Keeping ADD/ADHD Kids Engaged
Can your child doodle and learn at the same time?
Whether your child has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD or exhibits some of the behaviors associated with this diagnosis, you’ll appreciate and probably identify with this story. While the class of 18 kindergarten students sat quietly in a circle around the young, soft-spoken teacher as she shared the details of what makes rain, one lone child seemed to be not in the least bit interested in what Miss Lindsey was saying. Samantha wiggled and twisted and turned non-stop for the entire 10 minute weather lesson. She seemed to be looking everywhere but at the teacher she loved, and appeared to be totally “checked-out.” At the end of the lesson, Miss Lindsey asked the class who could tell her “how rain is made”. Without skipping a beat, Samantha’s hand shot up and she began to recite the lesson, practically verbatim, to the class. The teacher was astonished as she was sure that this wiggly, fidgety child didn’t hear a word she was saying.
So, how can children who need to doodle, tap their feet or stand during class be successful in a conventional classroom? As a parent of a child like this, my guess is you are often told that your son is a disruption or that your daughter is always getting up for a tissue or for some other absolutely necessary reason. There are so many different styles of learning that it is important to recognize how your child learns best and how to work with the teacher, school counselor and administrators to make sure that your child’s needs are met and that the environment is one that he/she will thrive in. Learning with ADD/ADHD requires different strategies for parents and teachers.
The ADD/ADHD Checklist, An Easy Reference for Parents & Teachers, by Sandra Rief, M.A., has many useful suggestions for parents and teachers to keep kids engaged, on track and motivated. Even if your child hasn’t received an official diagnosis, the tips in the book offer tried and true strategies for helping kids who are easily distracted.
Teaching and parenting a child with ADD/ADHD (either confirmed diagnosis or identified behaviors) can be extremely challenging. Here are a few ideas* that you, as a parent, can share with your child’s teacher if you feel that what they are currently doing is not working. Tried and true ADD teaching techniques:
- Provide preferential seating – upfront, within cueing distance of the teacher, away from doors, windows and high-traffic areas
- Notice and offer praise when the student is focused and on task
- Utilize a high-degree of multisensory teaching strategies (color, movement, graphics)
- For those students who need to touch something while listening or working, it’s important to eliminate as many distractions on the desk as possible and offer an item such as a ball of clay, squishy ball or other “charm” attached to his/her belt loop.
Collaboration and communication is key to a successful outcome. Since most classrooms are organized in a traditional way with desks in rows and the teacher at the head of the room, it is critical that you advocate for your child if you feel that this set up is hindering their progress. Most of the time, a solution can be worked out so the dynamics of the class aren’t disrupted and your child gets what he/she needs.
And yes, it is possible to doodle and learn at the same time.
* The ADD/ADHD Checklist, An Easy Reference for Parents & Teachers, by Sandra Rief, M.A.