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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

When 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.

Get Personal

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 Dad.

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 answers."

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