ADHD News & Research

Study: Prompting, Self-Management Yield Better Classroom Results Than Other ADHD Accommodations

Redirection, prompting, and independent behavior self-regulation were more effective in reducing disruptive behaviors and increasing classroom engagement than were classroom accommodations like receiving extra time or a copy of the teacher’s notes, according to a recent study of children with ADHD.

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March 21, 2022

Prompting students and teaching them self-management strategies reduce disruptive behaviors and increase classroom engagement in adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) more effectively than do allowing frequent breaks or fidgets, according to a small study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.1

The study found that redirecting students with ADHD back to a task (prompting) and teaching them strategies to independently regulate their behavior (self-management) decreased disruptive behaviors and task initiation time and increased task engagement more than implementing popular classroom strategies such as breaks or use of sensory items or fidgets.

According to the study’s authors, prompting, taking breaks, and sensory proprioception are widespread accommodations used for students with ADHD. The first two often appear as part of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). On the other hand, self-management strategies are a frequently recommended intervention that is not typically found in IEPs. The authors noted that research supporting specific practices over others is lacking, and such research could inform IEPs.

The researchers evaluated the efficacy of prompting, teaching self-management, encouraging sensory proprioception, and taking breaks in 15 sixth and seventh graders during 20 sessions, each one lasting 20 minutes.

Students were randomly assigned one of the following four strategies in each session.

  • Prompting condition: Researchers pointed to the task or told a student to continue working if they went off-task for five seconds.
  • Self-management condition: Students checked “yes” on a paper form if they stayed on task for five minutes (indicated by a timer alarm) or “no” if they were off task when they heard the timer ring.
  • Sensory proprioception: Students selected a sensory item (fidget toy, stress ball, etc.) to use throughout the task.
  • Breaks: Students took a five-minute break after working for ten minutes.

Data analysis showed that prompting and self-management strategies delivered the most desirable outcomes in student behavior and engagement, while sensory proprioception resulted in minor or no desired effects.

However, researchers noted that participants were not “fans” of prompting or self-management, viewing the former as “annoying” and the latter as “distracting” (even though it encouraged them to pay attention to their work).

According to the study authors, the effectiveness of self-management aligns with recent research indicating that teaching students with ADHD how to independently manage their behavior is more effective than implementing strategies such as allowing extra time on tasks or distributing a copy of the teacher’s notes.

The findings of this study also build on research supporting prioritizing classroom interventions for students with ADHD above accommodations.


1 Harrison, J. R., Evans, S. W., Zatz, J., Mehta, P., Patel, A., Syed, M., Soares, D. A., Swistack, N., Griffith, M., & Custer, B. A. (2022). Comparison of Four Classroom-Based Strategies for Middle School Students With ADHD: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Attention Disorders.