Teaching ADHD Students: One Teacher's Success Story

Special-education teacher Brenda Hallgren never gives up on teaching her students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) or learning disabilities (LD).

Brenda Hallgren, special education teacher in Michigan, is a teacher we love. Melanie Hallgren Photography

Teaching ADHD Students

  • Provide "brain breaks" every 15 minutes -- standing up and stretching, having a snack, varying the type of lesson.
  • Post on the board or wall what will be covered during class.
  • Walk around the classroom and touch distracted students on the shoulder or back. This often refocuses them.
  • Teach students to lead the lesson. This may take weeks, but it is amazing to see them in action!
  • Be flexible. If students are passionate about something, go with it! If it doesn't seem to be working, drop it.
  • Listen to what students say. Everyone needs a voice and wants to be heard!

Brenda Hallgren, special-education teacher at Groves High School, in Beverly Hills, Michigan, whose students range from having severe learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) to autism spectrum disorder and mild cognitive impairments, is unfazed by students who scream when they can't find their pencil or cry when they've forgotten their lunch money. She's seen it all, but those classroom meltdowns haven't hardened her against teaching and helping students reach their potential.

When my daughter, Mackenzie, walked into her classroom on her first day of high school, I don't know which of us was more anxious. Brenda picked up on it and reassured me through daily e-mails: "Yes, Mackenzie had a tough day, but we worked through it."

Brenda is invested in the success of her students. One of Brenda's many gifts is seeing the world through a student's eyes, and coming up with the accommodations that will help them: "I believe all my students can learn and grow."

Work With Your Special Needs Students

When Mackenzie started ninth grade, she was anxious, dependent, and a crybaby. Not knowing how to express her frustration, she would sink into her chair and start weeping.

Brenda didn't judge her, but learned from her. She found out what was holding Mackenzie back -- her executive function skills were impaired, and her short-term memory was unreliable. Brenda set up visual cues and reminders to keep her on track. Each day, she posted Mackenzie's schedule on the board, and gave her a written copy to tuck into her backpack or jeans pocket. Meltdowns were avoided by encouraging her to "use her words."

Best of all, Brenda taught her to have self-confidence. The girl who was afraid to raise her hand in class became the young woman who, four years later, led the class in daily journaling and current events.

Says Brenda: "Look at the whole student and be her fan and cheerleader!"

More on Teaching ADD/ADHD Students

How Teachers Can Help ADD/ADHD Students Fit In
ADD/ADHD at School: Teacher Resources and Tips
What Can a Teacher Do?
My ADD/ADHD Son's Strongest Advocate


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TAGS: For Teachers of ADHD Children, Talking with Teachers, ADHD Role Models

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