ADHD 101

October 7, 2020

Imagine having a remote control for your brain and someone is always changing the channel.  Wouldn’t it be hard to focus, listen, and learn?  That is how one teacher empathetically described her students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

There are many myths and misconceptions about ADHD, but there are some general symptoms that you can look for in your student that may lead to a diagnosis of ADHD if they have not already received one. An example of a misconception could be a preschool teacher for 4-year-olds scheduling a circle time activity that takes 30 minutes with the expectation that all students will remain seated, still with their hands in their laps.  For students, this is a great way to help them build their self-control “muscle”.  Some of the students in the class will struggle to follow directions for the full 30 minutes and this may not be due to ADHD but could simply indicate normal child development since research states that most 4-year-olds have an attention span of 15-20 minutes maximum. A Child’s developmental milestones are a solid lens to use when determining whether ADHD could be a challenge for them

The good news, there are solutions for these students through, behavioral therapy, self-management skills, and tools though programs like The Character Effect™.

So, What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition typically diagnosed during childhood, which is generally characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While ADHD is most commonly diagnosed in young people, it can also affect older children and adults. The term is sometimes used to describe very regular behavior in children, teens, and even adults, who have trouble focusing or have a moment of hyperactive activity, but ADHD is a very real medical condition that can be observed, diagnosed, and treated.

Common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Trouble paying attention
  • Inattention to details results in careless mistakes
  • Loses school supplies, forgets to turn in homework
  • Difficulty completing classwork and/or homework
  • Trouble listening
  • Trouble sequencing and following multiple commands/directives
  • Often blurts out answers, interrupts
  • Impatient
  • Difficulty staying in their seat often squirms or fidgets
  • Poor academic performance

Does this sound like it could apply to many of your students? All of them even? It’s true that ADHD symptoms can also be very normal behaviors seen in most students, but a child with ADHD will have trouble controlling these behaviors and it will affect their performance in school.

What Can I Do?

Whether or not a student has been diagnosed with ADHD, there are some strategies you can implement in your classroom to help with behaviors you may see indicative of ADHD.

First, always remember to take care of yourself first. Self-care is of paramount importance for teachers, especially this year. Sometimes something as simple as a mindful breathing exercise can help calm your mind and allow you to focus on your students. These types of quick and easy activities can allow you to maintain your own “inner calm” and be your best self for your students. You should also be intentional about reaching out directly to the parent/guardian to see if they have noticed similar behaviors at home.  If so you may want to engage your school’s social worker, counselor, or school psychologist for additional resources.

If you need some guidance you can find this and many other exercises on our YouTube Channel.

Now you’re ready to help your students. First, begin with the character strengths. Focus on what is strong with your students rather than what is wrong. This simple shift in mindset can have a big effect on your classroom strategy. Focus on the good in your students to build positive relationships. Unconditional positive relationships are one of the greatest protective factors. Balance out the negativity bias and mental health stigma by creating positive memories and beliefs in students by strength spotting. Use strength language to reframe challenging behavior and empower student behavioral goals. Work ahead with identifying your student’s individual strengths and practice the strength language so you are ready when the moment to use them arises.  Sometimes it can be hard to think on your feet in the moment. Using these strength practices can benefit all of your students.

Next, introduce simple mindfulness practices for your students. Use mindfulness to train the brain and help your students self-regulate, come back to the present moment, and engage more fully in the classroom. Practice mindfulness daily to help develop new neuropathways and slow student reactivity. Assist students in coming back to the moment and detach from negative thoughts. Use mindfulness to help students reengage the prefrontal cortex and come out of the flight, fight, freeze response.

Have Fun With The Character Effect™ Characters!

The Character Effect™ Characters, Astrobot, Click, Bex, Moffee, and Haax are here to teach the children of earth about the character strengths and mindfulness! These fun characters can help your students focus through short, fun, engaging videos. Meet The Characters here.

Focusing on your student’s strengths and implementing mindfulness practices in the classroom are a proven way to help your students engage better in your classroom. These strategies can benefit everyone in your school, not just your students with an ADHD diagnosis.

The Character Effect™ Mental Health 101 Virtual PD offers more information and strategies for teachers and staff to support students.

Start to #haveaneffect today!

ADHD Quick Tips for Teachers

  • First, discuss the student’s needs with their parents. You can explain the behaviors you may see and they can share any interventions they have used at home that could also work in your classroom.
  • Engage your schools’ social worker, counselor, or school psychologist for additional supports if needed.
  • Implement physical movement throughout the day. Be proactive in leading mindful movement moments/activities.
  • Try out some tools that prove to be successful such as a jelly seat in the student’s chair, an exercise ball seat, fidget tools, and chewing gum.
  • Utilize a Relaxation Station, as we call it in The Character Effect™ or something similar like a Calming Corner to help your students learn to stop, and practice their strength of self-control to reset in the classroom before moving onto their next task.
  • Intentionally praise the student in the class who has a diagnosis of ADHD when you see him/her practicing the strength of self-control. Praise the other students in the class when you see the same with them.
  • Leverage the “exercise diet” as a reward or a redirection. Pictures can be posted on the wall in the area of the classroom prompting a child to do 5 jumping jacks or to tap their foot 5 times. 
  • If the student is taking ADHD medication, notice any changes you may see in them and share with his/her parents. Some medications could make children sleepy, sad, irritable, or hyperactive.