“He’s all over the place at school.”
“She never listens when the teacher talks.”
“I wish he could understand how I’m feeling.”
“Will she ever stop interrupting me?”
“Why can’t he just bring his homework books home?”
“Is she ever going to wait for her turn?”
Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Executive Function Disorder (EFD) have trouble keeping themselves organized and on-task. Children who have ADHD have trouble sitting still, focusing on one thing at one time, and attending to details. While their attention seems unfocused, it is really multi-focused. Their mind takes in multiple stimuli at once, making it hard to engage in one activity for long periods of time. Children with EFD tend to begin tasks, but cannot seem to organize themselves or maintain attention long enough to complete them. Some educators and psychologists believe that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder falls into an executive function category.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that children with ADHD or EFD struggle in school, specifically with reading. Below, I have compiled some suggestions to help children with ADHD or EFD in a school setting:
Modifications for ADHD and Reading
Encourage fidgeting. Though this sounds counter-intuitive, children with ADHD benefit from distractions. So, give them a pencil to tap or a stress ball to squeeze while they are reading. By providing them with the secondary activity, you will keep them from looking for what else they could be doing.
Provide breaks in reading.In a classroom setting, this method would be very frustrating to those students who are focused on the text. However, when reading in small groups or individually, it is great to have a child break and tell you a story related to what he is reading. This will help him concentrate on the story when you get back to it. After you finish reading, ask comprehension questions.
Engage other areas of their brain. While the child is reading, encourage him to paint a picture in his mind. This will stimulate the optical region of his brain. After a few minutes, ask him to share what picture he visualized. This will allow him multiple focuses, but remain on the task at hand: reading. In addition, you can encourage the child to take notes while reading. Note-taking requires motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Utilize books on tape. Reading a book while a tape plays is a great way to give a child with ADHD a multi-sensory experience. You can use books on tape if available or you can read to him yourself, while he reads along silently.
Modifications for Executive Function Disorder
If you feel a student/child always misunderstands directions, loses track of time, and misplaces his belongings, consider having him evaluated for Executive Function Disorder. With just a bit of organization, your life and his life can get a whole lot easier.
Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
Use visual calendars to keep track of long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
Be sure to write the due date on top of each project.
Plan breaks in the middle of longer homework assignments.
Sit with a parent at the beginning of each week to organize assignments into manageable portions of time.
Clean out backpack at the end of each week.
It’s clear that ADHD and EFD can affect a child’s academic performance, but what’s not always obvious is how it can affect children socially. Amanda Morin, the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education, explains four social challenges children with ADHD or EFD can experience:
Losing things he borrowed or forgetting appointments. Losing friends’ items and missing important events can get even the best of friends upset. Children who struggle with this element of ADHD or EFD should keep calendars and lists of borrowed items. If possible, parents should also encourage the borrowing of items only in the friends’ presence.