It is a challenge as old as teaching itself—keep your students' attention. With our increasingly interconnected world, and distraction available at the swipe of a finger, that task remains as daunting as ever. Students with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) face even greater mountains to climb in a classroom setting. While that mountain can at times seem insurmountable, there are many ways to encourage and empower students with ADD to achieve success in school.
The American Psychiatric Association estimates that five percent of the population has a diagnosable attention disorder, but this number can vary across communities. Parents and teachers have a shared responsibility to help students transcend these statistics.
Empowerment Begins at Home
As summer ends and the next school year peeks over the horizon, prepare your child for this transition with casual conversations about what they can expect in the next grade, or at a new school. Rather than something to be feared, remind them of the exciting aspects of their school day, from snack and playground time to reading, singing, and art. Encourage them to ask questions and express any worries or reservations about heading back to classes and books. Children can experience fears around seemingly simple tasks that adults may not share, such as finding the bathroom.
These moments of reflection can also provide parents with a potent reminder of the positive attributes that ADD can bring to a child, such as exceptional energy and creativity. Focus on how these traits let the child's light shine brightly at home, in school, and in the world.
Speaking of books, let your child pick out his or her own school supplies. They will gradually take ownership of the process and enjoy pride in their learning tools ("my notebook," "my pens").
Coming Attractions: School!
Just as a movie trailer can tease an audience in a darkened theater, a sneak peek at the next school year can instill excitement in an apprehensive student. Swing by the campus while out on errands to reacquaint your child with the playground, hallways, and even classrooms if the building is open. Even if not, a quiet, shared moment outside the school that acknowledges the adventure ahead can be a powerful reminder that you are in this together.
Even more important than the physical space is the teacher. Reach out to the school administration and see if they can arrange an advance meeting with your child. Even if he or she knows them from last year, a quick catch-up and touch-base can ensure they hit the ground running on the first day of classes. Talk about the teacher at home as if they are a friend, perhaps even complemented with a photo on the fridge.
Teacher Takes the Reins
In the hands of a mindful and thoughtful teacher, students with ADD can thrive in the classroom. A healthy balance of structure and flexibility allows these students room to learn at their own pace. There are many tools and practices teachers may consider to help facilitate this process:
- Establish rules and routines. Keep these positive and make sure they convey expectations rather than focus on penalties. Consider assigning "row captains" or other roles to hold students accountable to each other, rather than just the adult in the room. Students with ADD may require additional supervision and these roles can help provide that.
- Accommodate where needed. Students with ADD may need flexibility in certain processes or practices. These may range from special seating that minimizes distractions, to opportunities for physical movement such as cleaning the white board or collecting papers.
- Give positive feedback whenever possible. Reward a student's correct answer or keenly-grasped concept with quick praise and provide encouragement if they struggle. Even matters of discipline can be addressed through a filter of constructive choices ("Was that a good choice?" "Could you make a different choice next time?").
- Recruit fellow students as allies. Turn potentially awkward moments into opportunities for group discussion. If a child appears out of control and elicits laughter from classmates, give them a moment to explain their ADD in their own words and let others ask questions. This establishes a community of support, where everyone looks out for each other, rather than that role falling solely on the teacher.
Though Attention Deficit Disorder can seem an insurmountable obstacle to effective classroom learning, parents, teachers, and fellow students can create a supportive community capable of lifting up all children and letting their inner light shine. Positive role models are invaluable in this endeavor, and can even come from the most beloved literary heroes.
Tutoring at American Heritage School
Your child may need extra help to avoid falling behind due to Covid-19. The American Academy is offering a specialized Tutoring Program for Lower, Middle, and High School students.
Subject areas include:
- Foreign Language
- Physical Education
- Social Studies
Join The American Academy Program
The American Academy Program – a K-12, college preparatory school for students with mild learning differences - was created to help students who struggle with learning disorders.
Our small classroom setting allows students to receive more individual attention. Together with experts and teachers, we can ensure that your child is taught methods that will help him or her do well in school.
To learn more about The American Academy program and how we can support your child's academic success please contact us directly.