Attention Deficit Disorders

Suggested Classroom Accommodations for Specific Behaviors



Difficulty following a plan (has high aspirations, but lacks follow-through); sets out to “get straight A’s, ends up with F’s. (Sets unrealistic goals).
  • Assist student in setting long-range goal; break the goal into realistic parts.
  • Use a questioning strategy with the student. Ask, “What do you need to be able to do this?” Keep asking that question until the student has reached an attainable goal.
  • Have student set clear timelines for what he needs to do to accomplish each step. (Monitor student’s progress frequently.)
Difficulty sequencing and completing steps to accomplish specific tasks, e.g. writing a book report, term paper, organizing paragraphs, division problem, etc.
  • Break up task into workable and attainable steps.
  • Provide examples and specific steps to accomplish task.
Shifting from one uncompleted activity to another, without closure.
  • Define the requirements of a completed activity. For example, “Your math is finished when all six problems are complete and correct; do not begin on the next task until it is finished.”
  • Prioritize assignments and activities.
  • Provide a model to help students. Post the model and refer to it often.
Difficulty following through on instructions from others.
  • Gain student’s attention before giving directions.
  • List beginning steps.
  • Accompany oral directions with written directions.
  • Give one direction at a time. Quietly repeat directions to the student after they have been given to the rest of the class. Check for understanding, by having the student repeat the directions.
  • Place general methods of operation and expectations on charts displayed around the room and/or on sheets to be included in student’s notebook.
Difficulty sustaining effort and accuracy over time.
  • Reduce assignment length and strive for quality rather than quantity.
  • Increase the frequency of positive reinforcements. Catch the students doing it right and let him or her know it.
Difficulty completing assignments.
  • List and/or pose (and say) all steps necessary to complete each assignment.
  • Reduce assignment into manageable sections, with specific due dates.
  • Make frequent checks for work/assignment completion.
  • Arrange for the student to have a “study buddy” available to student in each subject area.
Difficulty with any task that requires memory.
  • Combine seeing, saying, writing and doing; student may need to sub-vocalize to remember.
  • Teach memory techniques as a study strategy (e.g. mnemonics, visualization, oral rehearsal, numerous repetitions).
Difficulty with test-taking.
  • Allow extra time for testing; teach test-taking skills and strategies; and allow student to be tested orally.
  • Use clear, readable and uncluttered test forms. Use test format that the student is most comfortable with. Allow ample spaces for student response. Consider having ruled answer sheets for essay or short answer tests.
Confusion from non-verbal cues: misreading body language, etc.
  • Directly teach (tell student) what non-verbal cues mean. Model and have student practice reading cues in a safe setting.
Confusion from written material; difficulty finding the main idea of a paragraph; attributes greater importance to minor details.
  • Provide student with a copy of reading material with main ideas underlined or highlighted.
  • Provide an outline of important points from reading material.
  • Teach outlining, main – idea/details concepts.
  • Provide tape of text/chapter.
Confusion from spoken material, lectures and AV material. Difficulty finding main ideas from presentation, attributes greater importance to minor details.
  • Provide student with a copy of presentation notes.
  • Allow peers to share carbon-copy notes from presentation. Have student compare own notes with copy of peer’s notes.
  • Provide framed outlines of presentations, introducing visual and auditory cues to important information.
  • Encourage use of tape recorder.
  • Teach and emphasizes key words. “The following…” “The most important point…” etc.
Difficulty sustaining attention to tasks or other activities. Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
  • Reward attention. Break up activities into small units. Reward for timely accomplishments.
  • Use physical proximity and touch. Use earphones and/or study carrels, quiet place, or preferential seating.
Frequent messiness or sloppiness.
  • Teach organization skills. Be sure student has daily; and consistent format for papers. Have a consistent way for students to turn in and receive papers; reduce distractions.
  • Give reward points for notebook checks and proper paper format.
  • Provide clear copies of worksheets and handouts and consistent format for worksheets. Establish a daily routine; provide models for what you want the student to do.
  • Arrange for a peer who will help with organization.
  • Assist student to keep materials in a specific place, e.g. pencils and pens in pouch.
  • Be willing to repeat expectations.
Poor handwriting, (often mixing cursive with manuscript and capitals with lower case letters).
  • Allow for a scribe and grade for content, not handwriting. Allow for use of a computer or typewriter.
  • Consider alternative methods for student responses, e.g. tape recorder, oral reports, etc.
  • Don’t penalize student for mixing cursive and manuscript. Accept any method of production.
Difficulty with fluency in handwriting, e.g. good letter/word production, but very slow and laborious.
  • Allow for shorter assignments (quality vs. quantity).
  • Allow alternate method of production (computer, scribe, oral presentation, etc.)
Poorly developed study habits and skills.
  • Teach study skills specific to the subject areas- organization (e.g. assignment calendar), textbook reading, note taking (finding main ideas/details, mapping, outlining), skimming, summarizing.
Poor self-monitoring, e.g. careless errors in arithmetic, spelling, reading
  • Teach specific methods of self-monitoring, e.g. “stop-look-listen.”
  • Have student proofread finished work when it is “cold.”
Low fluency or production of written material (takes hours on a 10-minute assignment).
  • Allow for alternative method for completing assignment (oral presentation, taped report, visual presentation graphs, maps, pictures, etc., with reduced written requirements.)
  • Allow for alternative method of writing, e.g. typewriter, computer, cursive or printing, or a scribe.
Apparent inattention – under-active, daydreaming, “not there.”
  • Get student’s attention before giving directions. Tell the student how to pay attention; “Look at me when I talk.” “Watch my eyes when I speak.”
  • Attempt to actively involve student in lesson, e.g. cooperative learning.
Difficulty participating in class without being interruptive; difficulty working quietly.
  • Seat student in close proximity to the teacher.
  • Reward appropriate behavior; catch student “being good.”
  • Use study carrel if appropriate.


