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ADHD for teachers


ADHD for teachers

For a quick overview of ADHD in general, see the ⇒ Short version of
The following article provides an overview of ADHD in school situations and is aimed at teachers.

1. How do ADHD symptoms manifest themselves in everyday school life?

ADHD - like almost all disorders - is dimensional. All people have a few symptoms. People with ADHD have a high number of symptoms, but not necessarily all symptoms.
The following list of symptoms is not exhaustive and only lists the phenotypical symptoms in school situations:

Motor problems
(only in the hyperactive or combined subtype! There is also the purely inattentive subtype; more common in girls)

  • Not being able to stay seated (during lessons - more so when transferring at the end of the year ;-))
  • Constant fidgeting
  • Spotty handwriting
  • Clumsiness / Frequent bumping into things / Accidents / Injuries


  • Not being able to wait for his/her turn
  • Interrupting others, interrupting, talking in between
  • Not being able to postpone needs
  • Irritability

Organizational problems

  • tattered booklets
  • stained or torn textbooks
  • hopeless confusion in pencil cases / satchels
  • Procrastination (always completing tasks / learning at the last minute)

Attention problems:

  • constantly forgotten homework
  • lost items that are needed for tasks
  • good attention and concentration only on things that are interesting or fun
    • this is not a character weakness in ADHD, but a symptom of the disease
  • easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli
  • dreamy (then often no hyperactivity and no impulsivity = ADHD-I presentation form (ADD))
  • Difficulty switching quickly from one task to another (“task switching problems”)

Emotional dysregulation:

  • Mood swings
  • Dysphoria (only) during inactivity
  • Over-intense emotional reactions
  • easily offended (possibly also “mimosa with morning star”)

With some people with ADHD, you can see how they “fill up” in the first lesson and then show more and more symptoms.
In adulthood, the top marks of primary school reports are often used for diagnosis in order to recognize the presence of symptoms in childhood and adolescence and to differentiate them from severe acute stress.

ADD (without hyperactivity) is characterized by an absence of the disruptive externalizing symptoms and a sometimes increased adaptation to the environment, so that inattention, dreaminess and organizational problems are in the foreground. These people with ADHD are more difficult to recognize and are often overlooked.
Some people with ADHD (especially girls) are able to mask their ADHD symptoms by working hard or because they are very gifted.
Increased adaptation is merely a coping behavior (a coping strategy) that only masks the inner pressure and is associated with massive effort. This increased effort to mask the symptoms leads to wear and tear in the long term and manifests itself in (untreated) ADHD in old age in 3 times more frequent anxiety disorders, 4 times more frequent depression and a variety of other problems. The long-term consequences of ADHD are usually significantly underestimated. More on this at ⇒ Consequences of ADHD.
A higher level of aptitude often compensates for the attention and organizational difficulties, as aptitude correlates with problem-solving skills. However, a higher level of talent cannot compensate for the increased effort (wear and tear).

In addition to this brief description, it is essential to know the full range of possible symptoms of ADHD. This can be found under ⇒ Symptoms of ADHD.

Our online test at ⇒ provides an indication of possible ADHD based on the number of existing symptoms ADHD online tests and surveys.

ADHD is often accompanied by other (comorbid) disorders. These are particularly common:

  • For all subtypes
    • Autism spectrum disorder (up to 50 % of people with ADHD)
  • For ADHD-I
    • Depression
    • Anxiety disorder
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • For ADHD-HI / ADHD-C:
    • Disorder with oppositional defiant behavior (ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder)
    • Disorders of social behavior (Conduct Disorder)

Like depression and anxiety disorders, social disorders and aggression are not original characteristics of ADHD. However, ADHD treatment can alleviate these to such an extent that separate treatment is unnecessary.

A comprehensive list of comorbidities in AD(H)S including their frequency with and without AD(H)S can be found at ⇒ Comorbidities in ADHD.

