The school classroom is typically where children with ADD/ADHD experience their most serious difficulties.
ADD/ADHD students were not wired to be put into the crowded and cramped boxes that we call classrooms. It is simply not their world. They would probably be more happy learning outdoors where they can be in constant movement and freedom. Children with ADHD are often fearless. It has been hypothesized that these children were the hunters and adventurers in bygone days; however, the modern world is a stickler for conformity.
These wonderful children are frustrated and trapped in a confusing, noisy, boiling pot where they bring down whole classrooms in an effort to alleviate all that pent up energy and anxiety. There are inevitable problems with time management, delayed gratification, impulsivity, transition times, and organizational skills. Eventually, these problems lead to low self-esteem, frustration, and unhappiness.
We begin treatment with the environment itself: The classroom must be a calm sanctuary. Our students with ADD and ADHD can be enormously successful using appropriate instructional strategies, environmental structuring, and behavior management.
- Lighting: research shows that ADD/ADHD students, like SI children can be bothered by bright florescent lighting. The pulsing bulbs and buzzing noise affect both visual and auditory pathways. Incandescent lights around the perimeter of the room lend a soft and safe feel to the classrooms at St. Anthony’s.
- Wall Displays: numerous charts and displays, especially using primary colors, are distracting to the child with ADD/ADHD. Notices, rules, etc. should be on a bulletin board with lots of wall space around it. This does not mean the classroom should be sterile. Framed art on the walls provides stimulation but does not assault the senses.
- Color: the wall colors at St. Anthony’s are painted a warm, inviting color that serves to envelop the student much like a cocoon.
- Furniture Placement: the teacher’s desk is placed in the room so that all areas of the class are visible from that desk. Student desks are placed against the wall, facing the wall, to eliminate distractions when the student is doing independent work. Students are called to the teacher’s desk or tables for instruction.
- Classroom Rules: copies of class rules are placed directly above the desks at eye level when the student is seated (Intermediate through High School). Rules need to be clear and consistently enforced. An ADD/ADHD student does not feel safe if he does not know what is expected of him or if the rules constantly change.
Teacher as ADHD Control Center
ADD/ADHD children are only as good as their “Control Center”; the teacher is the control center in the classroom and he or she must be fair, structured, consistent, and loving. At the St. Anthony School, we use a Behavior Monitoring System. Students have a point sheet with their goals for the day broken down into an hourly or by-period basis. If they accomplish their goal, they earn their point. If they do not, a dot is place in the box. Points are added up at the end of the day; it is possible to earn 100 points each day. The number of points earned determines their level for the next day. There are four levels with level four having the highest number of privileges. This “Level System” or Behavior Monitoring System is a feedback loop that lets the student know how he is performing all through the day. This system is very successful for the majority of our students. Children completing no work at other schools wind up completing full class workloads in a matter of weeks.
ADHD and Medication
The degree of impairment in academic, social, and behavioral functioning can vary widely. Some students may need help in the guise of medication. Stimulants are used primarily to correct a biochemical condition in the brain that interferes with attention and impulse control. For those children who do not respond well to stimulants, an anti-depressant is sometimes prescribed. The staff at St. Anthony’s is very knowledgeable and will monitor students closely who are on medication. With parental permission, the directors will contact your child’s physician personally to give feedback.
Contact the Saint Anthony School or call (214) 443-1205 with any questions about how we can help children with ADHD or to schedule a tour of the school.