Managing ADHD Behavior at School

Mar 17, 2009Updated 8 months ago

When teaching a student that has been diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, the first thing to remember is that the condition is a disability. The behaviors most often associated with ADHD like inattentiveness, impulsivity, and high energy (hyperactivity) are often not under the child’s complete control. The child is not lazy or bad, although there will be times when he misbehaves on purpose as other children do.

Whatever the reasons for the disruptive behavior in the classroom, teachers can manage them successfully by consistently applying proven techniques. Using positive feedback, behavioral penalties, ignoring, reward programs, and effective classroom design are all good ways to minimize distracting behaviors at school.

Positive Attention Best to Manage ADHD Behavior

Reinforcing good behavior is a technique that should not be overlooked. All children will react positively to a smile, gentle pat, or a nod from a respected teacher or caregiver. One challenge to ensuring that a child with ADHD receives consistent positive feedback will be the time commitment required for close monitoring of good behaviors. Teacher assistants and aids can be particularly helpful in reporting good behaviors to a busy teacher.

Another potential issue can be that students without ADHD may not be getting the same amount of praise. It is best to define the particular behaviors that earn a teacher’s respect, and be consistent about awarding praise to all students.

Negative Consequences for Managing ADHD Behavior

A way to deal with minor behavior problems is to remove the attention from the child who is misbehaving. Unfortunately it will not work in every case and a teacher cannot simply ignore behavior that may be harmful or distract other students from learning. A more powerful consequence may be if classmates are instructed to ignore misbehavior so as not to encourage its recurrence.

Fining a child or giving timeouts for misbehavior are more effective methods for dealing with disruptive behavior because each can be applied consistently for all students. It is important, though, that these types of negative consequences are used as infrequently as possible, and are paired with abundant positive rewards when behavior improves so as to avoid detrimental effects, low self-esteem, or escalation of misbehavior due to frustration.

ADHD Reward System Ideas in the Classroom

Giving students the ability to earn special rewards for good behavior is the centerpiece of classroom behavior management. Here are a few rewards that might work to motivate students with ADHD to improve behavior at school:

  • Extra recess
  • Lunch with teacher
  • PJ day
  • Special chair
  • Popcorn party for whole class
  • Movie day
  • Extra computer time
  • Small trinkets and prizes
  • Favorite workstation assignment (art, math, reading, etc.)
  • Teacher helper
  • Line leader (to lunch, recess, etc.)
A great idea for rewarding a student would be to give him a spot on the classroom bulletin board to display pictures of himself, his family, and his favorite things as a reward for being a “star student”. This star student spot can be rotated from student to student frequently.

Kids with ADHD can be successful in the regular classroom if behavioral management tools are used effectively. Parents and teachers should work together to discover the best methods for managing classroom behavior problems such as the inability to sit still, listen attentively, control impulses, and cooperate with others. In turn, the child with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder may avoid having to repeat a grade and eventually overcome his own unique barriers to academic achievement.