2. How does a child with ADHD experience school?

For adults, we have an apt image of what ADHD feels like. ADHD is like having an 8-hour office job where your desk is not in a quiet room, but in the middle of a busy pedestrian zone right next to the streetcar tracks. That might even be bearable for a day or two (although your partner might suffer in the evening). But what if your whole life is like this?
What if every sound, every movement reaches the brain unfiltered and demands the same attention without any gradation? What if almost all sounds are perceived as intensely as the squeaking of chalk or fingernails on the blackboard for some?
Anyone who has ever had a really difficult time in their life, perhaps because a close relative has died or because a divorce with a dispute over the shared home has caused existential fears, has experienced severe stress. If you look at the symptoms of ADHD and consider how intense a stress load must be to cause these symptoms, you can perhaps better understand what people with ADHD are subjectively going through: they experience their lives as if such serious things are happening. And on a permanent basis.
Every teacher is likely to have experienced children who were temporarily under severe stress because such serious things happened or because they were bullied. It goes without saying that children experience consideration and understanding in such situations. And every teacher will also have come across children who have to act out their stress (and become fidgety, loud and aggressive), while others bottle up their stress (and block it out as if they are petrified inside): The two stress phenotypes
The difference to people with ADHD is that it is foreseeable that the pain will pass and that the child or young person will then - hopefully - be completely restored. In these cases, it may be enough to be persistent and understanding.
Nevertheless, one should consider whether it would not be appropriate to give these children temporary medication during this painful time to alleviate the acute stress symptoms (since stress hormones, if they are active for more than a few days, have a neurotoxic effect, i.e. cause permanent damage to the brain), just as painkillers are used to alleviate the pain of a broken leg without having a healing effect.
However, if the stress arises without adequate stressors being recognizable, and if the stress lasts longer than could be explained by momentary stressful situations, it must be considered that it could be ADHD.

3. Dealing with people with ADHD: what can I do as a teacher?

Children with ADHD are a challenge for every teacher and every class. However, ADHD is so common that, statistically speaking, there are 2 to 3 people with ADHD in every class of 30 children.
ADHD children need more attention and care. This is a particular challenge, as even a normal class is a daily challenge for every teacher.

Attention during stress

Our stress systems are older than the 300,000 years of development of Homo sapiens. Hominids are already several million years old. They also became so successful because of these stress systems. We are their descendants.
Let’s imagine: We live as nomads, as we did all those millions of years before the last 10,000 years. If unknown figures with spears suddenly appear out there, it causes stress. If I now observe these figures who are potentially threatening the lives of my group and my children, someone can approach me from the side and tell me that we should collect nuts for the winter - it’s likely that I won’t hear it. If I do hear it, I will be reluctant to break my concentration on observing these figures. These are task switching problems, the first case of attention problems. They serve a good purpose during stress: I can direct my concentration to what is important for my survival.
In the evening around the campfire, chatting… How was your day, what animals did you see, where did you find the delicious berries? If something rustles on the left or moves on the right or there’s something undefined further back, I’ll be told: can you please stick to the point? This is distractibility, the second case of attention problems. They also serve a good purpose in times of stress: I can focus my attention on something that is important for my survival at any time.
On this occasion: collecting nuts for the winter - what would I have said to him? I would have answered that I have no interest in nuts at the moment. My current interest is survival. That’s the stress benefit of reward deferral issues. What is really important to me, I can very well do immediately. Therefore, with ADHD, the focus of attention is shifted to the here and now. Therefore: could we please postpone collecting nuts until we have survived?
Applied to today’s situation: why tidy up? When I come home from the day’s battle, there is nothing more important than resting, because the battle could start again at any time. This is also the case when I can’t switch off because the dysphoria (the dip in mood when I’m inactive) prevents me from really recovering, but encourages me to stay active until I have defeated the stressor. However, unimportant things should be put on the back burner. Tidying up is definitely unimportant.
The mnemonic is: Attention follows motivation. ADHD is not an attention problem, but a problem of (self-)motivation.
Of course, people with ADHD are not in a survival-threatening situation. However, their stress systems are activated as if they were. And that is exactly what ADHD is: stress symptoms without an acute, adequate stressor.
Once you have understood this, you will understand why the following rules do not represent giving in to a stubborn child, but rather an appropriate way of dealing with a child in an emergency or sickness situation through no fault of their own.

