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ADHD Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

Kids and teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may act without thinking and have trouble focusing. They may understand what’s expected of them, but have trouble following through or completing tasks because they can’t sit still, pay attention, or attend to details. The severity of ADHD symptoms can vary widely.

ADHD affects about 10% of school-age kids. Boys are about three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with it, though it’s not understood why.

About half of all kids with ADHD also have a specific learning disability. The most common learning problems are with reading (such as dyslexia) and handwriting. Although ADHD isn’t categorized as a learning disability, its interference with concentration and attention can make it even more difficult for a child to perform well in school.

Because bullies often target students who seem “different,” certain health conditions, including ADHD, can put kids and teens at higher risk of being bullied.

What Teachers Can Do

Reduce distractions by seating the student near you instead of a window.

Communicate with parents and ask for their help. Keep a daily journal of behavior and progress notes to share with parents.

Teach the student how to use a scheduling and assignment book. Teach good study skills, including underlining, note-taking, and reading aloud to help with focus and information retention.

Keep instructions clear and brief, breaking down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Stay on the lookout for positive behaviors to praise, such as staying seated, not calling out, taking turns, etc.

Pair the student with a buddy to do an end-of-day checklist so the right books, materials, and other important stuff go home.

Be sensitive to self-esteem issues. Provide feedback to the student in private, and avoid asking the student to perform difficult tasks in front of classmates.

Ask the school counselor, psychologist, or special-ed teacher to help design behavioral programs to address specific problems in the classroom.

Have brief, regularly scheduled exercise breaks and find opportunities for the student to be active, such as standing while working on assignments or delivering materials to the principal’s office.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013