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Attention deficit is termed as a disorder, but today I want to tell you the ways that attention deficit is an asset!
Whether you teach preschool or high school, homeschool or public school, you will have new challenges to grow and learn from this year! One of the things I know other parents and I have talked about is how often ADD/ADHD comes up as an issue for educators. We struggle with it in our home. I also remember several of my peers in school growing up and the struggle they had with ADHD. (See my posts about Homeschooling with ADHD and Natural Support for ADD/ADHD Kids).
It seems like so many students these days just have a shorter attention span in general. There are many opinions about why this is so, but that’s a discussion for another time. The wonderful thing about attention deficit is that there are so many things that your students with shorter attention spans are WONDERFUL at! So, I want to share the many ways that I have found attention deficit to be an asset, and how to best work with your students with ADD/ADHD.
Whether or not you are working with a kid with a diagnosed attention deficiency or not, there are certain strategies you can use to help them, and everyone else you get to teach! Check these out and give them a try.
Strategies to Help Students With Attention Deficit
Parents Should Be Your First Stop
If you are not in a homeschool situation, your first step should always be to talk to the parents or guardians of your student. They may have suggestions for you, things that have worked for that student at school or at home in the past. This can sometimes be a delicate situation, as sometimes parents aren’t quite aware of the extent of the impact attention deficit has on student learning. They may not even be aware that their child struggles. Having a discussion about focus aids and minimizing distractions might be very helpful. Start the conversation with “I would love to be able to better support your student! What has worked to help him/her/them be successful in the past?” This should be a wonderful way to open a door of communication between you and the student’s family!
Homeschooling? You know your child best. Follow their desires and needs when teaching them It’s ok to do things in a different way that what is traditional. I have lots of tips in my Homeschooling With ADHD post linked above.
Ask Your Student
Unless the student you are working with is too young to have a solid grasp of what is expected of them, you should be able to involve them in the conversation! Talk to them about what might help them be successful. Explain to them what you expect, and ask how you can help them meet those expectations. It might be helpful to have a list of options available, so they can choose from a variety of options. However you do it, make sure you are involving your student in decisions about their environment and learning!
Make Learning More Engaging, But Not TOO Engaging
Students who have a hard time maintaining attention and focus are students who most often process things visually. It is hard for them to sit still and listen to a lecture for a long time, they do better with interactive activities. Involve them in the learning process instead of just talking at them.
However, they can easily be distracted by too much sound, touch or sometimes even too strong of smells. The more you can limit these extra distractions, the more successful your students will be. Privacy folders set up around their work space and sound-deadening devices like earplugs or earmuffs might help quite a bit. This privacy divider or even these ear muffs may be an option for any student with distraction issues. Keep visual learning in mind, and you will see your student’s success soar!
Be Patient With Them
When you give a student with ADHD instructions, they may not process it initially. ( they may need a 2nd or 3rd reminder!) I have learned that they often need to have an extra point of contact to make sure they heard and processed the instructions given. With my own kids I have found that if I look them in the eyes or touch them on the arm or back when giving the instructions they will be more likely to do as they are asked. Then asking for a response or an ok from them helps a lot as well. I feel this comes from their minds being focused on another thing at the moment and it can be difficult for them to quickly switch gears. I will talk about their ability to hyper focus in a minute.
How Attention Deficit is an Asset
Shorter Attention Span = a LOT of Friends!
Your students with attention deficit may be your social butterflies. Put that outgoing extrovert to work! They can officially be the class “welcomer” or the “includer”. Students with short attention spans will automatically be looking for a lot of input, so the more students you can have them help, the better off they will be! Make it official by letting them wear a greeter badge proudly during class!
Greater Amounts of Energy
Kids with an ADD or ADHD tend to have endless amounts of energy! This can be a huge benefit at times. Sometimes you will wish it were not the case, but it can also make them such hard workers. They can use the creativity that they are usually higher in to a greater extent and for longer periods of time.
Now I know I said kids with attention deficit have trouble focusing, but very often it is also the opposite. I have two kids diagnosed with ADHD. Both will get extremely hyper-focused on things that they care passionately about. This focus can help them explore their passions so deeply! They will be focused to the point that it is difficult to pull them out of the things they are working on.
Sense of Humor & Playful
Kids with ADD or ADHD tend to have a great sense of humor! They use humor often to deal with hard things that might come at them. They also tend to be comedians in their own way. They can add a lot of fun and life to situations! This may be difficult to deal with in the classroom at times, but they also bring a lightness to most situations.
Now this, like any character trait will vary person to person. But my son with ADHD, is incredibly persistent. When he sets his mind to something, there is almost nothing that can get in his way. He will work tirelessly to accomplish it. I love that about him!
Out of the Box Thinkers
These kids are crazy creative and think things through in a new and different way. I love the creativity of my kids! I love it when they dream up stories or ideas that amaze me. This is an incredible asset that can help so many people!
Each child is different, with a different set of strengths and opportunities for growth. If you can help your kids see why attention deficit is an asset, you will not only be helping them succeed in your class but in their future as well. As a teacher, is there really anything better than that?