Helping the Student with Attention Problems

The following article has been published with kind permission from Judie Gade. Judie Gade is a coach and counselor based in Melbourne, Australia.

By Judie Gade, ADHD consultant
E-mail : [email protected]

Having a child in the classroom that has attention difficulties not only affects the learning of other more controlled and focused children, but also can place stress on the teacher in more ways than one.

Perhaps there is a child that infuriates the teacher, so much so that they have difficulty even being civil to the child? Therein lays a real problem that is two fold: a troubled teacher who lacks control over their feelings towards a child that needs help, and also the stress on the child that can result in serious implications for the future. It exacerbates the problem of helping the child gain control.

But teachers are human too! There is another problem that is even worse than a teacher that really tries without the result: the teacher who does not believe attention disorders exist and that the child only has to “try harder” or “pay attention more as I have seen him/her do it in different classes”.

Children who fit into this category are not made for the education system as it is now. They need small classes with fewer distractions, classes where they can go more at their own pace. Obviously, if there is a time table, this cannot be. So, what are some of the things that can be implemented into the classroom?

Firstly, an understanding of Attention Deficit Disorder is necessary, the different types, associated problems etc. Taking into account a study by the federal government stating that an average of 11.2% of Australian students are ADHD, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with the variety of problems facing these children… and to give them HOPE.


Careless mistakes in schoolwork; fidgets; spaces out/seems to ignore; chronic procrastinator; trouble starting and finishing work; badly organized; loses things constantly; easily distracted by non-essential stimuli; poor short term memory; finds it difficult to sit still unless it is something they are really interested in (then a bomb could go off!); loud or extremely quiet; chatterbox, goes off topic easily; has a problem waiting for turn; butts in, cannot concentrate if there is noise going on around them; can be obsessive about certain things; can lash out most often without thinking “I don’t know why I did it……. I just did it!”; unusual sense of fairness

**Another thing to note is that many children are not even diagnosed, so if a child does present with traits of an ADD child the following strategies can be applied.

Classroom Strategies for students with Attention Difficulties/ADHD

Reworded from Strategies by Dr. F.C. Jarman RCH Melb

  • Sit at front of class preferably with a good role model. Keep away from noisier students
  • Have student be the child you use for errands. This enables them to be constructive, give confidence and move about and burn off energy!
  • Make sure you have eye contact and their attention before an instruction is given. Have them repeat it back. Write instructions down as well. Do not rely on the child’s memory.
  • Pair up student with a buddy that they can check with in regards to directions and for clarification.
  • Keep instructions short and to the point.
  • Allow student extra time with assignments and exams (15 minutes per hour). Place in a quiet area free of distractions during exams.
  • If child is having difficulty with homework, reduce the amount. Also if homework is broken down into 15 minute sessions with a 5 minute break, this can help to stay on task.
  • If there is a fan in the room, place near student as this creates white noise and helps to filter out distracting noises.
  • “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. If you can let something minor slide, let it. Try to reduce negative responses to student where possible. Only punish major disruptions.
  • Utilize simple aids such as ear plugs, a desk that a student can stand up at (great for fidgeters).
  • Try to stick to a good routine. Write daily on the blackboard/whiteboard.
  • Try to give as much one on one attention as is possible. Enlist classmates to help. Ask for parent volunteers (preferably not the parent of the child) to assist with target children.
  • Praise, praise, praise! This does not need to be verbal. A quiet touch, a wink, nod and smile is sometimes all that is needed without disrupting class. Talk to the parents to keep a score card with points that can be “cashed in” at home.
  • Reward whole class for the target child’s positive behavior. “I am really pleased with the class’s work this morning…… especially you John!”
  • Find what the child is good at give activities that can incorporate this.
  • Provide extra time on class computer.
  • Do not worry too much about the neatness of the work as long as it gets done.
  • Make sure that discipline is understood and clear. Start from scratch each week.
  • If you have any doubt about behavior, do not punish it. Overused punishments become ineffective.
  • DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PUT DOWN OR BE NEGATIVE ABOUT A CHILD IN FRONT THE CLASSROOM! If you do this then YOU are responsible for the child’s ensuing action.