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Supporting a Child with ADHD

Sam's previous blog was a poem from the perspective of a child with ADHD. 

I have no teaching qualifications so what I’ve written is based on a lot of training, a bit of reading and a few years experience in different classrooms around Essex. 

For about 5 academic years I have worked as an LSA in different schools. I started in school for children with moderate learning difficulties (or special needs if you're daring enough to be non PC). As a 1:1 supporting a boy with ADHD I learned a great deal about the challenges some children (and teachers!) go through around this underestimated condition. Not to mention how much patience is needed for parents, carers, siblings, football coaches etc.

The first class I ever worked in had just 11 children in it. All year 7 and at first glance I was not entirely sure why so few children needed so many adults in the classroom with them. A teacher, two other LSAs and myself seemed like a huge ratio. Probably less than five minutes later I was wondering why there weren't more adults in there and how such innocent looking children could cause so much havoc once a pen and paper was put in front of them!!

It seemed like I'd jumped straight into the deep end. But I wanted to swim and managed to get my head just about above water with a great deal of kicking and splashing underneath!

I spent nearly 3 years in this school and I learned more about ADHD than any text book or lecturer could ever teach me. The main thing is that it is tremendously difficult for anyone with ADHD to concentrate on anything. You can give them the same consequence for the same mistake as many times as you want and it will not prevent it from reoccurring. At first it seems that the child must be deliberately ignoring your warnings and pleas to conform. But the truth is their brain does not allow them to remember previous consequences ahead of getting distracted. So it is always too late and they’ve already done what you didn’t want them to.

So do not pressure yourself into thinking any inspirational speeches to them will help them miraculously start listening to your advice and suddenly start sitting down quietly listening to every word their teacher tells them. The truth is after your first sentence a child with ADHD will probably have stopped listening to you and will be wondering what the noises are behind them or where the teacher is going or what car it is they can see out of the window or how fascinating the sparkles from the teachers necklace is or where the fly on the window is going to fly to next etc etc. With severe ADHD the child might be lucky to absorb 3 words from the first sentence at best.

So the onus is on you to adapt the pupils environment and your teaching methods to their needs and throw out of the window most of the techniques that work for everyone else (if you have a technique that works for everyone else by the way please can you throw it my way!).

I always try to remember this when working with pupils with ADHD: If someone came in with a broken leg would we expect them to walk up some stairs? Of course not. We can see their disability and we’d probably get another pupil to help carry their bag and collect anything needed from upstairs for them. They wouldn’t have to sit on the floor at assembly and they definitely wouldn’t do PE. We would make tangible adaptions to minimize their pain and ensure they could still learn like everyone else.

Unfortunately for the pupil with ADHD no one can see their disability. And the symptoms too often look like intentional negative behaviour to the uneducated eye. But the truth is we sometimes expect them to do things that they are simply not capable of. Sitting down in an assembly for 10 minutes listening to a person on stage is something they just can't do. Also not fiddling with something you've put in front of them is equally impossible.

Next time you're sitting in a meeting with adults have a look at how many of them are fiddling with a pen or doodling on some paper or tapping their foot etc. Then remember these adults who are being paid to pay attention to someone speaking but not looking 100% attentive, when you get frustrated with a child whose brain is still developing that gets bored or distracted in a lesson or assembly.

Do you have experience of ADHD? We would like to hear from you. Email Megan ( to share your story. 

If you feel you need further support in this area, why not attend one of our CPD courses? For more information visit our Training page here

Check out our Pinterest board that has really useful resources

Tags: SamB, LSA, SEN, Chelmsford

Category: Australian Teachers

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