Inappropriate seeking of attention. Clowns around, exhibits loud, excessive or exaggerated movements as attention-seeking behavior, interrupts, butts into other children’s activities, needles or bullies others.
  • Show student (model) how to gain others’ attention appropriately.
  • Catch the student when appropriate and reinforce.
Frequent, excessive talking.
  • Teach student hand signals and use to tell student when and when not to talk.
  • Make sure student is called when it is appropriate and reinforce listening.
Difficulty making transition (from activity to activity or from class to class); takes an excessive amount of time to find pencil; gives up; refuses to leave previous task; appears agitated during transition.
  • Program child for transitions.  Give advance warning when a transition is going to take place. “Now we are completing the worksheet; next we will…”, and the expectations for the transition, “and you will need…”
  • Specifically assemble and display lists of materials needed until a routine is possible. List steps necessary to complete each assignment.
  • Have specific locations for all materials, e.g. pencils, tabs in notebooks, etc.
  • Arrange for an organized helper (peer).
Difficulty remaining seated or in a particular position when required.
  • Give student frequent opportunities to get up and move around. Allow space for movement.
Frequent fidgeting with hands, feet or objects, squirming in seat.
  • Break tasks down into small increments and give frequent positive reinforcement for accomplishments (this type of behavior is due to frustration).
  • Allow alternative movement when possible.
Inappropriate responses in class, often blurted out; answers given to questions before they have been completed.
  • Seat student in close proximity to teacher so that visual and physical monitoring of student behavior can be done by the teacher.
  • State behavior that you want. Tell the student how you expect him to behave.
Agitation under pressure and competition (academic or athletic).
  • Stress effort and enjoyment for self, rather than competition with others.
  • Minimize timed activities; structure class for team effort and cooperation.
Inappropriate behaviors in a team or large group sport or athletic activity. Difficulty waiting for turns in games or group situations.
  • Give the student a responsible job (e.g. team captain, care and distribution of the balls, scorekeeping, etc.); consider leadership role.
  • Have the student in close proximity to the teacher.
Frequent involvement with physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences.
  • Anticipate dangerous situations and plan in advance.
  • Stress “stop-look-listen.”
  • Pair with responsible students so they don’t wear out.
Poor adult interactions. Defies authority. Sucks up. Hangs on.
  • Provide positive attention.
  • Talk with student about the inappropriate behavior. “What you are doing is…” “A better way to get what you want is…”
Frequent self-putdowns, poor personal care and posture, negative comments about self and others, poor self-esteem.
  • Structure for success.
  • Train student for self-monitoring, reinforce improvements, teach self-questioning strategies: “What am I doing? How is this going to affect others?”
  • Allow opportunities for the student to show his strengths.
  • Give a positive recognition.
Difficulty using unstructured time: recess, hallways, lunchroom, locker room, library, assembly, etc.
  • Provide student with a definite purpose during unstructured activities. “The purpose of going to the library is to check out…”
  • Encourage group games and participation, e.g. organized school clubs and activities.
Losing things necessary for task activities at school or at home, e.g. pencils, books, assignments, before during and after completion of a given task.
  • Help student to organize. Frequently monitor notebook and dividers, pencil pouch, locker, book bag, desks.
  • Provide positive reinforcement for good organization. Provide student with a list of needed materials and their locations.
Poor use of time, e/.g. sitting, staring off into space, doodling, not working on task at hand.
  • Teach reminder cues, e.g. a gentle touch on the shoulder, hand signals, etc.
  • Tell the student your expectations as to how paying attention looks. “You look like you’re paying attention when…”
  • Give the student a time limit for small unit of work with positive reinforcement for accurate completion.
  • Use of contrast, timer, etc., for self-monitoring.

– 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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