The following rules help to understand ADHD children and make it easier to deal with them:

3.1. Punishment does not help

What is already the rule for normal children is indispensable for ADHD children. ADHD children react even less to punishment than people with ADHD who are not affected.
This is not due to a special revolutionary spirit or a special license of the children, but to the fact that stress fundamentally changes the perception and behavior of every human being.
Massive stress (as is the rule for people with ADHD, even though no adequate stressor is present - this is the core of ADHD) causes a change in attention in every person. Attention is significantly less extrinsically addressable under extreme stress and is directed more towards intrinsic motives.
Since the memory is shortened, frequent praise is the golden path.1

Recommendation: Frequent praise encourages, punishment is ineffective

3.2. Self-regulation does not work

It is a noble motive to expect the same self-regulation from persons with ADHD as from non-affected people. It is a right wish that people with ADHD should learn this self-regulation. But just as it is unreasonable to expect a half-blind person to be able to read as well as a non-visually impaired person (because in real life they have to be able to read the sign on the station board like everyone else), it makes no sense to expect ADHD children to manage their homework as well as non-affected people.

If you find this difficult when dealing with people with ADHD, imagine an armband, only in red with “ADHD” on it instead of yellow with three dots. The fact that children with ADHD are less aware of their own symptoms than visually impaired people, for example, is because they don’t know any different (but visually impaired people usually do) and their symptoms are not widely recognized and acknowledged as ADHD. That children with a disadvantage should not be stigmatized is just as true for AD)S as it is for other disorders. No one would name a visually impaired person as such in front of the class and ask them to look twice. It’s no different with ADHD.

Since homework is only subject to intrinsic motivation in exceptional cases, it is unreasonable to expect people with ADHD to get a grip on their neurologically given motivational deficits (to which neurologically given organizational deficits are added) in the same way as one might expect from (perhaps stubborn, but not impaired) classmates. No matter how much they want to: They can’t.

Recommendation: Communicate homework in a verifiable way
This means that parents should be given a chance to bridge the child’s organizational deficits independently of the child’s notes. In times of the internet and WhatsApp groups, this should be possible without any effort.
The same applies to announcements of class work, excursions or other organizational requirements.
This does not mean that the requirement for ADHD children to write down their homework independently should be dropped. However, it would be foolish to assume that this task, which other children manage with ease, could be managed just as easily by people with ADHD.

4. 12 DO’S for teachers with ADHD

This collection of don’ts and do’s is originally based on a forum entry in the Anderswelt, the predecessor forum of the forum and has since been supplemented and further developed. We would be pleased to be able to name the former author.
We would be very pleased to receive further don’ts and do’s.

4.1. A practical and friendly approach

A child with ADHD is usually weakened in their self-esteem by many rebukes and experiences of failure. Boys usually compensate for this with particularly cheeky behavior, girls often appear rather dreamy. The child needs friendly, calm and unagitated attention; no criticism, but rather an indication of the desired behavior. ADHD children are extremely person-centered. They are committed to learning for the teacher they love and, conversely, they do little or nothing for the teacher they dislike.

4.2. Design interesting, transparently structured lessons

ADHD children need strong, but not too many stimuli in order to be able to concentrate on one thing. Teachers can work with colors, shapes, graphic highlights, pictorial elements to attract attention and ask open questions to stimulate the student’s own brainstorming. ADHD children respond particularly well to this, as their brains are “starved” for constant stimulation.
Division of the lesson into sub-units that can be understood by the child and clear reflection of this structure on the blackboard and in the exercise book.
Comprehension check: In between, check whether the child knows which topic is being dealt with and what they are supposed to learn from it (often they don’t even know!).
One professor called students with ADHD an early warning system for his classes. They became restless and fidgety earlier than others in lessons that were perceived as boring, so he knew: “Now I have to step on the gas before I lose everyone.”2

