Teaching Students with ADD

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Students who are diagnosed with ADD can be exciting, interesting, and also challenging to teach. This lesson will give you some ideas and strategies for how to support these students.

What Is ADD, Anyway?

Most of us have heard of ADD/ADHD. Attention Deficit Disorder, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, appears pretty frequently in the news and diagnoses among American schoolchildren have risen dramatically over the last decade or so. But what does this label really mean?

ADD refers to a constellation of symptoms: excessive talking, acting as though driven by a motor, inability to remain focused on a task or idea, frequent fidgeting, and inability to remain still, among other things. The most recent descriptors of ADD assert that there are two subtypes: one that leads more frequently to inattention, and another that correlates with hyperactivity. Some people choose to treat ADD with medication, others use psychodynamic or cognitive behavioral therapy, and others choose not to treat the symptoms.

As teachers, we must think carefully about how best to meet the needs of children diagnosed with ADD, as well as the students around them.

Getting to Know the Whole Child

One of the best ways to teach a child diagnosed with ADD is simple: get to know the student. A diagnosis can be overwhelming, and a label so often usurps the humanity of an individual.

You will find it well worth your time to get to know ADD-diagnosed students as whole people.

Of course it is important to help a student with his or her challenges and honor the treatment he may be getting outside of school, but it is also necessary to look beyond the diagnosis and figure out what makes the individual child tick. When you have a student with ADD in your class, challenge yourself to figure out answers to these questions:

  • What is this student really good at?
  • How would you describe this student's personality?
  • What are some of the things this student loves the best?
  • What times of day does this student seem most likely to display difficult behaviors?
  • What is life at home like for this student?
  • How well does this student seem to know himself and identify his own challenges?

When you are able to answer these questions, you will find that you now have internal resources you can draw on to help meet the student's needs and see him as more than just a label or disorder.

Strategies for Symptoms

Of course, some of the symptoms of ADD can be truly challenging in the classroom and, if left unchecked, can prevent students from learning and cause disruptions for other members of the community. Here are some ideas to help students manage their symptoms over the course of the school day.

Give students with ADD plenty of opportunities to run around outside.

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