Post by:

Deiera Bennett

Created on:

May 15, 2024

How to Support Students with ADHD

Students with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often experience school differently from their neurotypical peers. The symptoms of ADHD can vary widely from person to person, and similar to autistic students, students with ADHD are often misunderstood or subject to others’ implicit biases. While behavior such as impulsivity and hyperactivity are common amongst students with ADHD, these behaviors are often heightened when they are overstimulated or have unmet needs. Addressing these needs can not only reduce behavior incidents but also improve overall student well-being. Here are three ways to support students with ADHD.

1. Incorporate social and emotional learning (SEL) into the school day

SEL helps students learn valuable skills that they can use in the classroom and beyond. According to CASEL, SEL competencies such as self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making, and self-management can help students improve their academic performance, relationships, mental wellness, and more. Self-awareness activities, for example, can help students recognize their triggers and manage them before they escalate.  

SEL is incredibly flexible and can fit into any school’s schedule. Some schools use an SEL curriculum, such as Ava by Social Cipher, and dedicate a specific amount of time to SEL instruction, whereas other schools incorporate SEL into the school day through bellringers, book choices, etc. 

2. Take breaks

Breaks are important for students with ADHD who may have difficulty concentrating for long periods of time. Breaks give students the opportunity to release energy and refocus, which allows them to better engage with their learning. For students who sometimes become overstimulated, sensory breaks give them time to regulate their senses and regain their sense of calm. Structured breaks are extremely beneficial because the students do not have to wonder what to do with the break time. Activities such as stretching and journaling can offer a mental break while still keeping students engaged and ready to learn.

Image Credit: Canva

3. Add structure to the environment

Students, especially those with ADHD, thrive when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. A structured environment can alleviate stress and anxiety, which are often triggers for behavior. Structure gives students a sense of predictability, which allows them to focus more on the task at hand rather than wondering what’s next. For school administrators, adding structure can be as simple as reviewing expectations during the morning announcements. Teachers can create structure by posting the daily schedule on the board (or using visual schedules) and creating routines for the most common times that behavior incidents typically occur, such as when transitioning between activities. 

4. Leverage technology to keep students engaged

It’s safe to say that kids love technology, making it a powerful tool for keeping students engaged in their learning. The most engaging technology tools provide relevant instruction in an interactive way. Online games like Ava make learning fun while students work towards achieving their educational goals. Using technology in the classroom also prepares them for the real-world where technology is engrained in nearly every aspect of life. This opens the door for conversations surrounding digital literacy and online safety, two topics that are becoming increasingly important for students.

Image credit: Canva

Supporting students with ADHD requires thoughtful changes that can ultimately benefit the entire student body. Supports such as breaks and structure can greatly decrease the number of behavior incidents and improve academic performance. These supports can also foster a sense of belonging because the students know they are seen, heard, and valued.

Our online curriculum and SEL game Ava was created by a neurodivergent team specifically for neurodivergent youth ages 10-15. Learn more about how Ava can help your students strengthen valuable social and emotional skills.

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