4.3. Repeat learning material and clearly state learning objective

Reminder of the learning objective of the last lesson and brief summary of the learning outcomes. This prevents the child from experiencing the new lesson as an unforeseen surprise that overwhelms and upsets them.
Since ADHD students are distracted and often react to surprises with panic, the learning objective should be announced several times and presented clearly.
Three steps are recommended:
(1) Indication of the learning objective of the next lesson at the end of the previous lesson
(2) clearly stating the learning objective at the beginning of each lesson and
(3) Clearly legible inscription as a heading on the board.

One study found that for people with ADHD, reading entire texts led to better test results than sequential reading of individual text passages.3

4.4. Structure texts, lists instead of text blocks

People with ADHD often have difficulty grasping unstructured blocks of continuous text. This can cause their attention to wander before the content has been fully understood. Content is easier to grasp if it is structured. It is advisable to use each content point as a separate bullet point.
Information that is presented as lists or enumerations is also easier to grasp. Illustrative example: this text has a separate heading for each content point.4

Simple language, short sentences, few commas, positive formulations.5 This reduces the cognitive load, e.g. by avoiding negatives that need to be converted when reading. This helps all readers - but it can save people with ADHD.
If anyone has the idea that it might be a good idea to let people with ADHD read fluent texts as training: buy a shovel, bury the idea, plant flowers on it. Unless, of course, the person also applauds sports teaching that demands even tougher sports training from children with physical disabilities (let’s say: legs of significantly unequal length) so that they learn to run as fast as those without these special features.

Display / print texts with high contrast. Avoid poor grayed copies.5

For digital texts, tools and free browser apps can help to make the text easier to read by improving formatting and highlighting relevant word components (“bionic reading”). More on this at Reading aids In the article Everyday strategies for ADHD.

4.5. Clearly explain and repeat behavioral instructions

Students with ADHD respond better to short, clear instructions that are broken down into smaller steps. The tasks should be formulated as simply as possible and supported with visual aids.

  • Dictate instructions
  • Only give one instruction at a time
  • Do not provide additional information at the same time
    • Do not tell parallel information during your own writing on the board

People with ADHD often need repeated clear instructions, as they are often distracted and very forgetful.
How should the pupil work in the lesson? (e.g. silent work, partner work …, reporting by raising fingers …)
How should social interaction be organized? (e.g. jointly drawing up a class contract with sanctions for violations and repeated reminders).

4.6. Consistent teacher control or self-control of the child

Teacher control through a system of immediate (!) reward and withdrawal (e.g. through plus points, cards, gratuities), which must be strictly adhered to - without a single exception! Formulate instructions in a positive way so that the correct behaviour can be recognized and unconsciously becomes ingrained in the brain (Correct: “Be quiet!” Wrong: “Don’t talk!”).
Self-control of the child, e.g. through mnemonic phrases that the child must first say out loud, then quietly and finally only silently “in their head” (e.g. “I’ll write the blackboard notes in my notebook.”).

4.7. Ensure active involvement and movement

The fidgetiness of the ADHD child can be channeled and made productive by getting them to do certain tasks that involve movement (wiping the blackboard, fetching chalk from the secretary’s office, taking out the garbage, reading texts aloud, handing out sheets of paper, etc.). The child can be allowed to make movements, e.g. kneading a plasticine mass or chewing gum, as a way of reducing hyperactivity. The teacher should take these measures if they recognize that the child is about to “snap”.
ADHD students often do amazing things in extracurricular activities, projects, etc.!

4.8. Giving time and creating a relaxed working atmosphere

In contrast to healthy children, the brains of ADHD children work significantly worse in stressful situations (e.g. in math tests) than in a relaxed state. “The harder they try the worse it gets.” Therefore: Give pupils enough time to think after questions from the teacher; observe the children when they are writing in their exercise books (even the slowest should keep up!);
Do not allow too little time for exams. Possibly set up a short-term clock on the desk that is visible to everyone and shows the ADHD child how much time is left to solve the task. Set the homework in good time before the restless end of the lesson! If necessary, give parents the opportunity to check homework and to know when work is due (circular mail).
In severe cases of ADHD, people with ADHD can apply for compensation for disadvantages. This can include being allowed to write exams in individual rooms or being given more time to solve the tasks.

