Published on ADDitudeMag.com
ADHD Learning: Build on Strengths, Not Deficits
Instead of dwelling on deficiencies, focus on your ADHD child’s talents to help him grow and learn in the classroom.
by Rebecca Alber
Build on Strengths
teaching ADHD students, educators and parents need to scrap the deficit
model and replace it with the abundance model.
The abundance model works this way: Uncover the jewels inside each
child and make a list of them (skills and interests). Meet the child
where he is academically, socially, and emotionally, then use the student's
jewels, through personalized instruction, to help him grow. Here are strategies
that will enable you to do just that.
Set a Goal Together
Teachers and parents should ask a child to list the things she is good
at, what she'd like to be better at, and what she can teach others to do. Think
about assigning a writing activity in which students set personal and academic
goals, highlighting how the skills and talents they already possess will help
them grow and accomplish these goals.
Let Your Child Teach You
Invite a child to teach or share something he is good at with the class
or with you at home. I've seen students teach origami, dance steps, a martial
arts move, guitar chords, cartooning, even Photoshop.
Focus on Favorite Ways to Learn
Ask students to write down the ways they learn best: by doing, by
reading, by drawing, by seeing, by creating, by something else. Have them list
things that have made their learning memorable: "a good book,"
"a nice teacher," "a fun assignment." Ask them to also list
things that may interfere with their learning -- "if something is too
hard," for instance.
Ask students to choose something that is precious to them, an item that
has value (personal, not monetary). Assign each student to bring that important
item (a photo, an award, baby shoes) to class, and write about it. Then divide
the class into small groups and talk about why each student's item is so
special. Parents can do this at home as well, with siblings or just Mom and
Tap into Takeaways
Self-reflection is critical to learning. Give students an opportunity to
name and celebrate their "takeaways" — everything that they have
gained from a specific learning experience.
Kids Learn from Kids
Working with others helps highlight strengths and deflects deficits.
Teachers and parents need to let go and allow kids to explore and discover
together, teach each other, and feel safe and valued enough to take risks while
they learn. I'd much prefer to have my students be engaged and invested in
learning rather than spend all of their time trying to get the "right
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