. It begins in childhood and, for most individuals, it continues through adulthood. Children with ADHD demonstrate symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity that are inappropriate for their chronological age. The diagnostic criteria require that the symptoms must be present for at least six months and in more than one setting (for example, both home and school).

Children and adolescents with ADHD typically exhibit the following characteristics:

  • fail to complete school assignments, chores at home, or tasks at work
  • lose materials at school and home
  • have disorganized and messy desks, bookbags, binders, and bedrooms
  • don't consistently follow rules of the classroom, home, or society
  • interrupt and annoy peers, parents, and teachers, leading to social rejection or isolation
  • do poorly playing organized sports due to problems following the rules of the game, playing strategically with teammates, and attending to the play of teammates and opponents

ADHD or Not?

Here are some general guidelines that may help you distinguish between a student who may have ADHD and one who probably doesn't.

Student with ADHD - The student's disruptive behavior frequently leads to discipline problems and/or rejection from peers.

Student without ADHD - The student's disruptive behavior may be frequent but isn't associated with discipline problems. Peers accept the student socially.

Student with ADHD - The student frequently forgets or loses materials and doesn’t complete work because of disorganization and difficulty staying on task (although the behavior may look like defiance or apathy, look closely to see if it’s coupled with disorganization).

Student without ADHD - The student may fail to complete assignments, but often because of reasons other than disorganization and difficulty persisting with work.

Student with ADHD - The student reacts to situations impulsively or emotionally and may have difficulty calming themself.

Student without ADHD - The student reacts to situations in inappropriate ways that are often more intentional than do children with ADHD.

For more on ADHD behaviors and intervention strategies, request a demo to preview all of our courses on ADHD and more!

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