4.9. Use multimedia

Working on the computer helps children to focus their attention and strengthens their ability to concentrate in the long term. This has been shown by NASA studies with flight simulators.
The teacher should generally not talk too much, but make short, to-the-point statements and give concrete instructions for independent work, e.g. on the computer.

4.10. Give immediate, preferably positive reinforcement

ADHD children should not have their mistakes pointed out too often, as this will make them even more insecure. Inappropriate behavior should always be ignored if the child is trying to get the teacher’s attention, as this attention reinforces the inappropriate behavior. Immediate praise after desired behavior is more effective (rule: praise three times before reprimanding once!). The child needs immediate feedback! The positive instruction: “Put your hands on the table!”, can be implemented immediately and is therefore much more effective than the negative threat with a distant consequence such as: “If you hit your neighbor with the ruler again, you won’t be allowed to take part in the soccer tournament next week.”.
Next week is out of their now-and-here time horizon for people with ADHD.
With massive stress, attention is shifted to the here and now; later consequences are of less value with massive stress (survival is now).
Reprimands or notifications to the home have little or no effect on ADD children, as a punishment at home for misbehavior at school occurs with far too great a time delay for the ADD child and the connection between misbehavior and punishment is too distant in time for the ADD child and can no longer be understood.
Classroom behavior management studies in ADHD show success in using immediate reinforcers in the form of tokens or points that can later be exchanged for more valuable rewards.6 Children with ADHD show increased reward sensitivity, with high rewards having a very large effect and immediate rewards being significantly preferred.7

4.11. Align learning material to the individual interests of the person with ADHD

Among other things, the ability to motivate is severely impaired in ADHD.
In other words, people with ADHD find it harder to motivate themselves to do something that doesn’t interest them than people without ADHD.
This is not laziness, but a self-direction deficit.

The other way around, you can see that people with ADHD suddenly have far fewer symptoms when they are doing something that really interests them.

Example: Learning a language

Learning vocabulary is not goal-oriented per se.
It’s like for someone who likes to play soccer, the boring fitness training during the week for the game at the weekend. It’s a preliminary exercise. Something you have to build up in order to be able to do something with it later on.
This works very poorly with ADHD. More distant rewards are rated lower compared to non-affected people (close rewards, on the other hand, are rated about the same).

With ADHD, instead of persistently building on each other, it can actually help to stumble right into it and learn from your mistakes as you make them.

So what might work would be to find a French text on a topic that really interests the student to learn French.
If the text is not available in German, this helps to prevent attempts to circumvent it.

If the student tries to read this text (which interests him), he will learn the vocabulary much faster than if he memorizes it without context.

But a French text doesn’t read very fluently if you don’t know the vocabulary…
The solution for this is
a. Deepl
b. Google Translate

Deepl is much better than Google, but both are useful for such purposes.

In Chrome, you can simply select a text and the translation will be displayed. At least if you allow Chrome or have installed the Google translator app.
The Deepl app for Windows does this with Ctrl+c+c. Both are free of charge.

This learning technique may only work once you have at least mastered the very basics.
But they are also gradually learning more about it.

4.12. Gamification

One example is learning apps such as StudySmarter, which use the principle of flashcards for memorization
with gamification. The good thing is that the app has a “gamification” approach, which makes the whole thing a bit more playful. You get points, level up and collect awards if you memorize more flashcards. There are also colorful statistics on learning progress. The app is more for students, but you can actually use it for anything and don’t have to share flashcards or subjects. And you can sort the cards in different ways or display them in different orders of priority.

