I am continuing with the March theme of attention in the classroom. I am anxiously awaiting an upcoming post by a fellow SLP blogger who is going to share her insights on differential diagnosis between ADHD and Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). That can be a very difficult task. When a child has difficulty following directions and staying on task, we as educators or therapist are often left wondering if the child isn’t attending or isn’t processing what we say. As soon as that blog is up, I will let you know!
My first post in the Attention series introduced the use of schedules to help students stay on task. A second strategy would be controlling the learning environment, so that it is conducive to the child’s learning style. I really like the post HERE. I am going to summarize some of the points that I have had success with in the past.
1. Auditory Cues:
Auditory means “sound”. Sound cues are any novel or predictable sound that alerts children to pay attention. I have seen classroom teachers use something as simple as a bell. Prior to giving any important directions or pieces of information, they ring the bell to grasp the students’ attention. The students’ learn to associate this sound with “get ready to listen.”
2. Productive physical movement:
I call this “alerting movement.” Movement is important for signaling the brain to alert and focus mental resources on a task. Clearly these students are going to have trouble sitting down for long periods of time. Planned physical movements including stretch breaks, dancing, standing, or moving around the classroom, allow the students a chance to re-energize and release that movement urge they work so hard to resist.
3. Rule reminders and visual cues:
Students with ADHD need specific rules and boundaries. They thrive in consistent and controlled learning environments. Often visual modes of presentation are most efficient. Rules/guidelines/schedules should be visually available to the student. clearly defined with pictures or short phrases and frequently reinforced throughout the day. These rules are especially important for times of transition, or when the classroom schedule must be adjusted.
Instructions are best understood by all students when they are short and to the point. The student should be required to repeat the directions back to the teacher to insure retention. The teacher should then monitor for comprehension of the directions. When breakdowns are identified, the student may need direct one-on-one instruction in specific concepts (sequencing, before, after, instead, while, following, above, below, etc).
It is our job as educators and therapist to know our students’ learning styles. We must know these inside and out, so we are prepared to anticipate their areas of strength and weakness. Our goal is to build well rounded students. Students with ADHD are at risk for low self-esteem due to the difficulty they have with academics. By anticipating where they are going to have challenge and providing the strategies that these students need to learn and progress, we are making a long term impact on much more than their classroom skills.
I am going to stop there for today. Next time I will discuss behavior management in the classroom, and hopefully share a few tips you can implement for your students with behavioral challenges.
Kandi McMahan, M.A., CCC-SLP