ADHD Teaching Strategies for Preschoolers

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Preschoolers with ADHD can present many challenges in a classroom. This lesson reviews a few different strategies teachers can use to help their students focus and stay on task.

Helping a Child with ADHD Succeed

Ryder is a four-year-old boy who attends Sunshine Preschool. He enjoys going to school with his friends, and loves his teacher Ms. Melissa. His favorite part of school is recess where he gets to play on the playground, run outside or play catch. Ms. Melissa loves Ryder's energy and fun personality, but she has a difficult time getting Ryder to focus in class. Ryder has recently been diagnosed with ADHD and has some challenging behaviors that make it difficult for him to participate appropriately.

Ryder is quick to blurt out answers in class, does not share with other kids, and rarely sits in his seat when asked. While the rest of the class will get their backpacks when asked, or sit and practice writing their names, Ryder is frequently in the wrong seat, running to get a drink, or looking out the window. Ms. Melissa decides to do some research on ADHD to find out how she can help Ryder succeed in preschool.

Understanding ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder that affects a child's ability to focus. Some of the typical symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Difficulty finishing a task
  • Easily distracted and forgetful
  • Trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty following directions

Children with ADHD often need strategic intervention to be successful in school. Young students like Ryder have a better chance at coping with their challenges when they get the help they need in preschool or the early years of elementary school.

Strategies for Teaching Students With ADHD

As you read through the strategies in this section, you will find that most of these ideas are good teaching practices for any student, not just those with ADHD. All your students will benefit from these simple changes in your routine or additions to your instruction.

Use a Timer

Setting a timer for activities helps motivate students to work quickly. This may help those who get distracted easily. A simple kitchen timer or a timer on your phone will work. Make sure you put the clock where students can visibly see the time running out.

Ms. Melissa sets a timer on her cellphone for a variety of activities in her class. She notices that Ryder will stand at the art table and work on his projects until time runs out. Knowing that there is an end to each activity helps Ryder comply even when he doesn't want to do something, like counting or puzzles. Here are a few other activities where a timer is used:

  • To transition from one activity to another, for example, 'you have one minute to put your crayons away and come sit on the rug'
  • For bathroom and drinking fountain breaks
  • Morning yoga

Set a Routine

Having a reliable routine makes it easier for students to predict what is coming next. This helps them transition to new activities, and anticipate what will happen later in the day.

Ryder does better when he knows what to expect. Ms. Melissa puts a daily schedule up on the board and reviews it each morning during circle time. Her students learn the general routine for the school day and know that, for example, when yoga ends it will be circle time.

Here is an example of Ms. Melissa's preschool routine:

  1. Play time
  2. Yoga
  3. Circle time
  4. Rotations
  5. Recess
  6. Snack
  7. Story time
  8. Rotations
  9. Goodbye song
  10. Go home

Avoid Distractions

Kids can get distracted by almost anything. Looking out the window, background music, chatter, clutter, and even too many decorations in a room can cause a child to lose focus.

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