4.13. Arousal optimization: allow headphones or fidgeting

People have very different needs to control their arousal. Arousal refers to the general degree of activation of the central nervous system. Characteristic features include attention, alertness and readiness to react.
There are people who need complete silence and a lack of stimuli in order to be able to concentrate on something.
Others, on the other hand, need a certain amount of secondary stimuli to maintain their concentration. This can go so far that people can only learn properly when a television and radio are playing in the background. Others specifically seek out environments with a certain level of disturbance, such as a café, in order to learn better.
The same applies to teaching situations.
Some children can concentrate much better if they can shield themselves from the noise of the classroom. In this case, sound-absorbing headphones (passive or active) or even a soft gray or white noise on the headphones (masking effect) can significantly increase the ability to concentrate.
For others, however, a steady, not overly varied motor movement helps: Scribbling or drawing on a pad to knitting or crocheting can lower or raise arousal just enough to enable good attention.

4.14. Binaural music

Binaural music can significantly increase the ability to concentrate (alpha) or improve relaxation (theta).
Binaural music must be listened to in stereo. Binaural music can also be played as very quiet background noise on the headphones so that lessons and conversations can be easily followed.

More on this at ⇒ Binaural music for ADHD and sleep problems

4.15. Movement

Hyperactive children in particular suffer from their pronounced urge to move. Hyperactivity is a sign that the inner tension has once again become too great to be able to absorb new information.
Sports are one of the most effective non-drug treatments for ADHD. Now, barely any sports program can be integrated into the classroom (except for physical education).
It would be conceivable to entrust hyperactive pupils with small special tasks for which they have to move around. Sometimes there may also be something to fetch from the secretary’s office or the janitor. Even such brief opportunities for movement can help suitable people with ADHD.

Schoolyards, on the other hand, where running or playing ball is prohibited, are virtually predestined to make life and learning more difficult for children with ADHD-HI or ADHD-C.

4.16. Structure - in the right measure, for the right children

It is often said that “children with ADHD need a lot of structure”.
This might be very true for some children with ADHD - but inappropriate for others.

Autism is associated with an even higher level of irritability than ADHD. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be distracted and irritated by small things and new environments that do not affect normal children or children with ADHD. Autism is a common comorbidity with ADHD.
Children with personality traits from ASD benefit from a strict structure. They often look for it themselves and react harshly if the structure is not adhered to.
ADHD without ASD is less dependent on structure. Here, attention is more likely to be directed if the person with ADHD develops intrinsic motivation - which would be the ideal solution, but is often not achievable.
For children with ADHD, routines can help to get a grip on individual organizational points if they are trained and practiced for a long time. However, trying to fit their entire life into such a structure is bound to fail.

4.17. Having a choice makes acceptance easier

Giving children a certain say can promote adherence and identification with the agreed handling.
It is easier for every child to accept a task if they are asked instead of being told what to do, e.g. if they are given the choice between “Would you like to tidy your room today or empty the dishwasher?” In addition to the opportunity to express their own needs (e.g. a friend is coming over later, so I’d like a tidy room anyway), the respect that always comes with being involved in decisions is also perceived.
An excess of options, on the other hand, leads to decision-making difficulties.

4.18. Don’t despair - despite everything!

ADHD children often drive even highly qualified, committed and child-friendly teachers to despair and resignation. Teachers should always remember: ADHD is a largely inherited handicap of the brain system or a chemical imbalance in certain regions of the brain and cannot be “cured” even with the best possible education and optimal environmental conditions. The necessary basis for successful treatment is usually a multimodal therapy administered by a specialist with the help of the parents and the teacher. If the teacher gets upset and angry, this helps neither him nor the child.
Hence the advice to teachers:
Don’t take anything personally and keep your composure and sense of humor! And if the teacher is about to explode, they should go to the window, open it, take a deep breath and calmly reflect for at least two minutes.

5. 5 DON’TS for teachers with ADHD

This collection of don’ts and do’s is based on a forum entry in the Anderswelt, the predecessor forum of the We would be pleased to be able to name the author.
We would be very pleased to receive further don’ts and do’s.

