Paying attention in class is a challenge for many children. This is especially true late in the day when students have been sitting in class all day long and are ready for a break. It also relates to each student’s interest in the subject matter. Most students will describe themselves as a “math-science person” or perhaps “an artist,” and it can be difficult to focus in some classes more than others. For children who are diagnosed with attention issues such as ADHD, paying attention at any time is a challenge. There are strategies these children can learn, however, and they need to realize they should not use their diagnosis as an excuse for poor behavior.
Here are some strategies your child can manage for himself.
Sit close to the teacher. Sitting in the first row near the teacher helps him in several ways. First of all, there is less to distract him from the task at hand. Second, the teacher’s voice will be louder than other sounds in the room. Third, it will be easier to get his teacher’s attention if he does not know what he is supposed to be doing. If his teacher has a seating chart and assigns seats, your child can talk to her privately and ask for a seat near the front of the room.
Learn to watch other students. Your child may realize that she doesn’t know what to do next because she was not focused on her teacher’s directions. When she feels lost, she should look at what her neighbor is doing. Is he getting his computer out? Is he doing a worksheet? Is he turning in his homework? Chances are pretty good that doing the same thing is the right thing to do.
Wiggle quietly and constantly. It is a good idea to carry a stress ball to class. When he feels the need to be active, he can fiddle with it quietly under the desk where no one notices it. It is possible to wiggle your feet discreetly, as well. The trick with both of these is to make sure the fidgeting is not disruptive to others.
Ask the teacher for help. Your child can talk privately with her teacher to ask him to give her a signal when she is off task. The signal can be as simple as a quick tap on the desktop or making eye contact. Teachers appreciate a student who is proactive and willing to work to be successful.
Children with attention issues can learn to manage them better. Sitting in the right place, learning to watch others, wiggling without disturbing others, and partnering with the teacher can all help. If your child has a diagnosis of ADHD, find out whether she qualifies for an IEP or 504 Plan which outlines what classroom accommodations should be put in place. At the very least, meet with your child’s teacher and suggest ways he can help your child. You may want to read Are You ADHD Friendly? which suggests ways teachers can help.
Livia McCoy spent many years teaching upper school science. She currently serves as Dean of Student Support at The Steward School in Richmond, VA. Livia sees each student as an individual with great potential to learn, and feels her job is to help every student figure out how to be successful in school. Livia says, “I blog about the many smart students who struggle in school because they think differently or have attention issues. I share what I have learned helping these students, their parents and teachers to see how they can experience success in school.” Livia welcomes comments on her blog at SchoolFamily.com.