A friend of mine is taking an Additional Qualification course online through OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) on Special Education. She's doing a group project on ADHD and invited me to share with her some examples of particular activities we found helpful with ds1 to help him overcome his challenges when it came to learning. She also asked for ideas/thought provoking questions I wished teachers would take the time to think about to be better prepared to help students with ADHD. Here's what I sent to her and I thought it might be of interest to others too.
We chose not to medicate ds1, however we did provide him with melatonin to take at night to help him sleep. We found that being able to settle his mind and get a good night's sleep allowed for improvements during the day. There are many holistic treatment approaches that parents can choose, so it's good for teachers to be aware that some parents may not wish to medicate their child.
When we were homeschooling, we gauged what type of day it seemed ds1 was going to have. There were days when it was clear that we were not going to be successful trying to get him to do desk work. Sometimes on those days we just allowed him to play (mostly Legos) or read, believing that those are also good ways to learn. We didn't realize the extent to which the dysgraphia made communicating what he knew a challenge. We thought he was refusing to write and that he needed to work on it more, do more copywork, in order to improve. Once we realized there was a problem due to the dysgraphia, we began scribing for him and allowing him to use the computer to do his work. This reduced frustration on both sides. In terms of "classroom" behaviour at home, we allowed him to move around a lot. He often hung off the chair, moved constantly, blurted out noise, and appeared not be focussed on the work. You can see an example of this here.
At school we have found it helpful for ds1 to have a space where he is not as easily distracted - this means that his desk is not in a group of 4 like the other students, it's right in front of the teacher. He has an "imagination station" at the back of the class with Plasticine so that he can go and use his hands if he needs a break from sitting. When he started school in September we did a gradual entry process, one class per week, gradually adding another class until he was able to stay the full day. He was allowed to leave the class (he had a note to leave on his desk and a timer to take with him) for breaks to walk around in a specific area. He was also allowed to visit the Special Education Resource Teacher (SERT) and play with Legos in her office. This helped him develop his ability to focus and stay in class longer. It also provided him with a safe place to go for physical activity and movement when he needed it. The interactions with the SERT reduced any anxiety that he was feeling, which had previously led to his hiding in the school - much to the anxiety of the principal and us!
I consider that we have been very fortunate to have had the support we have from ds1's school. My wish for every parent with a child with ADHD would be for teachers to understand that the child is not trying to misbehave, they are simply wired differently. Adults need to realize that kids with ADHD are not "bad," they are unable to control their impulses. It's also very important to know that medication is not always the solution. Holistic approaches and the passage of time can bring about positive changes. Teachers who can be look beyond the ADHD behaviour and see the strengths the child has are a great asset to maintaining healthy self-esteem in kids with ADHD.
What about you? What do you wish teachers knew about ADHD?