Working Together to Make Your Child Successful
Every parent wants their child to succeed in school. However, between the differing needs of each and every student and limited school resources, it can be hard to make that desire a reality. Many schools offer a one-size-fits-all approach that caters to the "average" child, leaving many students without the necessary resources and help that they need. Teachers are highly influential figures in your child's life and can greatly influence your child's educational outcomes, yet, as is constantly announced in the news, there is a shortage of talented and qualified teachers around the country.
If your child is a student with ADHD, it is more important than ever to find the right classroom environment for them. Seek out teachers who know how to bring out the best in your child. Students with ADHD need to have the support of teachers and parents to build self-confidence as well as academic knowledge. Set your child up for success by looking for schools that offer any or all of the following techniques or programs.
Small Classroom Size
Students with ADHD do better in a low distraction environment; fewer students in a small classroom helps enable concentration on the task at hand. A smaller classroom size makes it possible for teachers to tailor the classroom to the needs of the students, from lesson plans down to seating arrangements. For example, some students with ADHD do better with individual desks facing the teacher, while others need physical space between seats to focus. An ideal student-to-teacher ratio is one that allows the teacher to spend time with each child as needed; parents know their child best and should use this knowledge to select the appropriate ratio. At Kentwood Preparatory School, we prioritize small classroom sizes, with approximately 110 students on campus between grades 1st through 12th.
Teachers should get to know each of their students as individuals, greeting them by name at the beginning of each day and making it clear that they are excited that your student is there for another day of learning and fun! Offering choices can help students focus their attention on tasks but is only possible when the teacher has the time to individualize their offerings for each child. Providing instructions one-on-one, using visuals, and tailoring communication to each child's preferences helps with information retention. For students with ADHD, teacher-directed lessons are more effective than independent learning at a desk, making it important that your child receives individualized attention throughout the school day. Too much independent learning at a desk may be ineffective, frustrating, or disheartening for your child.
Help with Transitions
While tasks should be kept shorter to maintain concentration, the catch twenty-two is that transitions between activities can be challenging for students with ADHD. Use consistent cues to ease into transitions and communicate clearly and firmly when transitions are going to occur. This is true of home life as well as school schedules. When starting work on, for example, reading, communicate that the reading lesson will last for ten minutes and then they will switch to math. Use visual reminders to keep track of time and communicate that day's schedule.
Structure in the Classroom
At home and at school, rely on simple, clear rules and a well-maintained schedule. Post the rules in the classroom for all to follow; draft the rules in a collaborative fashion between teacher and student so that the child feels heard and seen. Physical space should be used for the same reason every day, with a set-aside space for learning, for play, and for rest. Again, this is true at home as well.
While this perspective is helpful for all teachers and parents, students with ADHD greatly benefit from hearing fewer reprimands and more guidance. If a student interrupts a lesson, breaking one of the agreed-upon rules of raising a hand when you want to speak during class, consider a positive shift from "Don't interrupt me while I'm speaking" to "When we are in the middle of a lesson, please raise your hand to ask your question." It is possible to address the situation and remind a student of a rule without negativity.
Students with ADHD may feel shame or embarrassment in a classroom setting. Find a teacher who can highlight your child's strengths and build their self-confidence. Positive affirmations, engaging with a child's particular interests, and recognizing academic accomplishments will help maintain your child's passion for learning.
Engaging in Learning
When teaching group lessons, teachers should try to create individual actions for each student to complete on their own. Have students use small white-boards to answer questions from the teacher on their own before sharing their results with the group. Hands-on learning pairs mental engagement with physical movement. If learning about the pyramids of Egypt, students could craft their own pyramids out of paper or re-enact a historically important exchange between pharaohs.
Play is an important part of any child's day and physical movement can be even more important for students with ADHD. Classes that allow for movement throughout the day help students with ADHD focus, whether the movement is from chair to chalkboard or more highly incorporated into the lesson. Teachers can incorporate movement as a transition tool between lessons: take a five-minute break between reading and math, for example, to try a new yoga pose with the class!
Physical movement can be incorporated in lessons as well. If learning about botany, students can stand around the class plant for observation; a daily movement break could include watering the plant. This promotes both responsibility--caring for the plant--and movement.
Decrease Changes Between School and Home
Consider incorporating similar techniques in your home life, decreasing the need for your child to transition from "school culture" and "home culture." Parents and teachers are the best resources for students with ADHD to succeed; a close collaboration is helpful.
At Kentwood Preparatory School, we incorporate many of these techniques to help students with ADHD succeed in the classroom. If you're interested in learning more about our community, contact us to set up a tour or request more information online. We offer grades 1st through 12th; before-care and after-care are available Monday-Friday.