For Teachers

“Don’t Mistake Results for Effort:” Guidance for Those Teaching Children with ADHD

Interrupting class. Losing homework. Not following directions. These behaviors are common among students with ADHD, and may be misinterpreted by teachers as disrespect or lack of interest. Here, parents of neurodivergent students remind educators that what their children need most is their patience, their creative flexibility, and their appreciation for unique brains.

Side view of young female teacher giving high five to adorable girl during art class in school
Side view of young female teacher giving high five to adorable girl during art class in school

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) can electrify a classroom. They devise the most inventive solutions, see easily overlooked connections and patterns, and care deeply about their classmates. They also learn differently. Their symptoms sometimes get in the way when they’re taking timed tests, following step-by-step instructions, and writing essays. Their self-esteem and attitude toward school often hinges on having a teacher who not only accommodates their learning needs, but celebrates their unique ADHD brain.

Recently, ADDitude’s Instagram followers suggested ways that teachers can best support and educate their children with ADHD. Their responses highlight the importance of adjusting assignments, forgiving impulse-control slip-ups, and understanding the neurological underpinnings of ADHD symptoms. Add your advice for teachers in the Comments section below.

What is the Best Way to Teach a Child with ADHD? With Empathy

“Your tone of voice and words become their inner voice through life.” – @sameerahmirza

“Move through talking points at a slower pace. Have three ways of explaining one concept.” –

“Celebrate their positive behaviors and actions. Show them you’re really listening and try not to ignore them.” – @jczz_z

“Instead of thinking ‘What’s his problem?’ ask, ‘What’s his story?’ Knowledge is powerful.” –@monicaderegt

[The 3 Rs of ADHD at School: Routines, Rules, Reminders]

“Let go of the idea that rigid school performance is the only key to success.” – @amy_oppedisano

“Interrupting and being excited to share the answers isn’t necessarily a sign of rudeness.” –@rach_urq

“Learn the science behind it – what ADHD is from a medical and brain chemical perspective.” – @ellefahey

“Kids usually know when they’re getting too emotional, but just need space and the tools to self-regulate.” – @eleesasj

“Listen to the long stories. They are so worth it in the end.” – @kindgommama226

“Don’t punish them for not thinking exactly the way that you do. They are already punishing themselves.” – @breishere1

“When in doubt, ask the child to act it out. The right words may not come, but he might be able to express himself physically.” – @notmattdylan

“Please don’t criticize them for not doing things the way other children are doing them!” –@pratimapathania

“Don’t mistake results for effort. My daughter worked at least four times as hard to do the work.” – @lareed17

[Use This Free Handout: Solving Challenges in the Classroom]

“Understand that they’re trying. If they’re not achieving, look for the reason.” – @theadhdmouse

“Enforcing a ‘proper way’ to be attentive can actually channel focus away from the task.” – @yubbles15

“Dig a little deeper. Look beyond academics to see how a child is doing emotionally.” –@laurawest127

Children with ADHD need clear and precise instructions — and no room to wiggle out of a responsibility. But they also need your patience, understanding, guidance, and structure.” – @mitschki

“Make them feel you are on their side and you are not against them.” – @shaynesmommy225

“Don’t assume that you know what they are thinking or feeling. Always ask.” – @mentalhealth_awareness.quotes

“Remember to fill their emotional needs and self-esteem cup.” – @sameerahmirza

“They listen better when appropriately stimulated. When children can, they do. Believe them and meet them there.” – @livelaughohmaiers

“Find different ways of communicating desired behaviors.” – @sameerahmirza

“Don’t take their behavior personally. They are not doing it to annoy you.” @sameerahmirza

“No child is seeking punishment.” – @rosetob

“Don’t be upset you can’t control them. We can’t even control how our own moods affect us sometimes.” – @sp00pykitty

“Let them be different. Don’t try to make them fit in.” – @the_manuka_honey

“Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of ADHD and be open to neurodivergent learning.” –@awaycharlotte

“They won’t fit into your box: try and understand theirs instead.” – @sarahblade307

“Don’t punish emotions. Teach kids how to deal with them.” – @hopefortomorrow316

“Create a space that allows them to learn the material the way they learn, not how you prefer to teach it. And explain! Helping them understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ helps them to see the big picture and understand concepts.” –  @kircielouwho

Impulsive responses can seem rude but they are the most empathetic kids. Coach them.” –  @raisingdroids

“As with every living person, ask what they need.” –  @paulas_workbench

“Be patient. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all world. Finding what works for someone’s brain will make things way easier then forcing what doesn’t fit.” –  @_miasimia

“A ‘You’re really good at that!’ will stick with them for life. Encourage the positives!” @jmdarnell

“They want your empathy. Acknowledge that they are different, and that that is okay.” –  @sopranomelrose

“Screaming in their faces doesn’t make them ‘better.’ It just gives kids one more reason not to trust adults.” – @morgan8959

“Build a sustainable system of advocacy to empower their intellect. – @control_top

Teaching Children with ADHD: Next Steps

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