By Dan Blair Marriage Counselor and Family Therapist
Managing a classroom takes a special set of skills. I have the utmost respect for teachers. Learning how to direct attention is challenging, especially for those bright and personable kids with ADHD, and those that fly under the radar, but also with ADHD.
Limiting distractions is like providing only one choice on a menu and hoping that the healthy option will be chosen. Kids though can forget to pay attention (those skills are developed) and even though there is clear direction, cueing is essential. Perhaps a child that has difficulty paying attention can sit close to the teacher, or study in a quiet location away from distractions. Structured setting help, and rules may need reminders, like written or pictorial cues that also indicate when the rule is to be followed. Reinforcements for staying on task are also needed, even if it’s social (by the teacher or peers working together) or rewards can be earned. (It works for credit card companies.) Feedback can take the form of eye contact, a smile, praise, or pointing to a cue card. Even a regular auditory cue, such as a beep or a brief ringtone every ten minutes, can help someone stay on task.
Organization is the next challenge. Knowing where to find items again using cueing may be needed. Labels, color-coding and routines are important. Perhaps written or pictorial checklists can be used that catch the child’s attention. For longer assignments or task, a checklist can be used to take one step at a time. These checklists, or assignment notebooks, can be checked by parents and teachers.
Taking breaks to allow energy to be vented can help a child pay attention. Time to get up and move can be built-in the daily routine at a higher frequency.
Helpful books that relate to social skills can be found at TheGrayCenter.org or Socialthinking.com. For more information on ADHD, try Smart But Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential by Dawson & Guare , or A Family-School Intervention by T. Power, J. L. Karutis and D. F. Habbouche. More online resources include ParentsMedGuide.org, and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
Ideas to help keep kids on task at home are also important.