Attention-challenged students include those who have any form of ADD or ADHD, as well as learners who are experiencing attention and listening difficulties but may not meet the criteria for a diagnosis. These students may experience challenges in their ability to focus, pay attention in the middle of distractions, and retain or remember information provided to them verbally.
How can parents help their child navigate these obstacles and achieve their educational goals and potential? Our 10 tips will help your child cope with attention difficulties in the classroom.
Supporting attention-challenged students is certainly possible in a traditional classroom setting, with concentrated attention and motivated teachers who understand these unique learners. All too often, however, the resources and one-to-one focus that help attention-challenged students thrive are not always available.
Some of these young people experience challenges like these in a traditional large classroom environment:
There are many ways for parents to help their child navigate these challenges of academia and learn vital skills that will help them succeed, not only in middle or high school, but through college and into their chosen careers. These 10 tips can help you guide your child into empowering habits and techniques that will help them cope with attention challenges at school.
Routines are natural support structures that help us all achieve more with less mental effort. Doing the same essential tasks at the same time or in the same order can help those with ADD or ADHD feel a daily sense of accomplishment. These established routines also limit the amount of reminding that parents need to do about basic daily tasks.
Daily routines can be visual or written down and might include:
Young people with attention and learning difficulties find large and long-term assignments and goals challenging. Learning how to break long-term tasks into smaller, more manageable goals is an empowering life skill. Your child might need help and motivation to practice this technique effectively, but it will serve them well, now and in the future.
Using a visual aid like a wall chart or calendar, actively engage your child in the thought process of breaking a large task into its essential parts, and in what order they should be completed. It can be helpful to offer choices and options to engage their creativity while encouraging organized planning.
Using a reward system for each completed task helps build excitement and motivation. These earned privileges or treats are not bribes because they encourage and reward positive behaviors, rather than paying for the absence of negative behavior.
The modern world is full of distractions we all must manage. Television and the internet are filled with messages that are deliberately intended to seize our attention and distract us from whatever we were intending to do. Video games, smart phones, and tablets actively encourage impulsivity and should likely be limited to certain hours of the day for those who struggle with attention challenges. At Lydian, we have the option of both physical textbooks or virtual learning to best service the student.
In a classroom environment, there are many distractions that cannot be avoided. Noises, windows, and the conversations or movements of other students can make it difficult to focus. Ask questions about what distracts them at school, and encourage them to speak to their teacher or an aide on a regular basis to make sure they understand and have written down details of assignments and important deadlines.
Physical activity provides a positive outlet for the focus, passion, and energy of students with attention challenges. Many professional athletes have the characteristics or diagnosis of ADHD and have successfully put their energy and drive into sports or fields like yoga, dance, or martial arts.
Adequate sleep on a regular schedule is also part of the focus on self-care that benefits anyone facing life challenges. Scheduling exercise early in the day can help a student focus for the remainder of the day, and another opportunity to burn off some energy a few hours before bed can help a young person sleep better.
At school, communicate with teachers and staff to make sure that your child’s day includes opportunities to move around as part of learning and that recess or gym times are not taken away as a punishment for unwanted behaviors. Taking away opportunities for attention-challenged students to exercise is unlikely to help them control their attention difficulties in the classroom; in fact, the opposite is almost certain to be the case.
Impulsivity is the natural tendency to act or speak as soon as something occurs to you, before thinking about consequences or potential dangers. Adolescents are naturally impulsive. Learning impulse control is an essential part of mental maturity. Students with attention challenges are especially prone to impulsive behavior.1
Parents can help children gain control over their impulses by:
Help your student organize and prioritize as a way to succeed in school and in life. Visual aids and organizational tools can be extremely helpful in supporting attention-challenged students. Some organizational ideas to consider include:
Young people with attention and learning difficulties often benefit from having a place that is free of distractions and dedicated to their homework and projects. The best place may not be in their own room if it is filled with other things that might pull their focus away. Ideally, their homework station should:
As the parent of an attention-challenged student, you may need to be active in advocating for any accommodations your child might need. Certainly regular communication with teachers and providing feedback in both directions might be essential to your child’s success. Some common accommodations made for students with ADD or ADHD are:
Not every environment is a good fit for every student. If you find that your attempts at advocacy are met with resistance or lack of resources, you might consider a change of schools. Similarly, if, despite these efforts and partnering with your child’s teachers, they still continue to struggle in a large class environment, there are many alternatives available.
A small group or one-on-one approach can fully focus on the strengths, energy, and passion of those who might also have attention challenges. Virtual learning or in-person instruction that is tailored to the interests and abilities of each young person can eliminate the distractions and stresses of traditional classrooms and foster the love of learning and personal achievement that should also be a natural part of adolescence.
Your determination to help your child succeed and overcome life’s challenges is unshakeable. Having faith in their abilities will help you to recognize when they need additional support or a different approach to thrive. There are more tools, resources, and individualized programs available now than ever before, and these learning environments are shaped around the individual, rather than asking the learner to shape themselves to the needs of the classroom.
At Lydian Academy, we fully support and share in the belief that every child can have a fulfilling educational experience that allows them to achieve their academic goals. We believe that partnering with the parents of exceptional students is the most powerful way to empower the future of our children and our communities.
Students with attention challenges who might be struggling in a large classroom may thrive in a one-on-one learning environment. With flexible scheduling and virtual learning opportunities that can start at any time of year, Lydian Academy provides a private middle and high school alternative that is fully focused on the needs of your child.
With supportive and welcoming campuses in both Burlingame and Menlo Park, CA, Lydian instructors are waiting to help all students achieve their educational goals, overcome life challenges, and fully realize their academic potential. Contact us today to attend a virtual open house, schedule a tour of our campuses, or find out more about how easily your child can enroll in our innovative programs.