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Teaching and Managing Children with ADHD

In the classroom environment, teachers can help create a focus for children with ADHD by implementing several structures into their daily practice. According to O’Regan (2006), if the key to buying and selling property is ‘location, location, and location’, then the key to teaching children with ADHD is ‘structure, structure and structure”. These structures may include the use of a regular timetable, the presentation of new material in a step-by-step manner and the provision of short, clear instructions. Failure to implement a daily structure for children with ADHD may contribute to increased levels of disruptive behaviour. Reports suggest that children with ADHD display higher levels of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity in less structured activities (Wheeler, 2010). Consequently, this may have implications for children with ADHD and their inclusion in mainstream education. Yet, the role of the special needs assistant (SNA) can be vital in the effective inclusion of children with ADHD. For example, the SNA can attend to the individual needs of a student with ADHD while the teacher continues to teach and manage the class. Also, the SNA can assist the student to remain on task and by doing so the student remains actively engaged. 

Professionals are increasingly introducing alternative approaches to treat ADHD. One of these approaches is behaviour modification. Behaviour can be altered as long as the correct approaches are applied. Positive and negative reinforcement are two key concepts in behaviour modification that can be used to promote positive behaviour among children with ADHD. It is important to mention that positive reinforcement involves the delivery of a consequence while negative reinforcement is concerned with the removal of an aversive situation.

Positive reinforcement may involve rewarding a child with ADHD for his/her positive or appropriate behaviour. Munden and Arcelus (1999) maintain that positive behaviour among children becomes more frequent or stronger if it leads to rewarding consequences. Many professionals support the use of rewards to promote positive behaviour among children (Wheeler, 2010; Westwood, 1997; Barkley, 1998; Farrell, 2006; O’Regan, 2006). Barkley (1998) describes this approach as being ideal for students with behavioural difficulties. In this situation, teachers may decide to use tokens to promote desired behaviour in the classroom. For example, a token chart, or star chart, may be drawn up by the teacher and placed on the classroom wall. Tokens are usually effective because of their immediacy and the fact that students can see them accumulating on a chart, or on the teacher’s desk, as visible evidence of achievement. However, every child with ADHD is different. Some rewards will work for some children but not for others. There is not much point using chocolate as a reward for a child who doesn’t like chocolate. It is imperative that rewards on offer mirror the interests of individual students. For example, rewards could include free time that can be set aside for preferred activities in class. Also, positive attention and praise are generally welcomed by all students. 

Further details concerning sources cited in this article are available by emailing Michael Quinn at michael.quinn@ucdconncect.ie.