Recent headlines pronounce that ADHD diagnoses are on the rise for both children and adults, especially women. In fact, adult diagnoses of ADHD are growing at a rate four times faster than cases in children, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. While ADHD can come with a plethora of behaviors like hyperactivity, struggling to concentrate, or fidgeting and disorganization in adults, for some teachers — according to their students — it contributes to a number of personality strengths.
For instance, Mike Yates, a teacher who was diagnosed with ADHD, says his strategies for embracing the disorder are often what his students enjoy most about his teaching style.
“When I became a teacher, I learned that I no longer needed to hide. I could say the words and identify with a part of myself. I embraced my ADHD and everything that comes with it. So in my classroom I tell funny stories that are loosely related to content sometimes. I show funny videos at random times during the class period just because they are funny,” he says. “I fidget freely and sometimes have even been known to run around my classroom when I hear an exceptional answer from a student. The funny thing is, these things are most of my students’ favorite thing about me as a teacher.”
How to Teach with ADHD
With nearly 75 percent of the teacher workforce being female, it stands to reason that climbing numbers of women being diagnosed with ADHD could impact the classroom environment.
To get at this,Yates suggests taking time to fidget —such as flipping a pen to help focus on tasks — and walking the halls during breaks to get a change of scenery.
How to Teach Kids with ADHD
Former schoolteacher, Elena Zimmerman, who herself has an ADD diagnosis, says that it’s not that a student with ADD or ADHD doesn’t possess an attention span, rather, it’s that they often find information easier to understand and process when they can see an application for said information. They can often keep track of new information better when it is well organized and presented clearly, such as with bullet point outlines or other forms of grouping and labeling vs. a large rambling text.
A student with ADD/ADHD may have to be often redirected to stay on task. They may also require directed questioning to determine if they have indeed understood the task and where to find information.
“The best way for teachers to accommodate students with ADHD is exactly the same way that teachers should have been accommodating all students since forever, by making their lessons diverse, interesting, and well organized,” says Zimmerman.
Dr. Flora Sadri, D.O. at PsyclarityHealth suggests teachers target immediate objectives when it comes to instructing students with attention disorders.
“Remember that long-term goals are frequently daunting when working with children who have ADHD. A child who has to wait for too long is likely to become impatient, lose interest, or give up on their objectives,” says Sadri. “Short-term learning objectives are advantageous for children with ADHD. Some people are only able to concentrate on accomplishing their tasks each day. Others could gain from setting a half-day objective that gives them multiple opportunities to feel successful and accomplished throughout the day.”
Tools for People with ADHD
In addition to these teaching tactics, there are tools available to people with ADHD to help alleviate symptoms.
Manimo are weighted animals that claim to provide proprioceptive sensory stimulation for young and old, with a calming effect on the mind and body. According to the website, “In anxiety-causing situations or times of stress, they can bring comfort and a feeling of calmness, and are also known to promote attention and concentration during learning and cognitive tasks.”
Smart glasses from Narbis [Affiliate Link] could help train your brain to stay on task when faced with distractions.
“You wear these glasses while you’re doing any stationary task like reading, studying, doing homework, or working on the computer, and the glasses will instantly change tint as soon as you lose focus and become distracted,” says Devon Greco, the CEO & Founder of Narbis.
The glasses become clear again once they determine you are focused. Narbis glasses use three sensors and an armband to track your attention by measuring your brain waves through neurofeedback.
The glasses are typically worn for about 30 minutes at a time a few times a week, and have proven in clinical trials to help kids with ADHD improve their focus.
“We had a number of kids who were diagnosed [with ADHD] and on medication, and they wore our glasses a few times a week while they did their homework,” Greco said. “In as short as 20 training sessions, many of them were taken off of medication.”
The Rise of ADHD in the Classroom?
Elena Zimmerman believes that the increase in diagnosis for ADD and ADHD is not a rise in the actual number of cases in these conditions, but rather, growthin awareness of the presence of these conditions. She notes that children and adults on the autistic spectrum and with neurological deviations (such as ADHD) have always been a part of every population, but thinks it is ‘wonderful’ that now these conditions can be recognized, diagnosed, and the symptoms better managed.
“As far as how the new levels of diagnosed teachers with ADD/ADHD will impact and change the classroom, I don’t believe it will. We have always been there. The only real difference is now we are part of a statistic,” says Zimmerman.
Whether the growing number of children and women diagnosed with ADHD is a phenomenon based on more cases or simply that people are better at recognizing and naming the condition, the reality is that ADHD remains a concern for schools everywhere. Whether you’re a student or a teacher diagnosed with ADHD, you can flourish in the classroom by first understanding — and then adapting and developing — your learning or teaching style accordingly.