An ADHD Special Ed Teacher's Best Advice

How this educator helps students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), while inspiring their parents.

Special-education teacher Patty Provance

Patty's Pointers

Seat students with ADD/ADHD away from the door and hallways to minimize distractions.

Provide objects to fidget with.

Offer headphones, so kids can listen to music and block out extraneous noise.

Modify tests and read text aloud.

Create games to help children learn the subject matter.


Patty Provance arrives at her special-ed classroom by 6 a.m. every school day, and doesn’t leave until 5. Parents know they can always reach her during these hours, by phone or in person, unless she’s meeting with teachers with whom she shares a student. During the drive home from school, Provance asks herself two questions: “Did I do my best today?” and “What could I have done better?” With a work ethic like that, it’s no surprise that she is a standout teacher.

Provance, a veteran of 31 years, has been teaching special education at William B. Orenic Intermediate School, in Will County, Illinois, for the last four of those years. She co-teaches language arts and math with the regular classroom teachers, adapting the curriculum for special-ed students. She also works with her special-ed students in a resource room. Provance knows what it takes to raise and educate a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). Her 23-year-old son, Matthew, has the condition.

Parent-to-Parent Advice

Provance cites her rapport with parents as a key to success. She communicates with them by phone or e-mail at least one or two times a week -- and verbally gives an honest report card on “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of the students’ performance. She gives tips to help kids manage homework and sends them home with neat ideas -- like a list of cool websites -- to enrich their learning outside school. She also offers advice for parents on raising a child with ADD/ADHD. “My message is: ‘Don’t give up hope. Your child can accomplish whatever he wants in the future.’”

Teacher-to-Teacher Advice

Provance works hard to adapt subject matter to ADD/ADHD brains, breaking it down into small chunks or adding visual cues, like color-coding, to focus students’ attention. She isn’t afraid to get silly in the name of learning. During a vocabulary lesson, she and a small group of kids “did a little dance” to reinforce the definition of “sway.” Her goal? To help students feel relaxed, valued, and successful. “It is all about the kids,” says Provance.

More Advice for ADHD Teachers

Listen Up: 9 Ways to Help ADHD Kids Follow Directions

ADHD at School: Teacher Resources and Tips

Classroom Rules That Work for Children with ADHD

This article appears in the Summer 2010 issue of ADDitude.

To read this issue of ADDitude in full, buy the back issue.

TAGS: For Teachers of ADHD Children, School Behavior

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