ADD permeates my life. My husband and daughter are both ADD, and I frequently teach students who also have ADD. I think I have a higher tolerance for ADD behavior than many people do; I have noticed, for instance, that others frequently seem to be irritated by a student’s behavior while I am scratching my head in wonder at their irritation. In fact, I feel awkward when things in my classroom are too focused or quiet. It has become glaringly obvious to me over the last few weeks just how little tolerance most teachers have for ADD behavior in their classrooms.
ADD, whatever its causes, is a reality of teaching school. How to deal with students who have ADD is the question.
I think perhaps this question is more difficult for elementary school teachers. I have my students for 90 minutes in a day at most. It can be exhausting when several display signs of ADD in just that short period of time, so I imagine it is difficult if the time is stretched out over a whole day. I’m sure its frustrating. I think it’s easy to forget that children with ADD truly have trouble controlling impulses, and it’s easy to blame them for behaviors that they have trouble controlling. And frankly, maybe it’s easy not to like them.
When you’ve worked with a child of your own, struggling because she just can’t seem to please no matter what she does or trying so hard to pay attention but failing, maybe you see things a little differently.
I have a little more patience than a lot of teachers I know, so some of the things that have worked for me might not work for others, but for what it’s worth, I have successfully used the following strategies in working with students who have ADD:
- I don’t punish for calling out, but sometimes I acknowledge that a certain person has his/her hand up, so I want to call on him/her first, then the child that calls out can have a chance to speak.
- If a student needs to get up and stand in the back of the room, go to the restroom, or get a drink of water, I let him/her.
- If a student needs something to play with — a squeezy ball or some other kind of fiddle toy — I let him/her. I do better myself when I have one.
- If a student is drawing in his or her notes, I don’t assume he/she isn’t paying attention. I doodle in my notes at meetings all the time. It actually helps me focus as I listen to details that I don’t need to write down. I have also been known to doodle while on the phone so I can focus on the conversation.
- I frequently use a child’s name in lecture or discussion in a non-punitive way. For example, “Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald had the last lines of The Great Gatsby engraved on his tomb. Isn’t that interesting, Carol?” or “I don’t now about you, Jake, but I think Mercutio is kind of smart.” The student whose attention is drifting is brought back into the conversation, but not in a way that puts him or her on the spot in a negative way. Most of the time when I do this, they smile at me.
- I have tapped desks and written sticky notes — “Stop talking” — to students on occasion, too, but those moves are not in the top of my repertoire.
It can be really draining to be surrounded by ADD, but I have found that I like dealing with students who struggle with attention. I prefer working with students who have struggles in general. I guess I like a challenge, or maybe I just like the way it keeps things interesting.
How do you deal with ADD in your classroom?