Classroom Help!: Hello, I am a middle... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Classroom Help!

manncat profile image

Hello, I am a middle school special education teacher in an MTSS District. Students with IEPs and 504s are concentrated in "general education" classrooms taught by a special education teacher with no teacher assistant support, using a Tier III intervention curriculum. This means up to 15 students (or more) with ADHD can be in the same classroom with one special education teacher. I have a majority of students who are constantly talking to and over each other throughout class periods. Despite whole class and individual behavior management strategies, it has been impossible to teach for more than three or four minutes at a time since the school year started. I am desperate for ideas and strategies. Students are unmedicated.

18 Replies

If I were you I would work on spreading them out in the classroom and maybe sitting them with a general education peer.

I would then reward for not talking. This might be a short amount of time think of a creative idea for the whole class. Like extra credit points, or maybe music they want to hear during quiet time. Maybe have 3-4 ideas and have them vote on it. You might also have an adult or teacher walk by their desk and quietly tap on the desk or give them a sign to stop talking. Another thing that is very important for all kids and children with ADHD is establish a relationship with them.

You could also speak to another teacher in your same role and see what works for them. It would not help as much to ask a general education teacher since they are not in the same boat as you.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for caring a lot about the kids and teaching..

Thanks very much for your reply. There are only students with 504s and IEPs with ADHD in class and I am the only adult. I have worked hard to develop relationships with them and this is ongoing. If I did not have a paced curriculum and the pressure to complete a full lesson in 45 minutes, this would help a lot! I think returning post pandemic, they are still learning how to be part of a classroom community. I have used the strategies you mentioned- but not the music! I will try that idea. Thank you!

I hope you can find another teacher like you to support you. Celebrate the good stuff and some times it might not work out.

Great job at helping these kids.

SueZQ11 profile image
SueZQ11 in reply to manncat

I’m sorry but that seems to not really be a “general education” classroom. That sounds like they segregated all the kids with special needs into one room! A big part of kids NOT being taken out of the regular education setting with neuro-typical children is by seeing what others are doing and mimicking/learning. If every child in your room has ADHD or a 504 then I would be asking some bigger questions. They are not helping those kids, that’s segregating and only hurting them.

rubyroo64 profile image
rubyroo64 in reply to SueZQ11


Hi! High-five to you for all you are doing for these kiddos- and for reaching out for more support.May I suggest a few things to look in to (I am not affiliated with any of them, but as a parent of a child with ADHD, I have found these to be incredibly helpful in changing my approach and scaffolding of support, which then changes behaviors.)

1)Look into “The ADHD Dude”, Ryan Wexelblatt. His strategies work AND help kids develop their critically underdeveloped executive functioning skills. He’s on YouTube and Instagram.

2)If you’re on Instagram, also look at @grownowtherapy and @cariebertseminars they are also fantastic for executive functioning skills

3)Learn about executive functioning skills. ADHD is a disorder of a lack of, and/or under-developed executive functioning skills. When you learn about this, and can start to pick out what skill is lacking (and then help your students to strengthen those skills!) change will happen for the better.

4)Russell Barkley is the big name in ADHD research, you may want to look into him.

5)I suggest the book “Smart but Scattered” as a great read and a huge help in understanding ADHD and the approach of disordered executive functioning skills.

6)As you learn more, I encourage you to think about, and understand why, techniques like “reward for good behavior” not only will not work, but will drive a wedge between you and your students. The short of it is that because of the lack of age-appropriate executive functioning skills, you’re asking your students to do something that they neurologically cannot, and then punishing them for that. So, resentment will grow, which is exactly the opposite of what it feels like you are trying so hard to cultivate!

You’ve got this. Definitely look into these above ideas and learn about how executive functioning disorder (the backbone of ADHD) should be approached for positive change.

CoffeeandLove, yours is the latest of several references to the "ADHD Dude" lately. Do you know if any of his videos are transcribed or otherwise available for reading? Hard to find time for (or skip the "fluff" in) Youtube videos. Thanks.

I don’t believe so; however his videos are only a few minutes long each. Very little fluff. One of the things I appreciate!

Thanks. Hard to watch and listen to videos in meetings, though (when other humans are occupying my time with "fluff" of their own). Always time for reading!!

I am quite aware of executive functioning skills. I have been an educator for many years. I do try to address this and provide all the scaffolding I can. Trouble is, kids are still talking over each other and me and a couple don't seem to care. I have surveyed them and they have stated this! I keep trying...I do have a sister with three boys with ADHD. She is an occupational therapist and I know what works for her boys. Parent support and structure at home is so important.

It's so difficult when the internal motivation isn't there ("I don't care.") I truly believe it stems from a lack of, or delay in, those EF skills. Children with ADHD often lack internal motivation, and therefore if they can't see why something doesn't benefit them, they see no reason to do (or not do) something. So, that may be a part of the problem, paired with the difficulty in inhibition of speaking out of turn. Being the detective of "what is motivating to these kids?" is not always easy, but would probably be extremely beneficial.Parent support and structure is very important, I agree; but so is internal motivation (which can be strengthened through EF skill building and not using external motivators all the time like clip chart or point system.) You or I may keep quite in a meeting because we know that's what we're supposed to do. Our brain is helping us to not talk out of turn using many things like: self-talk, visualizing what might happen if we do talk out of turn, regulating our emotions (this is so boring, I just want to scream, but instead I'm going to remain calm), etc. A child with ADHD may lack in one or all of those areas. There is an accepted idea in the ADHD literature that a child with ADHD's "EF Skills age" is roughly 3 years behind that of a typically developing peer. So, we look at a 12 year old and expect them to act like most 12 year olds, when in fact their EF skills are really like that of a 9 year old. There's a huge difference there developmentally.

