Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) doesn’t define your child, but it can impact their daily life. ADHD can impact a child’s attention span, organization, task completion, memory, and mental health.

Parent and teacher compassion and in-the-moment intervention can help a lot. Here’s how to support your child’s strengths and set them up for success. 

5 strategies for supporting your ADHD child in the classroom setting

1. Create a structured environment

Many individuals with ADHD live in the moment and have trouble sensing the passing of time. For this reason, children with ADHD often benefit from a structured and predictable routine. This will allow your child to feel more in control and help with frustration levels. 

At home and in school, you can try the following

Timers: this will let your child know how much time is left for a given task. It can also help with transitions.

Visual schedules: helping your child with focus skills by seeing the structure of the day. 

List and on-the-desk reminders: when your child finds themself off task, you or their teacher can tap and point to the next task

Self-evaluation forms: The evaluation form has 1-3 goals. One goal might be to finish math work. Once it is finished, your child can check it off.  It may also have a circle with a smiley face, neutral face, or sad face to indicate how the task went for them. Using a schedule and reminders or evaluation forms helps with working memory challenges. Often ADHD kids drift off task and forget what they are working on.

Charting your child’s progress can make small improvements evident and give them goals to work towards. 

2. Encourage physical activity

Many children with ADHD have a high energy level and may benefit from regular opportunities to move. Incorporating physical activity breaks into the school day can help your child focus when it’s time to work. Another benefit of movement is it can help to manage impulsive and hyperactive behavior, curb restlessness, and aid in smooth transitions.

Having 2 recess breaks during the day is preferable to one. Even if that means two 20-minute segments on the playground instead of one 40-minute segment.

Having a corner of the classroom that allows for movement can help. Some kids do well sitting on a yoga ball, having a kick band around chair legs, or using a wiggle cushion.See if your child can pass out papers, clean the whiteboard or bring items to the office. If your child is in elementary school, they may have a sensory room.Items such as a small trampoline and climbing wall are great for energy breaks.

Also, remember to get your child some physical exercise before and after school if you can!

Increased physical activity may also help your child sleep better. When your child sleeps well, their concentration level and focus skills improve.

3. Use positive reinforcement

Children with ADHD may struggle with impulse control. This may cause your child to get in trouble more as they are not able to stop and think.  This can be really hard on their self-esteem.

Research also shows rewarding positive behavior works better than threats and punishments. When trying to change behavior, try having your child earn points or stickers. These rewards add up to a prize that is meaningful to your child. This will increase self-efficacy and positive self-esteem within your child.

Above all, children need to feel respected, understood and experience compassion from others. With ADHD, this can be harder because of perceived misbehavior. Know your child’s behavior is not on purpose. Take our Cadey course on impulsivity to learn more.  

Research shows us that for many kids with ADHD, mental health declines. Understanding the brain differences within children with ADHD and offering support improves outcomes.

4. Make accommodations

Children with ADHD may need extra support in the classroom to help with focus and staying on task.

Accommodations that may help include additional time to complete assignments. Using assistive technology like a calculator, spell check, or dictation software. Having a quiet space for focused work. We must remember to use what Russell Barkley calls point of performance interventions. This means helping your child the moment they need it.

If a child is dysregulated or off task a brief 2 minute check in with their teacher can help. It would like:  How’s it going? What are you working on? How can we keep our body safe? This is called the 2-minute manager and needs to happen in the moment.

Barkley also introduces the idea of cue words to help with self-regulation. The turtle technique is a fun cue word the teacher can use with your child. They whisper turtle to signal to pull hands and legs in, look around and check how I’m doing with my activity level. 

If you are wondering how to get accommodations implemented in your child’s classroom, check out our Cadey Course

5. Work towards self-advocacy

As children with ADHD get older, it’s important to encourage them to be their own advocates. Help them to speak up when they need extra support. To help with this when you your child is young and in elementary school it will be important to speak up for your child. You may need to educate the teachers and school team on your child. 

Be an active participant in creating the interventions that work. As your child becomes aware of what works for them, you can encourage them to communicate with their teacher and other adults

By learning strategies you can use as a parent to help your child, you will help your child be successful. Parent education is the first line of treatment for your child. When parents dig in, kids get better.  In just minutes a day, learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for ADHD.

Talk therapy is not effective for treating ADHD in your child. Parent and teacher strategies are effective.

Learn from Cadey how to help your child today. Try our free course on ADHD. Dig in deeper with our courses on impulsivity, hyperactivity, and focused attention.

References consulted

Barkley, R.(2020) Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents

Guildford Press

August 20 The ADHD Report

Phuc Nguyen and Stephen Hinshaw 

Hargitai, L. D., Livingston, L. A., Waldren, L. H., Robinson, R., Jarrold, C., & Shah, P. (2023). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder traits are a more important predictor of internalising problems than autistic traits. Scientific Reports, 13(1), 1-7.

Presentations

ADHD in Children and Adolescents: Advances in Diagnosis, Treatment and Management

Russell Barkley PhD, 2021

CBT Strategies for Kids and Adolescents: Supporting Students with ADHD and Anxiety

David Pratt, PhD, MSW 2020