ADHD – Strategies to improve learning

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most talked-about conditions within the schooling and parenting world. It is a controversial subject, one that leads to much distress in both teachers and parents.

ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder that results in difficulty with the organising of actions and thoughts and is characterised by inattention, impulsivity and/or hyperactivity. Contrary to belief, most children do not outgrow ADHD as they develop into adolescents and adults. Some of the symptoms may decrease somewhat in adolescence, but the increased demands of high school can then again provide new challenges for these children.

Whether treated medically or not, the reality is that children with ADHD need strategies that will help regulate and calm the sensory processing systems. As with many diagnoses pertaining to the brain’s processing abilities, one cannot ignore the impact of sensory input during times of increased school demands and stress.

The classroom is a challenging and overwhelming environment for the child with ADHD. The things that we expect of children throughout the day are the things that children with ADHD have the most difficulty with, i.e. sitting still, listening quietly and concentrating. Imagine these children’s frustration levels – it’s not that they don’t want to learn and work, their brains just don’t allow for it to happen.

We have a few handy tips for teachers to cater to the needs of children with ADHD in the classroom (most of which parents can use at home too!).

  • Seat the child away from doors and windows. If possible keep the child in the front of the class, close to the teacher’s desk.
  • Alternate desk tasks with tasks that need movement.
  • Reduce clutter  – pack unnecessary items away in cupboards and on shelves.
  • Write and place important information where the child is able to see it easily.
  • Break big tasks into smaller ones and allow for regular movement breaks.
  • Give instructions clearly, and no more than three at a time. Reinforce the steps and redirect when necessary. Make eye contact when giving instructions.
  • To decrease impulsivity and unacceptable behaviour, make sure that classroom rules are written where they can be seen by all the children.
  • Be consistent in dealing with misbehaviour. Be specific and ensure that the child understands why the behaviour was not acceptable.
  • Recognise good behaviour in a way that the whole class recognises what has been done right.
  • Stick to the day’s timetable, and if needed, remind the class what is happening next, so that the child with ADHD has some sense of control of his/her day.
  • Provide regular movement breaks – send the child on an errand, ask him/her to hand out books or to clean the board.
  • Do not keep the child in at break time, and do not allow the child to miss physical education classes. The ability to run and play allows for much-needed movement after being in the class for a few hours.
  • Allow for fidget tools at the desk, especially during structured tasks, such as tests. This allows for indiscreet movement and stress release.
  • Make learning fun – use silly songs, physical actions or acting out the concepts being taught. Challenge the children and allow for creativity and new ways of doing things.
  • Provide a quiet space in the classroom, where the child can go to regulate the overwhelmed sensory system.

Most importantly, acknowledge and support children with ADHD and provide regular praise and encouragement. Going over the highlights of the day will help them realise that school and learning can be fun.  Lastly, encourage these children to approach you, or any other teacher in the school, when they are unhappy or struggling to cope and provide opportunities for them to do so.

When all else fails remember to Take 5:

  • BREATHE – deep breathing calms the sensory systems
  • SIP/SUCK/CHEW – drink water from a sports bottle, chew on healthy, crunchy foods (nuts, fruit, pretzels)
  • BLOW – bubbles, balloons
  • FIDDLE – make use of fidget tools
  • MOVE! – organised movement allows for organised brains.

To discover sensory strategies for your unique sensory style, complete your Sensory Matrix™.

The Sensory Side to Wellness

Stress – our common enemy. How many times this week have you answered “busy and stressed” when someone asked how you are?  Even though we all know how it feels to be stressed, not many of us understand how stress works.  For instance, did you know that there are 2 types of stress?  And that some stress is good for you?  Yes, you get good stress (eu-stress) and bad stress (dis-stress).

  • Eu-stress, which is the healthy type of stress, enables you to make quick decisions, manage many tasks at once, plan better and become more productive.
  • Distress, which is not good for you, causes you to sleep poorly, get angry and irritable, become forgetful and less productive.

The trick is to move away from distress and into eu-stress. We do this by becoming aware of our bodies and intervening before we become over-stressed and overwhelmed. At Sensory Intelligence® Consulting we are all about being practical. We know you don’t have a lot of time to implement complicated stress release strategies. Our solution to reduce stress includes something you have at your disposal every day – your senses!

Our strategies include using touch, smell, taste, sight and movement to reduce and regulate your stress.  Here are just a few tips, we call this our “Take 5” strategies:

  1. BREATHE
    Deep breathing is the fastest, easiest and most accessible way to de-stress the brain. It immediately lowers your heart rate and regulates your body and brain.
  2. SIP/SUCK
    Keep a water bottle on your desk and drink water regularly. Water is the best fluid to keep the brain clear and alert. A spout bottle is preferable as the sucking action will further help you to de-stress.
  3. MOVE
    Moving the body is one of the most powerful and healthy methods to de-stress and regulate.  Although regular exercise is an ideal stress reliever, just walking to the bathroom, using the stairs and stretching get the brain and body in optimum zone…
  4. BLOW
    If you are tired, angry and/or irritable, blow up a balloon. You will be deep breathing, regulating the brain and curbing anger and irritation without even knowing it.
  5. FIDGET
    Fidget to focus – by playing/ fiddling with a stress ball, fidget spinner, paper clip, ribbon, pen, etc. or doodling, your brain unconsciously and automatically gets organised, clear and regulated.

Do you see how easy it is?  We encourage you to use the Take 5 strategies whenever you feel stressed this week. We guarantee it will make a difference.

But why stop there?  Contact us for an online workshop for your team. You see, managing stress levels is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. We use neuroscience principles to show each person how they should deal with their stress, based on their sensory thresholds.  All our workshops are customised to fit your and your company’s needs. Contact us to find out more.

Remember to Take 5 this week!