Ask the Experts

My Student Keeps Blurting Out and Getting Up from His Seat

Punishment won’t change the fact that kids with ADHD are more likely to get up or yell out in class. Instead of shaming students, eliminate disruptive behavior with these positive interventions.

Q: Josh, nine, who has been diagnosed with ADHD, blurts things out. He will call across the room to a friend during classwork. He also will get up from his seat without asking. We have classroom rules posted on the wall, but it has been tough to get him to comply. What can I do to change his behaviors?

Know that these two disruptive behaviors are classic characteristics of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) that are caused by brain chemistry and immaturity issues. Your student isn’t actively choosing to break the rules. Since brain issues are involved, punishment will not change his behavior. Finding positive interventions is a must. To be effective, a “visual reminder” to follow rules must be within a student’s immediate field of sight. Here are a few helpful strategies:

Educate the Child

First, explain in private to the child why it’s hard to stay seated and not blurt out. “Josh, students with ADHD have trouble staying in their seat and sometimes talk out in class. I know you don’t mean to, but it disturbs your friends. So let’s work on it together. Here are a couple of things that may help.” If you don’t educate the student, he’ll assume he is a “bad” person.

Post a Picture of the Desired Behavior

Take a picture of the child sitting at his desk with his hand raised. Print it and tape it to his desk. Explain, saying, “This is how I like you to get my attention.” Children who need to move or talk will want to do something, so give him an alternative action to take instead. The photo will be a visual reminder of what to do.

Give “Oops” Cards

For blurting or wandering, create “Oops, sorry I forgot” cards. Give him five or more to start the day. If he calls across the room or starts wandering, hold up one finger — one card gone. Do your best to make certain he has at least one card left at the end of the day so he gets a reward. Next day, brag about how he kept one card and ask him if he can keep at least two today. Shaping desired behavior takes time, but in the long run it pays off. Since this behavior is part of his disability, avoid shaming him for something that is beyond his control.

[Free Download: The Daily Report Card for Better Classroom Behavior]

Use a Trifold Prompt

Give your student three cards of different colors:

  1. A red card that says, “I need help and I can’t keep working.”
  2. A yellow card that says, “I need help but I can keep working.”
  3. A green card that says, “I’m working fine.”

These function as visual reminders and give the student an alternative action to blurting or leaving his seat that alerts the teacher when he needs help. He can flip the card that applies to his situation.

Enlarge the Child’s Movement Zone

Place the child’s seat at the end of the row, allowing him to stand behind or kneel at his desk, or to sit on the floor or on a nearby beanbag while working.

Give the Student Jobs That Require Movement

He can collect or hand out papers, give out pencils, water the plants, or take a message to the office. Identify the time of day when talking out or wandering is the greatest problem and give a movement task during that time.

Consider Medication

Typically the most effective intervention in reducing these behaviors is ADHD medication. If the child is blurting and wandering even though he is on medication, then parents should see their doctor to discuss the behaviors. Perhaps the doctor will either adjust the dose or change medication.

[Read This: Disruptive Behavior: Solutions for the Classroom and at Home]