Classroom Seating Strategies for ADHD Children

Be Aware of the Learning Environment of the Classroom in Respect to Distractions for children with attention deficit.

It should be remembered that stimulation at either extreme of the continuum, from boredom to over-excitation, will be problematic for the ADHD child. Thus, the teacher should maintain awareness of the level of stimulation in the environment of the ADHD child. It is a myth that these children need stark environments. A basic rule to follow is that visual distractions should be limited within the child’s line of sight from his or her work areas to the areas in which a teacher actually presents materials or gives directions.

The goal as the instructor is to increase the learning environment and emotional growth for all children – especially an ADHD child – while decreasing  distractions and enhancing overall classroom compliance.  Challenges do exist with children suffering with  attention deficit regarding constructive mental health and positive behavior. It’s important therefore to be aware of what activities or environment influence the attention deficit.

Correctly Place the ADHD Child Physically Within the Classroom

This must be done by observation and flexibility. Some students are best placed closer to the teacher’s desk, if that is not an overly distracting situation. Some best placed at a distance. Isolating a student to the far reaches of the room typically is not a good idea. Surprisingly, placement of the student in the midst of the classroom, surrounded by relatively stable children, may be an appropriate and advantageous placement.

Increase the physical distance between desks – this can typically reduce impulsive touching, kicking, etc.

Teach listening skills. Since these children are impulsive and inattentive by nature, they have not developed the skill to listen for sustained periods of time. These students would profit from the concept of being a “reporter” of their own “daily news.” Let them observe the ongoing environment. Teach them the concepts of who, what, where, when, why and how.  Let them answer those questions and then let them repeat those questions.

Line of Sight Eye-Contact

When providing information or seeking information from the ADHD child, it is crucial to establish line of sight eye contact. Because the reticular activating system does not limit the number of incoming stimuli, the child attends to too many stimuli at once. This interferes with the ability to focus on relevant information. The inability to follow directions and attend to sets of directions is a natural consequence of the brain’s over-sensitivity to the flooding of external and internal stimuli.

If the “Eyes” Don’t Have it, the Child Won’t Either

Do not give directions while facing the board or facing away from students. Additionally, teaching internal self-talk is highly appropriate for the student. Vary your voice tone and inflection. When giving oral directions, do so twice, and observe the tone and inflection of your voice.

Combine sight, sound and motor cues. In essence, by combining modalities, we are attempting to work around the basic imbalance in the child’s input strengths and weaknesses. When working the board, the use of colored chalk/markers to underline key words is helpful and appropriate.

Give the child visual cues to help anticipate your behavior so that the child can signal his or her behavior.

Emphasize Important Parts of Lessons and Activities with Color

Underlining key words in math assists children in information selection. Insist that children circle the sign in mathematics problems. Use graph paper to keep columns straight. If possible, create learning partners.

Keep individual work periods short. All worksheets should not be assigned at the beginning of the day; they should be parceled out. Seat work should not be carried out for more than 5 to 10 minutes, without a physical break. This can be accomplished by having the child place each completed paper away from his or her desk.

Establish corridors for transportation in the classroom. Use taped center lines as a cue. Allow for physical movement throughout the day. Both underactive and overactive children are poorly served by long periods of diminished physical activity.

Teach the child to eliminate careless errors through the skill of underlining and marking signs, key words, etc.

Think of the concept of biological pacing. Provide a rhythm to your day and to the child’s activities. The use of classical music, metronome, etc. These children may actually profit through the use of headphones and iPods.

Reduce the frustration of handwriting from as early a point as possible. Teach skills associated with word processing. When writing is necessary. Emphasize careful, neat work without excessive copying or repetition.

Teach the child to seek quality in his or her work and in concept, growth – rather than quantity. Provide the child with an opportunity for self-evaluation of the quality of his or her work.

Train Young Children in Listening Skills of Enhanced Language Sophistication

Limit homework. Homework is part of child and family existence. A system-wide approach should be for homework to be accomplished prior to the child leaving school at the end of the day or prior to the start of the school day. If this is impossible in the early grades, limit homework in grades K through 3 to no more than 10 minutes, in grades 4 through 6 to no more than 20 minutes, in grades 7 through 9 to no more than 30 minutes, and in grades 9 through 12 to no more than 40 minutes.

Allow the parent to be powerful and limit the child’s homework and teach the child that this is acceptable. Homework should be given for concepts that the child has already acquired at school and which need rapid overlearning. It should not be for concepts which are so new that the child is unfamiliar, or so rote that the child is too familiar.

Teach New Concepts in Bursts. Have the child perform each new concept, establish in your mind the ability to create micro assignments.

To decrease off-task behavior, lower minimum output expectations necessary for acceptable task completion. Decrease the necessity for concentration to small periods of time.

For non-compliance, encourage verbal problem-solving, with significant reinforcement given to enriched language. Use cognitive problem-solving, STAR programs, physical education, energy bits and martial arts training, for the purposes of enhancing compliance and emotional growth.

Stop The Lie and Don’t Ask Why

Provide Insight to ADHD Children When They Transgress. Do not seek insight from them by asking a direct “why?” The “whys” always yield lies.

If it is necessary to ask, phrase it in an indirect fashion, “why do you believe that you…” Ask for hypothesis, not a statement of fact. Achieve over learning not by extensive long rote drill, but by practicing limited amount of information for a limited amount of time.

– by Frank Doberman, PhD

Dr. Frank Doberman is Co-Founder of Karner Psychological Associates (KPA) and is a leader in the fields of clinical psychology, is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified in School Psychology, Educational Administration and is a regular contributor to News 10 WTEN.

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