ADHD: Approaching Discipline as a Teacher

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How should the teacher approach discipline?

I have to admit this subject has always been a difficult one for me as an educator. On one hand I understand the implications of ADHD and understand that behaviors that typically require some sort of discipline in a school setting stem from impulse and behavior issues that the child does not necessarily have full control over. On the other hand, how can a teacher like myself allow these behaviors to go unchecked and set a bad example for the rest of my students that I:
a) am a pushover,
b) expect and encourage disruptive behaviour, or
c) am oblivious to the environment in my own classroom.

So then how do we as educators overcome this double edge sword?

First, teachers need to understand that often, children with ADHD don’t always realize why they’re in trouble. For example, when the teacher tells Sarah not to interrupt and she says, “I didn’t,” it sounds like she’s being argumentative or making excuses. In fact, Sarah may have no idea she was interrupting. So from her point of view, she can’t understand, first, why she was accused of something she didn’t do, and second, why the teacher won’t let her defend herself.

In one study, a group of non-ADHD children and those with ADHD were given fictional scenarios of disruptive behavior and asked to explain what was going on. A significant difference emerged: Most children thought that the child in the example could have controlled his behavior if he chose to; those with ADHD thought the fictional child couldn’t control the behavior, and they identified outside forces that provoked it–for example, “His friends bug him all the time.” (source-From The Attention Deficit Answer Book: The Best Medications and Parenting Strategies for Your Child by Alan Wachtel, M.D. Copyright � 1998)

From the perspective of someone with ADHD, this view makes perfect sense. They know that in many cases they themselves can’t control their own behavior. So it’s not surprising that they feel persecuted when a teacher, parent, or peer blames them for their actions. If you got blamed because it happened to pour rain at your soccer game you’d feel persecuted too!

In the classroom, I think the teacher must walk the fine line between responsibility and blame. It’s important for the teacher to impart a sense of responsibility to the child for his actions, and to help him understand the consequences of those acts–but to do it in a way that doesn’t make the child feel persecuted.

It’s a tough challenge. One way to approach it is by acknowledging the difficulties while expressing confidence in the child’s ability to overcome them and offering a concrete strategy for doing so. For example, the teacher might tell a child, “I know it’s hard for you to sit still on the bus. I think it will be easier if you sit next to me so that I can remind you to sit down.” Even though the outcome may be the same, that approach sends a much more positive message than simply telling the child to sit next to you on the bus.

How have you approached discipline in the classroom/and or at home for undesirable behaviour? Do you feel that acknowledging your perspective has allowed you to accept disciplinary measures more readily and to learn from them and not take offense?

ADHD in the classroom, maintaining order while providing a flexible learning environment for all.

Reach for the Top 9As many of us reading this post are aware, kids with ADHD can sometimes act without thinking, can be hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. They may understand what’s expected of them but have trouble following through because they have difficulty sitting still, paying attention, or attending to details. (source kidshealth.org)

As an experienced educator working with young children for over a decade, I understand that most of the time disruptive behavior is not intentional. Never the less , it can be very distracting to the classroom learning environment. One solution would be to teach in a physically active and stimulating environment at all times. However, in addition to burning myself out doing this on a daily basis (don’t get me wrong, I would if it was the only option for the success of my students!) we also know that all students do not learn in the same way and some children require more “down-time” so they themselves do not suffer form the same ” burn-out”. Therefore, in our regular classroom where several students needs are to be met, this constant “up and moving” classroom is not feasible.

Listed below are some solutions to minimize disruption in the classroom and allow children who have ADHD and other children to have an outlet without forcing the entire classroom to partake at once.

Solutions in the Classroom

The number one thing teachers can do to help ADHD students squirm and fidget less is to provide physical outlets that let them regularly release pent-up energy and improve focus.

1)Send students with ADHD on errands. Ask your ADHD students to deliver a message to another class or take a note to the office. These tasks help kids build a sense of self-worth while providing an opportunity to stretch their legs and move around.

2)Let students stand and walk around between lessons. One teacher, for example, put a mini-trampoline in her classroom for kids who got restless. In the beginning of the school year, everyone used it frequently; but after the novelty wore off, only the ADHD students who needed to use it continued to do so. Another teacher let students use exercise balls instead of chairs so ADHD students could move around a bit, but still stay seated.

3)Provide fidget objects. These object can include worry beads, Wikki Stix, and squeeze balls—anything that can be quietly squished or handled. Not having to focus on staying absolutely still conserves the student’s energy for focusing on class lessons.
(Tip: Attach squeeze balls to the desk, so they don’t get hurled across the room!)

4)Keep lessons short and provide frequent breaks. You can even do this during tests if you sense that a student needs to move.

Does anyone have other methods, tips and tricks they have used?

In my next post I will discuss the topic of discipline for a child with ADHD from a teachers standpoint.

Strategies for Success: Making this school year a positive one for your students with ADHD

It’s hard to believe that another summer has gone by and that it’s time for school once again.  I’ve always loved the beginning of a new school year.  It’s a refreshing new start and an opportunity to begin with a clean slate.   Image In a few short weeks, the ABC123 Tutoring Program at the LDAWE will recommence for the new school year.  For me, it’s always an exciting time as I prepare new language and math activities in anticipation of the students I will be working with and also freshen up some of my existing material.   Soon, I will be seeing my students that I have gotten to know very well over the last three years and I will be meeting new students that are joining the program for the first time.   My students are all diverse, with their own unique talents and their own set of challenges.  It’s a busy time especially in the beginning as I begin to map out the program in ways that will help each individual best.  One of the challenges I face is not the materials I prepare or the individual assessments I make.   The most difficult part of my job is managing the classroom with so many students, many of who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurobiological disorder that can be noticed in the preschool or early grades of school. ADHD affects between 5-12% of the population or about 1 or 2 students in every classroom.”

