"....Here is the model I use when I present the diagnosis to students. I say to the student, "I have great news for you." At that the student, and his or her parents, look up. This is not what they'd been expecting to hear.
"I've learned a lot about you," I go on. "I've taken your history, and I've read what your various teachers have had to say about you. As you know, we've also done some tests. After putting all this information together, I'm now able to tell you that you have an awesome brain."
"Your brain is very powerful. It's like a Ferrari—a race car. You have the power to win races and become a champion."
"However," I continue, "you do have one problem. You have bicycle brakes. Your brakes just aren't strong enough to control your powerful brain, so you can't slow down or stop when you need to. Your mind goes off wherever it wants to go, instead of staying on track. But not to worry! I'm a brake specialist, and if you work with me, we can strengthen your brakes."
Which is true. Treating ADHD is all about strengthening brakes. For individuals with ADHD, the inhibitory systems in the brain don't work well enough to control all the power the brain possesses. The brain can't inhibit incoming stimuli (hence the individual is distractible) or outgoing impulses (hence the individual is impulsive and hyperactive).
But consider also that each of those negative symptoms can lead to a corresponding positive one. The flip side of distractibility is curiosity, a valuable quality indeed. The flip side of impulsivity is creativity, a hugely valuable asset. You can't be creative if you aren't somewhat disinhibited. And the flip side of hyperactivity is a quality that, at my age, I'm grateful to have. It's called energy.
As a brake specialist, I can help these children strengthen their brakes. But what can you as a teacher do?
Above all, embrace the strength-based model. Make sure you and the student understand ADHD in the same way: race car brain, bicycle brakes. Then, when that student is disruptive you can simply say, "Joey, your brakes are failing you now." This sets a limit, but it does so in a nonshaming way—especially if Joey has already accepted you, the teacher, as someone who is going to be part of the team devoted to helping him strengthen his brakes.
These are some other interventions you can use in the classroom:
Set up predictable schedules and rules. All children need structure, but for those who have ADHD, schedules and rules are as essential as maps and roads are for drivers. Without them, these kids can get completely lost.
Have kids with ADHD sit near you. Being physically close to the teacher increases a student's level of attention. Being far away makes it easier to lose track of what's going on.
Break down large tasks into small ones. A large task can intimidate anyone, but it completely bamboozles and overwhelms the student with ADHD, which can lead him or her to give up or suffer a meltdown.
Introduce new material in terms of old. For example, "Today we start studying fractions. Fractions are just division written differently, and you've already mastered division."
Balance structure with novelty, so that when the class gets overstimulated you introduce structure, and when the class gets bored you introduce novelty. Too much new material gets confusing, and too much drill gets boring.
Make sure the class gets recess, and provide frequent brain breaks (brief periods of exercise in which students stand near their desks or stations). Physical exercise, even for one minute, presses the reset button on the brain and refreshes students mentally.
All these strategies, and many more, can help. But the most important one of all goes back to Mrs. Eldredge: Make sure students with ADHD know you like them and are on their side..."
Via Lou Salza