ADHD and OCD/OCB in the Classroom

Students with TS and ADHD often have problems with Executive Function, which involves such skills as time management and problem solving. A person with executive deficits may not have these organizational capacities to demonstrate their talents and abilities productively in their academic or career pursuits. Teachers can use some of the following techniques to help.

Coping Strategies for ADHD and Executive Function Disorders

  • Maintain structure in the classroom so the student knows expectations, yet be flexible to allow for creative supports. For example, the student might be allowed to stand while working or take periodic breaks to move around the room between assignments.
  • Limit unstructured time; keep a folder of fun activities on hand so the student always has something to do, or have a list of appropriate activities the student can choose from during down time.
  • Use visual supports: Provide an example of the expected outcome, such as a finished project or example of a math solution, to demonstrate what the student is trying to accomplish.
  • Provide a photograph of the expectation (e.g., what a clean locker should look like or what the student looks like when he or she is dressed and ready for school.)

Writing Strategies

  • Teach note-taking skills appropriate for the student’s writing, auditory comprehension, attention, and language abilities.
  • Teach use of a highlighter to help the student identify important information.
  • Teach the use of headings, topic sentence, etc. to identify key points.
  • Teach the use of lists to keep track of materials, assignments, etc.

Focus and Concentration

  • Establish a code word or hand gesture to cue the student to refocus or get back on task.
  • Let the student move frequently throughout the day; send the student to the water fountain, on errands, etc.
  • Let the student stand at his or her desk, sit on a large exercise ball, move, wiggle, chew gum, etc. while working. This can improve focus and concentration; whereas forcing a student to “sit still” or “look at you” may actually reduce focus because attention is shifted from school work to maintaining a behavior that is difficult or unnatural for the student.
  • Consider quality vs. quantity, when possible. The primary goal is to master the material, so assign enough material for the student to learn a skill but do not over-drill.

Assigning Tasks

  • Give one paper or assignment at a time. This accommodation can be difficult as students gets older; a consultant teacher may be more helpful at higher grades to help manage assignments and teach the student to prioritize.
  • Set reasonable goals: “In 15 minutes, you should have 8 math problems finished.”
  • Designate the amount of time for each task on a “To Do” list. (These may increase anxiety for a student who also has OCD; modify or omit if these are not helpful.)
  • Teach student to make and use schedules. Post schedule in prominent places, such as on a notebook and inside locker door or on a desk, for easy reference.
  • Divide long-term assignments into smaller segments with separate due dates (chunking); schedule check–ins with the teacher at each due date to monitor progress.
  • Develop reminder systems: Leave homework with a specified adult to distribute to appropriate teachers or to oversee the student turning in assignments to appropriate teachers. Have the student or designated adult call or email assignments home at the end of each class or end of day.
  • Teach the student to make and use “To Do” or check lists. Utilize technology for reminders, such as smart phones, iPads or electronic calendars.
  • Teach student to prioritize tasks. Assign a “homework buddy” for the student to call if questions about assignments or due dates come up at home.
  • Keep separate folders for “To be Completed” and “Completed” homework. Color-code books and notebooks according to subject, then use corresponding color on schedule and “To Do” lists.
  • Assign a consultant or resource r oom teacher to the student in order to help him or her manage current workload while teaching life-long strategies.