Attention Deficits ADD : Tips Teachers Should Know

Over 100 suggestions on teaching children with attention deficit problems and/or learning disabilities.


Research shows there are an estimated 3 to 5 percent of school-age children with Attention Deficit Disorder. In response to the needs expressed by teachers for teaching strategies that work with these children, the U.S. Department of Education has supported research in classrooms to determine successful teaching techniques employed by elementary school teachers to keep children focused and on task. The following tips, for experienced and inexperienced elementary school teachers alike, are tried and true methods for reaching children with ADD.

Children with ADD typically have problems with inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. They often have difficulty paying attention in class and seem to shift aimlessly from one unfinished activity to another. These children generally appear restless, fidgeting constantly in their seats, playing with pencils or other objects, or disturbing nearby students. Many children with ADD also have difficulty following their teachers' instructions or forming friendships with other children in the class.

Like other children with disabilities, children with ADD learn best when their teachers understand their special needs and individualize their educational program to meet these needs.

"Attention Deficits: What Teachers Should Know" is a how-to guide with instructional practices you can use to help children with ADD in your class. The practices themselves should be part of an educational program based around three key components-classroom accommodations, behavior management, and individualized academic instruction.

To make this book as valuable a resource as possible, you should consider these steps in developing an effective educational program for your students with ADD:

Evaluate the Child's Individual Needs

Assess the unique educational needs of a child with ADD in your class. Working with a multi-disciplinary team, consider both academic and behavioral needs, using formal diagnostic assessments and informal classroom observations.

Select Appropriate Instructional Practices

Determine which instructional practices will meet the academic and behavioral needs you have identified for the child. Select practices that fit the content, are age appropriate, and gain the cooperation of the child.

Integrate Appropriate Practices Within an Individualized Program

Combine the practices you have selected into an individualized educational program. Plan how to integrate the educational activities provided to other children in your class with those selected for the child with ADD.

Because no two children with ADD are alike, no single educational program, practice, or setting will be best for all children.

Academic Instruction

Children with ADD often have difficulty learning and achieving academically in school. Effective teachers constantly monitor the child and adapt and individualize academic instruction.

General Instructional Principles

Effective teachers help prepare their students to learn when they introduce, conduct, and conclude each academic lesson. These principles of effective instruction, which reflect what we know about how to educate all children in the class, will especially help a child with ADD to stay focused on his assigned tasks as he transitions from one lesson to another throughout the school day.

Set Expectations

Students with ADD benefit from clear statements about their teacher's expectations at the beginning of the lesson. Consider these strategies.

Instructional Strategies

When conducting an academic lesson, effective teachers use some of the following strategies.

Preparing for Transition

Students with ADD often have difficulty refocusing their attention as they end one academic lesson and move on to the next lesson. Effective teachers help their students prepare for these transitions when concluding a lesson.

Individualized Instructional Practices

Effective teachers individualize their instructional practices based on the needs of their students in different academic subjects. Students have different ways of getting information, not all of which involve traditional reading and listening. Individualized lessons in language arts, mathematics, and organizational skills benefit not only children with ADD, but also other children who have diverse learning needs.

Language Arts Reading Comprehension

To help children with ADD who are poor readers improve their reading comprehension skills, try the following instructional practices:

Phonics and Grammar

To help children with ADD master phonics and grammar rules, the following are effective:

Writing and composition

In composing stories or other writing assignments, children with ADD benefit from the following practices:


To help children with ADD who are poor spellers master their spelling lessons, the following have been found to be helpful:


Students with ADD who have difficulty with manuscript or cursive writing benefit from these instructional practices.


There are several individualized instructional practices that can help children with ADD improve their basic computation skills. The following are just a few:

Solving Word Problems

To help children with ADD improve their skill in solving word problems in mathematics, try the following.

Special Materials

Some children with ADD benefit from using special materials to help them complete their mathematics assignments.

Organizational Skills

Many students with ADD are easily distracted and have difficulty focusing their attention on assigned tasks. However, there are several practices that can help children with ADD improve their organization of homework and other daily assignments.


Children with ADD who have difficulty finishing their assignments on time can also benefit from individualized instruction that helps them improve their time management skills.

Behavior Management

Children with ADD often are impulsive and hyperactive. Effective teachers use behavior management techniques to help these children learn how to control their behavior.

Verbal Reinforcement

Students with ADD benefit from frequent reinforcement of appropriate behavior and correction of inappropriate behavior. Verbal reinforcement takes on the form of praise and reprimands. In addition, it is sometimes helpful to selectively ignore inappropriate behavior.

Behavioral Management

Effective teachers also use behavioral prompts with their students with ADD, as well as with other students in the class. These prompts help remind students about your expectations for their learning and behavior in the classroom.


In some instances, children with ADD need counseling to learn how to manage their own behavior.


For some children with ADD, behavioral contracts, tangible rewards, or token economy systems are helpful in teaching them how to manage their own behavior. Because students' individual needs are different, it is important for teachers to evaluate whether these practices are appropriate for their classrooms.

Classroom Accommodations

Many children with ADD benefit from accommodations that reduce distractions in the classroom environment. These accommodations, which include modifications within both the physical environment and learning environment of the classroom, help some children with ADD stay on task and learn. Accommodations of the physical environment include determining where a child with ADD will sit in the classroom. There are two main types of special seat assignments.

Environmental Prompts

Effective teachers also use different environmental prompts to make accommodations within the physical environment of the classroom.

Follow-up Directions

Effective teachers make accommodations in the learning environment by guiding children with ADD with follow-up directions.

Instructional Tools

Effective teachers also use special instructional tools to modify the classroom learning environment and accommodate the special needs of their students with ADD.

This document was developed by the Chesapeake Institute, Washington, D.C., with The Widmeyer Group, Washington, D.C., as part of contract #HS92017001 from the Office of Special Education Programs, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, United States Department of Education.