Unfortunately, what works for one child with ADHD doesn't necessarily work for another. OR, what works in one moment for a child with ADHD may not work for that same child in another moment if their brain is not ready to process the incoming information. As a parent of a daughter with ADHD, and a pediatric SLP, I see, understand and experience both sides of this issue daily. It is by no means an easy thing.

Thanks for your input.

It’s frustrating that admin isn’t giving you support in this classroom- think about getting creative. Focus on the basics of the curriculum and then try to do something active. Can they make a TikTok or meme of a history event or vocabulary word? My sons math teacher actually rapped for then a few years ago. I know it feels foolish, but these kids feel dumb all the time at school. Sometimes it helps to see an adult fail and recover.

I love this idea.m also what about "flipping" the lesson by having them teach some of the content? Clearly this would take time to plan( which we are not given enough of). But sure would be fun.

I have a prescribed paced curriculum that does not lend itself to flipping. It is also direct instruction so I have to teach it. It would be great if I could get to the point where these students can model academic skills for eachother!

Wow, I really feel for you. I live in the uk and thought that things were grim here! I’m talking with ignorance as I don’t know what you’ve tried already, but I have learned that these kids need to move, whether they’re the physically hyperactive type, inattentive, or combo. Good for all in any case.

Suggest a good 5 mins of movement at the beginning of the lesson - standing up but remaining where they are at their desks or wherever, stretching, marching on the spot, jumping up and down, standing up then sitting down, let them talk and chatter at this time. Fidget toys during the lesson as well.

If a lesson, or part of a lesson can be done standing up, great. If you can take them outside to walk, or run - general exercise, before a lesson for 5 mins, great.

45 mins can be a very long time for these children, they’ll probably need to have a movement break in between.

This is all to help regulate them to be in a position for learning. There is the Zones of Regulation system to look at as well which is for the purpose of being in just the right zone for learning and taking in information, so not in fight, flight, freeze, or flop mode either.

A lot of children with ADHD have sensory issues and high anxiety, just like children with ASD, which needs to be addressed before learning, how many of your children have ASD as well?

ADHD is amongst other things, a self-management/dysregulation disorder, including emotional dysregulation. In my experience they can also become overheated very quickly, which could be a reflection of dysregulation. Could you put some fans in the room, if they all agree? Sometimes the noise of the fan can become ‘white noise’ and help with a distracted, busy mind.

As far as rewards, I think giving them specific praise as soon as they’ve shown any progress in any area - these children feel stupid at the best of times due to all of their challenges, and self-esteem is generally very low, trusting people can be a big issue. Also very common with ADHD is high resistance, and being unwilling to ask for help.

Can you ask for volunteers from the community to come and help, as they do with reading, maths etc?

The people making the decisions there, need to stop passing the buck, and support you with a very difficult task - don’t they have a duty of care to all children and staff? Apologies for saying things that you already know.

Good luck to you.

You've offered lots of great ideas. I can't take them out of class but I can try a movement break. I am using music during independent work. They are so worried about looking and sounding "cool" and some of them don't like each other much! Lots of conflict mediation with counselor between them...

I just hope something helps you, especially if you have to wear all those hats!

Another thought though, could the content of any lesson be cut down, so that you’re just giving them the most important key points to learn - and put these also on a big sheet of paper at the front of the classroom, so that everyone can see it to refer to? In the same big visual way, give them an overview of what they’ll be learning in that lesson - with ADHD, it can help to see the end goal before you start.

Also, can any or all of the lesson be pre-printed, to cut down on the children having to write as much. This could include marks on the paper where you want them to start any writing, as thoughts are generally very scattered, and need help in getting them out of heads and down onto paper or whatever (these could be written as random thoughts first, before organising), sentence starters, multiple choice questions with tick boxes, pre-printed lines to write on if necessary. A blank sheet of paper can be too ‘in the air’ to start writing on.

Thoughts need to be planned and organised on paper etc., as they’ll find it difficult (sometimes impossible with inattentive types), to do it in their heads.

It can help them to read any questions before the start of a task, so that they can have these in mind as they go. Getting things done when not interested, is really difficult for a person with ADHD, and can be when they are interested. Too much information (which doesn’t have to be a lot!), and it’s very overwhelming, their engagement will be lost very quickly and they may refuse - try to cut down on any unnecessary information - it’s counter productive and unlikely that they’ll take it in anyway. Try to keep things simple and straight to the point.

Something that I learned about EF skills, but you may know anyway, is that they always start non-verbally, when a mind map or visual plan is formed in the head first. As ADHD ers have big problems with this, it seems that it’s good to ask the child for example, to verbally run through what they’re going to do, to strengthen this ‘mental planning’. You could model an example first for them.

I know I’m saying things you already know. Everything has to be very visual and down for them to follow. Working memory is generally quite poor. They’ll probably have difficulty manipulating information in their heads - it needs to be written down as they go.

Is there scope for the lessons to be heard through individual headphones or earphones (though some children with sensory needs may not be able to do this), just thinking that they may be able to hear your teaching without other auditory distractions.

Sorry, I’m jumping ahead and wittering on now, as the children need to be in learning mode first!

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