Defeating Distraction in the Classroom for Students with ADHD

Teaching students with ADHD is tough, especially if they're prone to distraction. Keep their focus laser-sharp with these little tweaks — they'll make a big difference.

A teacher helping a student with ADHD overcome distraction in the classroom

Teaching is rewarding and challenging, but teaching students with ADHD calls for special effort to do the job well. When I homeschooled my ADHD children, they kept trying to show me how they needed to learn. I finally got it. I learned how to tweak the curriculum and my teaching strategies to meet the needs of my distractible students. If you’re a parent raising a child with ADHD, perhaps one or two of the lessons will help you and your student at home. Talk with the teacher about using a couple of these suggestions, as well.

Show and Tell

I learned that “show and tell” is good for teachers as well as students. After showing my kids what I wanted them to do, rather than just giving them verbal directions, they were better at completing the task. Too many words can overwhelm a student who struggles to pay attention. Pair your visual and auditory cues to maximize your instructional impact. Hitting the auditory and visual buttons together increases the odds that the information will stick.

Swerve — Don’t Brake

My son often stared off into the distance while I was teaching. When you notice that your student’s attention has wandered, don’t try to yank it back by saying, “Look at me,” and repeating your request until he does. I learned that it was better to swerve than to slam on the brakes to help them circle back to my lesson. I might ask what they wanted to have for lunch or which book they would read next. After re-engaging them, I redirected their attention to the task.

Watch Your Praise

It is easy for a student with ADHD to become discouraged, especially when there is a lot of criticism of his work. My daughter and son were impulsive and needed adult assistance to direct their energy to get things done. I tried to balance my corrections with encouragement and praise. I learned to be careful with my praise, though. If I commented on every positive thing my children did, the praise was less effective. Too much praise can lead to less effort on the student’s part. Use praise strategically to reward effort and hard work.

Don’t Spoon-Feed

My children are bright, but because they are inattentive and hyperactive, I caught myself doing too much of their work for them. I learned that when I did all the talking and asked my children to complete an assignment, I had to backtrack to fill in the gaps that come when their attention had wandered.

Rather than spoon-feeding them the information again, I checked in with them as I instructed them. That way, I could tell whether they were listening to me or were on a track of their own. Asking questions or having them summarize what I’d said made the lesson more interactive and engaging, too.

Manage Monotony

I like structure and routine, and my ADHD children need plenty of it. They also needed variety, and, if I didn’t provide it, they would find it themselves. ADHD students are great at coming up with suggestions about how to make things more interesting. Ask them. Using special pens with different-colored inks or moving the lesson from the dining room table to the couch will keep things interesting.


How Stress Impacts Learning and Behavior
Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D., shares the tools you need to help your child manage academic stress so their brain has room to grow!

Replay This Free Webinar

TAGS: Learn to Focus with ADHD, For Teachers of ADHD Children

Share your comments, find solutions and support on ADDConnect!
Discuss classroom accommodations, IEPs and 504 Plans, behavior solutions, homework fixes and more on ADDConnect.

Copyright © 1998 - 2016 New Hope Media LLC. All rights reserved. Your use of this site is governed by our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only. See additional information.
New Hope Media, 108 West 39th Street, Suite 805, New York, NY 10018