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Quiet, Sustained Attention Is Not Natural for Our Kids. Here’s What Is.

It’s not always realistic to expect students with ADHD to sit quietly absorbing and processing information from a printed page. But here are some accommodations that bring reading — and writing and math — to life.

Reading, writing and math are difficult subjects for children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) for one key reason: they require sustained attention.

Reading means sitting down, opening a book, and silently processing and remembering what is read over several pages at a time. With writing, your child has to generate a thesis and support it using multiple paragraphs or ideas — all while sticking to a rigid five-paragraph structure. Most math requires sequencing and follow through from one step to the next. All of these tasks not only require focus but also sequencing, planning, working memory, and some form of verbal or written output. Given these multiple demands, is any wonder these subjects are your child’s least favorite?

Add to all of that the Core Curriculum Standards, which are only going to become more complex year after year, and you’ve got a looming potential stress for ten of thousands of students. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some strategies for you to use at home and for your teacher to use at school. These are great reading, writing and math accommodations to add to your child’s 504 Accommodation Plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP):

Focusing on Math

Your child may have a natural affinity for math, but once she leaves single-digit addition and subtraction, there are just too many steps to remember.

1. Use manipulatives, or fidgets to teach math concepts.

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2. Encourage your child to talk out loud while he/she is solving a problem. This will help to maintain focus and follow through.

3. Have your child solve one or two problems per page. A high number of problems on a page is discouraging and can lead to meltdowns or refusal.

4. Decrease the number of problems required to show mastery of a concept (repetition gets boring).

Focusing on Writing

Asking an ADHD child to sit down, think of ideas and then create a coherent essay is a recipe for resistance; he will fight you every word of the way.

1. The more visual you can make writing assignments, the better. Create a visual depiction of the essay and use a white board with different colors. Talk about it, in detail. The more you can visually and verbally depict, the easier the writing process will become.

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2. Encourage your child to be creative — start with a question, a joke, or an interesting fact, and end the essay in the same way.

3. Encourage the use of a graphic organizer or mind map prior to writing tasks so that your child is able to think through her ideas out loud and in writing

4. Edit essays by reading out loud.

5. Use dictation software programs in order to prepare essays or research projects. This will serve to improve and maintain flow of ideas.

Focusing on Reading

It’s tough for any child, particularly one with ADHD, to process what she is reading… silently… and stay focused when the story gets boring. So, what to do?

1. Encourage student to read out loud (written work or books) to maintain attention and improve comprehension.

2. Provide audio books or books on tape.

General Accommodations for Focus

1. Allow the child to take a test in another room that has few distractions if she is losing focus and concentration due to extraneous movement and sound

2. Allow the child to be seated in an area of the classroom that is away from major distractions (e.g., window or door)

3. Allow the child to take breaks in order to improve focus and attention to task

4. Allow the child to discuss her understanding of a new concept as this may help her to make connections

[20 Classroom Accommodations That Target Common ADHD Challenges]