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Individuals with ADHD will have at least one symptom that includes: Hyperactivity, Impulsivity and Inattentiveness.  (Read more about ADHD signs and symptoms at the LDAO website: http://www.ldao.ca/introduction-to-ldsadhd/introduction-to-ldsadhd/what-is-adhd/)  It can be a very busy and loud classroom environment and can be an enormous challenge for even the most seasoned teacher.

I believe that teachers can make the difference for students with ADHD and can contribute to a student’s success in school.  How a student feels about himself/herself is important and feeling confident and positive about their capabilities can help them achieve greater success in school.  I’ve had the opportunity to try various techniques and classroom management strategies that I’ve read about or learned in other teacher’s classrooms.  Over the last three years I have narrowed those ideas down to a few key strategies that work well with my students and help create a positive learning environment for everyone:

  • Create classroom rules with students and display them where everyone can see them.  Students are great at coming up with rules and will take ownership of the rules when they participate.   They are aware of what is acceptable and unacceptable in a classroom environment.  Get them involved to get them on board with the rules.
  • Refer to the rules when a student is not displaying appropriate behavior.  I take it a step further and help the student understand what it is they should be doing instead.

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  • Provide clear instructions.  Breaking down instructions into smaller parts can help keep students stay focused and on task.  Giving too much and saying too much can be overwhelming for any student including a student with ADHD.
  • Provide frequent breaks.   Let’s face it; working hard on school tasks can be too much sometimes, especially for students who struggle.  Giving frequent breaks can let them blow off some steam or just relax until they are ready to get back to their work.
  • Provide fidget toys or objects.  I have a small bin of squeeze toys and balls for my most fidgety students.  Having something in their hand helps eliminate some of that energy they have and helps them focus on what they are doing.  My rule is that as long as it’s not distracting to others they can use these objects freely.
  • Use positive reinforcement.  I never want to embarrass my students or punish them for their behavior when I know they have trouble controlling their impulsivity and hyperactivity.  I set some goals for each student to work on and reinforce the desired behavior with praise, small prizes or free time.
  • Never single out a student.  I try not to single out my students or call attention to their ADHD.  If I need to speak to them about a behavior I do it discreetly or privately.  I also used secret signals with students to let them know when they are off task or when they need to refocus.  The last thing a student who already feels alienated from their peers needs is to be humiliated in class in front of their peers.
  • Come prepared with lots of patience and kindness. Go with the mindset that students with ADHD can have a hard time learning because of impairment to their executive functions.  As teachers we need to be patient and help them navigate through this.  It’s not their fault; they are not lazy or stupid.  Be kind.  Put yourself in your student’s shoes.  What if this was you? What if this was your child?  As a mother it helps me look at my students as “my kids” and to treat them the way I’d want my child’s teacher to treat him.

I love the time I spend with my students even if it is a challenge at times.   I frequently remind myself that even though I have worked with many students with ADHD they are all unique. Image Strategies that work with one child may not work with another.  As a teacher I know I need to be flexible and to treat each student as an individual.  I also know that at times I may not have the answer, and I may need to reflect on that.  I do try to have fun and not sweat the small stuff; it makes for a more relaxed environment where students are not afraid to be themselves and are more open to learning in a classroom community.

What strategies have you used in your classroom with your students? 

Children With Learning Disabilities: How We As Teachers and Parents Can Help Them Reach Their Goals!

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As an Educator, I’ve had the opportunity to teach several students who have Learning Disabilities. I understand the importance of accommodating the student in a way where they are not set apart or centered out in front of their peers.  Youth and adolescence is hard enough without the added stress of being teased or isolated by their peers due to something that is beyond their control and already, unfortunately, has a negative stigma attached to it.

I have found that many of the strategies used to help assist and accommodate those students with Learning Disabilities are actually beneficial to the entire student population. Below I will address some of these strategies in hopes that educators and parents will not only gain some different techniques to use, but in hopes they will use these strategies for their entire classrooms or helping all siblings at home with homework. No differential treatment, yet the student/child with a Learning Disability receives the help they need to be successful… to me it’s a win/win and a confidence booster! It’s worth a try is it not?

ASSESSMENT

To start, I believe it is important to explain to students:

1)      Why the material is important,

2)      What the learning goals are, and

3)      What the expectations are for each level (teachers out there will be familiar with the exemplars provided in the curriculum and there is no reason not to share these rubrics with your students).

Teachers should develop an easy to understand guide for how the children will be assessed before the task is assigned. Creating examples of Quality work yourself is a great idea. Never single out a student and show their work to the class as an example! This is a big no -no in my book, even if you are using it for praise, you do not know if the student feels embarrassed by this or whether or not his/her peers will react negatively to them  (ie: “teachers-pet”).  Some children will begin to realize who the “smart” kids in the class are and instead of assessing their own work based on the criteria and their own goals and personal improvements they could develop self defeating attitudes rooted in perceived incompetence.

In my next blog post I will discuss study skills that are essential for success.

What strategies have you used for assessment in your classroom?  What has worked for you?  What hasn’t?