During a typical school week, children spend more of their waking hours inside the classroom than anywhere else. For this reason alone, identifying an ADHD-friendly educator is a must if you are the parent of a child with attention deficits. With the proper educational guidance and support, children with ADHD can realize their true potential.
Seek Out the Right Traits
As a parent, it is up to you to actively seek out a school that is staffed by educators who specialize in teaching children with ADHD. By finding teachers with a successful track record working with these students, your child will have a chance to thrive. In our experience, the seven traits listed below are strong indicators that the instructor will be successful with this unique population.
Understands that children with challenges are indicative of a society with challenges
The path to a fruitful educational experience for your child begins with an educator's working knowledge of the ways that ADHD impacts our society at large. Outstanding teachers are keenly aware that the challenges that accompany an ADHD diagnosis extend beyond the individual child to the child's family and culture at large.
With 6.1 million children carrying a diagnosis of ADHD, top educators understand how important it is for our educational system to provide the resources necessary to help children as well as their families and their extended social support networks. Accordingly, ADHD-friendly educators are often those who remain in regular contact with their students' families and encourage utilization of societal resources outside the classroom.
Can quickly identify problems among students with attention deficits
Developing an effective teaching strategy is impossible unless an educator is able to pinpoint a student's specific learning challenges and opportunities for improvement. Teachers who can quickly recognize attention deficits, communication difficulties, and deficiencies in social skills can develop customized lesson plans early in the semester to maximize learning.
Has a proven track record of success teaching children with learning difficulties
There is no substitute for experience when teaching children with ADHD. Ideally, the educators and counselors at your child's school will have training in professional areas such as social work, communication disorders, psychology, and human development. More importantly, they are proactive about attending continuing education courses — especially those designed to help educators effectively manage students with ADHD.
Is a master of maximizing learning opportunities within a small class size
Many of today's primary and secondary school teachers are expected to manage classrooms with 40 or more students. While some educators can teach large groups of students effectively, others find that they are playing the role of a disciplinarian more than teacher. Nicole Gonzalez, a middle school math teacher, notes that teaching a large class has made it "Increasingly more difficult to recognize students that may be struggling. It is almost like they are invisible."
Experts recommend a class size of approximately 15 students to facilitate learning for children with attention deficits. A small class size helps to ensure that students with ADHD receive the individual attention they need to grasp concepts and flourish. Educators who have years of experience teaching smaller classes of students are often better accustomed to working with students who require extra help.
Develops customized strategies that help individual students overcome challenges
Just because two students both have ADHD does not mean that they will both respond in the same way to a particular learning technique. Winning educators understand that no two students with ADHD are exactly alike, and develop customized strategies based upon each student's individual aptitudes. In many cases, five-star educators will combine these strategies with one or more of the following activities to engage students:
- Video games designed to improve focus
- Activities that develop social skills
- Participation in a summer camps that provides structure when school is not in session
- Life skills training to help students with ADHD learn to handle money
- Participation in sports to teach the value of teamwork
- Board games to help students practice phonetically irregular words
Continually monitors student progress to assess strategy effectiveness
ADHD-friendly education does not occur in a vacuum. Top educators realize this, and continually assess their techniques and strategies to optimize learning for students. They also keep parents informed about student progress and suggest actionable ways that parents can provide a supportive learning environment outside the classroom. In short, they pave the way for a seamless transition between the classroom and the home.
Provides unconditional support and positive reinforcement to students
Florida's most talented educators are patient, nurturing, and supportive of students with ADHD. Rather than admonishing them for their failures, they use praise and positive reinforcement to encourage students to continue to exhibit productive behaviors. You may find them handing out stickers or simply offering verbal praise for a job well done. Most importantly, you will see students responding positively to their actions.