Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Moshe’s teacher was definitely getting frustrated. From the moment Morah Esther had asked them to open Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad are Friends, seven-year-old Moshe had been rocking his chair back and forth. She had asked him repeatedly to stop, but that meant breaking up the story for the rest of the class. Finally, Moshe seemed to relax and Yerucham began to read the book aloud, “Frog ran up the path to Toad’s house. He knocked on the front door.”

All at once, Moshe’s hand shot up. Slightly impatient, Morah Esther told Yerucham to pause and said, “Yes, Moshe, do you have a question?” Moshe quickly responded, “A lot of people knock on our door at night asking for tzedakah.”


“Yes, Moshe. I can imagine that is true. Thank you for sharing. Yerucham, please continue.”

Yerucham began, “There was no answer. “Toad, Toad,” shouted Frog, “wake up. It’s Spring!”

Once again, when Morah Esther glanced up from the book, Moshe was swinging his arm wildly. Obviously eager to ask a question or share something with the class. “Moshe, can you just hold that thought? Would someone else like to continue reading?” Morah Esther asked.

While Moshe might be disruptive to the rest of the class, in reality, the constant “interruptions” were the way he learns best. That’s because Moshe has ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.


The Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD is a common behavioral disorder that affects between 8-10% of school age children. Boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. Dr. Richard Kingsley of KidsHealth explains, “Kids with ADHD act without thinking, are hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. They may understand what’s expected of them but have trouble following through because they can’t sit still, pay attention, or attend to details.”

Up until 1994, ADHD was known as Attentive Deficit Disorder or ADD. In 1994, it was renamed ADHD and broken down into three separate subtypes with specific characteristics.

Inattentive Type, with signs that include:

  • Difficulty with sustained tasks
  • Noticeable listening problems
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Tendency to lose things such as toys, notebooks, or homework
  • Distracted easily

Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, with signs that include:

  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Difficulty remaining seated
  • Always “on the go”
  • Difficulty waiting for a turn in line
  • Excessive talking
  • Problems with interrupting and intruding

The third type of ADHD is a combination of inattentive type and hyperactive-impulsive type and is the most common form of ADHD.

The New York Times explains that in order to be diagnosed with ADHD, children should have at least six attention symptoms or six activity and impulsivity symptoms – to a degree beyond what would be expected for children their age.

The symptoms must be present for at least six months, observable in two or more settings, and not caused by another problem. The symptoms must be severe enough to cause significant difficulties. Often, parents of children with ADHD are exhausted and frustrated.


Reading and ADHD

The most important thing to be aware of when parenting or teaching children with ADHD is that they are not “acting out.” Rather, it is difficult for these children to control their behavior without either medication or behavioral modification. Only a psychiatrist can prescribe medicine, but as an educator (or a parent) there are plenty of behavioral modifications you can implement in order to help a child become more attentive when reading or performing another activity that requires concentration.

  • Encourage fidgeting: Though this sounds counter-intuitive, children with ADHD benefit from distractions. In reality, it is not that they cannot focus – instead they focus on everything. So, give them a pencil to tap or a kush ball to squeeze while they are reading. Remember these are students who are designed to focus on more than one thing at once. By providing them with the second activity in addition to reading, they are no longer 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 that is related to the reading. This will help them concentrate on the story when you get back to it. After you finish reading, ask comprehension questions. You’ll be surprised how much the student retained.
  • 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 to have 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. Again, this technique allows the child multiple centers of concentration while still reading.
  • 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 aloud.
  • Break assignments into manageable piece: No one has limitless attention spans; however, children with ADHD have shorter attention spans than most people. With that in mind, help your child split up the reading into many smaller parts. Providing breaks in the reading will allow your child to regroup and refocus.


Children with ADHD often get so frustrated by the regular routines that they believe that they will never read. If we embrace children with ADHD and understand that their attention is not less focused, but rather multi-focused, they can successfully gain the confidence to read. I know – I’ve seen it happen.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at [email protected].