5.1. No disturbing sources of irritation

Important measure: Place ADHD pupils at individual desks in the immediate vicinity of the teacher, where they have as little eye contact as possible with other pupils, the window or the door. Avoid doors and windows at the back. (Which seat do you prefer in an empty pub? Wall at the back, door and window in view - this provides security).
Do not place more than 1 to a maximum of 2 ADD children in a class. (Small classes with a maximum of 12 children would be ideal, but are often only available in special schools) During exams, possibly put up a Spanish wall to shield the child so that he/she is not distracted. Consider noise-cancelling headphones or table dividers (available cheaply from Ikea).

5.2. No mixing of information, don’t talk too much

Teacher writes on the board and only explains when he/she has finished writing.
Teacher explains one topic and does not jump to another in between.
Teacher ensures that only one student speaks at a time.
Use short, positively worded, comprehensible, clearly understandable sentences.

The teacher writes on the board and at the same time talks about something else or explains an aspect of it.
The teacher speaks while pupils are still talking to each other or are still busy writing.
The teacher does not stick strictly to the topic, but digresses again and again.
Several students speak at the same time.

5.3. No public rebuke

An ADHD student who daydreams, is distracted or talks down to his neighbor is not doing so consciously. A rebuke hits him like a bolt from the blue. He perceives the rebuke as completely incomprehensible aggression on the part of the teacher and becomes very insecure and confused as a result. The public exposure worsens his situation. The child feels rejected by the teacher and isolated and ridiculed in the class community. He may react with an outburst of rage (he also becomes the “evil Friederich”) or falls into quiet despair (he becomes a “sleeping pill”). It is therefore better to go to the child’s seat, tap him gently and lightly on the shoulder and address him about his duties using non-verbal signals (e.g. pointing to a place in the book, taking an object away without saying a word) or by speaking quietly, briefly and in a friendly manner. Of course, this only works to a certain extent. Extreme cases of ADHD can barely be controlled in this way.
People with ADHD are also usually more vulnerable than people without ADHD due to the symptom of rejection sensitivity.

5.4. No arguing in stressful situations

If the ADHD child is in a state of inner turmoil and helplessness, “head-controlled” messages are of no use. In this situation, the child is not in a position to accept arguments. It cannot be calmed down either, but must first wait until it calms down (give a time-out in the classroom or outside with supervision).

5.5. No unsupervised free work

Unstructured teaching situations that give the pupil too much freedom overwhelm the ADHD child. They need clear, manageable, small-step instructions, clear time limits and immediate checks or self-monitoring. The following applies here: teaching is an active management task for the teacher.

6. Tips for teachers to help them cope with the crisis

6.1. Take advantage of our expertise!

Ask parents, people with ADHD and professionals involved what could help and what has already worked well!

6.2. Trial and error

Try out measures and evaluate them (through observation and in discussion, e.g. with the pupil) - principle from systemic consulting: “If something works, do more of it!”

6.3. Don’t just talk about, but also with your student!

He/she can often provide good information on where difficulties lie at school and what could be helpful. Friendly, approachable conversations also strengthen the teacher-pupil relationship and can both reduce the pupil’s insecurities and prevent possible misunderstandings/conflicts.

6.4. Involving children and parents

Clarify with parents and child whether and how the difficulties and the measures will be discussed in class.

6.5. Making use of support

Get support if you don’t feel confident enough to have a constructive class discussion that reduces stigmatization.

  1. Tripp G, Alsop B (1999): Sensitivity to reward frequency in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. J Clin Child Psychol. 1999 Sep;28(3):366-75. doi: 10.1207/S15374424jccp280309. PMID: 10446686.

  2. Prof. André Frank Zimpel (2023): Neurodiversität – anders, aber völlig richtig im Kopf

  3. Stern P, Halamish V (2023): Free-recall retrieval practice tasks for students with ADHD: whole-text versus section recall. Front Psychol. 2023 Nov 27;14:1301726. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1301726. PMID: 38090165; PMCID: PMC10715433.

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