Elementary School Basics

Parent and teacher strategies for a successful start at school.


Filed Under: Organization Tips for ADHD Kids, ADHD Time Management, School Behavior, Homework and Test Help
ADHD in elementary school. ADDitude Magazine

From the first day of school, kindergarten students learn to walk in line, raise their hands, and listen to a story. They're developing the skills they'll need to take on the world. Over the next six years, they'll learn to communicate and collaborate, to mine meaning from language, to reason and predict, and to be good citizens and friends.

But if neurological deficits keep them from paying attention, organizing thoughts, and controlling impulses - as with children who have ADHD - they'll need special help, at home and in school. By working together, parents and teachers can address the behaviors that keep a child from learning. Cues to redirect his drifting focus, lists to remind him of rules and tasks, healthy outlets for his excess energy, routines and schedules to move him through the day - these are a few of the strategies that can help your child succeed. If you provide ongoing support and encouragement, and praise when you "catch him" doing things right, chances are, he'll not only succeed - he'll soar.

Academics: Too Busy to Learn

ADDers are often the most enthusiastic students, bursting with ideas. But their energy and inability to focus can be disruptive to themselves and to everyone else. Some students with ADHD may appear to be paying attention, only to be daydreaming, wrapped in internal distractions that keep them from learning.

WHAT TEACHERS CAN DO

  • Assign a seat away from distractions. Place a child with ADHD up front and away from doors, windows, and distracting noises.
  • Provide a release valve for pent-up energy. Some kids are more attentive if allowed to doodle or squeeze a stress ball during class. Let them walk around the classroom between lessons, hand out materials, or run errands to the office.
  • Establish eye contact to be sure a student is tuned in when you give directions. Be specific and brief. Avoid multiple commands. Write instructions on the blackboard, using colored chalk to highlight important points.
  • Grab their attention. Walk around the room, vary the volume of your speaking voice, use pictures, props, cartoons, demonstrations - anything to keep all eyes on you.
  • Lighten the homework load. Students with ADHD work slowly and are easily frustrated. Assigning just the odd-numbered math problems, for example, lets a child practice what he learned at school without pushing him past his limit.

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO

  • Keep your child active. Early morning exercise - even walking or riding a bike to school - can help kids who have energy to burn. One family I know rises early for ice-skating, which helps their daughter to be more attentive in class.
  • Agree on a daily homework routine. Does your child need a break after class, or does she work best while still in school mode? Does she prefer the kitchen table or a quiet spot in the den? Allow background music if it helps her focus, but keep distractions to a minimum. Make sure she understands the assignment, and remain nearby to help her stay on task.
  • Schedule a five-minute break for every 20 minutes of work. Serve a healthy snack or let your child run around - both stimulate the brain chemicals that promote focus.
  • Get creative. If your child is easily bored, introduce some multi-sensory fun. To study spelling words, for example, you might write them in glue and sprinkle on glitter.
  • Respect your child's saturation point. If he's too tired or frustrated to continue his homework, let him stop. Write a note to the teacher explaining that he did as much as he could.

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