Behavior Contracts for Students with ADHD

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As a teacher, you are likely to encounter students who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This lesson focuses on how you might use a behavior contract to help the student succeed.

Teaching Students with ADHD

Are you a teacher who has students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in your class? It's important to understand that no two students with this diagnosis are exactly the same. However, there are some general ways that ADHD can affect behavior in the classroom setting.

Sometimes, students with ADHD are impulsive and may call out without thinking, move their bodies in disruptive ways, or make a lot of extraneous noise. Other students with ADHD can seem oppositional, struggling to follow rules and comply with expectations. Some students with ADHD will have a hard time maintaining focus long enough to sit through a lesson or complete an assignment.

It is important to remember that while you may be having a hard time with students who have ADHD, the students themselves are having a difficult time as well. You want to focus your teaching on how you can help them feel good about themselves and succeed in class.

Using a Behavior Contract

One thing that can be helpful to some students with ADHD is the incorporation of a behavior contract. Like any other contract, a behavior contract establishes clear goals and stipulates what all parties involved agree to do in pursuit of these goals. Having a behavior contract can help students with ADHD understand expectations, develop concrete strategies, and remain aware that you are working with them to ensure their success in school.

Although all behavior contracts should be unique to the students who are using them, they can easily be personalized from a template starting point. Let's look at what a behavior contract for students with ADHD will usually contain, including an example for how each segment might look.

Heading

Begin your contract with a clear, concise heading that illuminates what the contract is for. For instance:

  • Henry's Impulse Control Contract
  • Louisa's Contract for Keeping Focus

Goals

Next, you will want to clearly state the goals that the contract is working toward. Try not to have more than two or three goals, and state each one of them clearly so that students can really understand what they are working for. For example:

  • This contract will help Henry remember to raise his hand before speaking in class.
  • This contract will help Henry think before talking in small group conversations.
  • This contract will help Henry stay in his seat during independent work times.

Child Expectations

The next section of the contract should stipulate exactly what the child is going to do in order to work toward the goals of the behavior contract. It's important to be clear so that the child understands, feels confident about their ability to achieve the goals, and will clearly see if the terms of the contract have been violated. For example:

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