Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Implications for the Classroom Teacher

By Reis, Elizabeth M. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Implications for the Classroom Teacher


Reis, Elizabeth M., Journal of Instructional Psychology


This article is the culmination of field observations, discussions with classroom teachers and a review of the existing research base for meeting the classroom needs of students with attention deficit hyperactive disordered needs.

Specifically the article describes strategies that classroom teachers can utilize to better meet the attention needs of their students with attention deficit hyperactive disordered needs. Every strategy is discussed in terms of how the strategy should be implemented and this discussion is followed by a heading in which current research findings that relate to the strategy are briefly discussed.

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Students labeled attention deficit hyperactive disordered (ADHD) display many characteristics that make the sustaining of attention problematic (Welton, 1999). Some of these characteristics include but are not limited to: (1) often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork; (2) often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork; (3) often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; (4) often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities; and (5) often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort such as schoolwork or homework (Accardo, Blondis, Stein, & Whitman, 2000). However, in order to fully understand these characteristics, it is important to first understand the different parts that make-up the process of attention. For example, the process of attention demands that the learner focus that is pick or select something that needs attention. However, in order for the learner to be able to sustain or pay attention for as long as the required task demands, the learner must be able to resist or avoid things that remove his or her attention from where it needs to be. Depending upon the classroom situation, the learner may also need to shift or to move his or her attention to something else when the task demand requires slight modification.

In this article, several strategies will be described that can be used by the teacher to better engage the attention of students with ADHD in his or her classroom. These strategies were created after several periods of observing students with ADHD and after several meeting with three classroom teachers that had students labeled as having ADHD in their classrooms.

Strategy #1: To increase the use of positive reinforcement

This strategy calls the classroom teacher' s attention to the frequency in which the student with ADHD receives negative comments or even punishments. When observing a student labeled ADHD, it was quite common to witness the teacher berating the student for his or her lack of focused attention, talking out of turn as well as participating in distracting behaviors like the clicking of a pen or the bending of a paper clip. However, once the teachers were shown the frequency in which they had delivered negative comments and we had an opportunity to discuss the replacement of these negative comments with positive verbal reinforcement (such as, "You keep improving!"; "Wow, you have completed half of the page, I know you'll get the rest done by the end of the period!"; "Sensational effort, keep up the good work!"). The teachers were truly amazed at the effort the students demonstrated in response to the positive comments was well as a decrease in the frequency in which negative behaviors occurred.

Current Research Findings

The use of positive verbal praise goes a long way toward fostering better self-esteem for learners with ADHD (McCluskey & McCluskey, 1999). A student's self-esteem or self-worth is fostered when the teacher creates a classroom environment in which the student with ADHD feels his or her efforts will be recognized. Through such recognition, the student with ADHD can perceive that they have competencies and that they will succeed at school-related tasks. …

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