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How to support ADHD in the classroom

How to support ADHD in the classroom

I thought this would be a really useful topic to write a blog about. This is because of the stigma, as well as, the uncertainty teachers face in the classroom everyday.

As always, let's start with identifying it and then I'll provide you some tips on how to support an ADHD learner.


ADHD is attention deficit hyperactive disorder

If you break down the words, it might help with understanding what it is:

Attention deficit = lack of focus

Hyperactive = an overflow of activity (commonly identified as restlessness and over stimulus)

Disorder = a disruption in systematic functioning

So in other words, an overflow of stimulus which causes the brain to lack focus.

Somewhere through the start of my teaching career, I was told that ADHD means that a person with ADHD would be overly hyped up and disruptive. This is why when I first started teaching I worked on ways to calm ADHD learners -

It wasn't until I discussed ADHD with a psychologist that I learned it was way more complex than this!


To explain the following two images: The blue line is the process of going from a depressive state to focused The red line is going from a focused state to a distracted and/or overwhelmed state

The grey arrows show what it is like for the brain to work towards following an instruction or completing a set task. If there is no process then the brain will stay in one of three areas: Depressed, Focused or Maniacal/Extremely overwhelmed.

an ADHD learner can indeed focus, they just need extra care to get the brain there.

Example 1:

A brain without ADHD is likely to function through three steps; prepares to do focused activity, does focused activity, becomes overwhelmed. It will become overwhelmed if it is over stimulated, otherwise it is likely to stay focused.

It looks like this:

Notice that the pathway to becoming focused is similar to being over stimulated. It takes time to function and takes time to function in overdrive.

Example 2:

A brain with ADHD is likely to function through the same three steps; prepares to do focused activity, does focused activity, becomes overwhelmed. However, the brain will become overwhelmed much quicker if it is over stimulated. You'll probably notice the climb to becoming focused is much longer as well.

It looks like this:

Notice that the pathway to becoming focused is longer than the pathway to becoming over stimulated. It takes time to function and takes a smaller amount of time to function in overdrive.

When you look at the ADHD image, you may also notice it is still capable to do all three steps. That is because an ADHD learner can indeed focus, they just need extra care to get the brain there.

So how do we achieve success in the classroom? Keep reading to find out...


If you look back at the image of an ADHD brain, you'll see their difficulties lie in becoming focused. As a teacher, we know when we teach skills, if there is some difficulty in understanding in a usual fashion, we simply just break the parts down even further...

So why not apply the same theory to helping ADHD learners with focusing? It is possible.

Here's how you can do it...



You can achieve this by describing their lesson to them in step-by-step parts. All students benefit from this as well, so it is a good tool you would benefit from adding to your everday practice. For example, instead of saying, "today you will spend 30 minutes devising and practising a scene and then you will perform it for feedback", you could say "You will have 30 seconds to choose a group you'd like to work with today, when that is complete, you will have three 10-minute blocks to work on your scene. The first 10 minutes you will need to choose an idea off the board to use in your scene and devise a scene that revolves around this idea, the second 10 minutes you will need to practice what you have created, then during the last 10 minutes you will finalise what the beginning, middle and end will look like". As you walk around you can call a small sentence to remind them, such as, "time to spend 10 minutes focusing on having a strong beginning middle and an end before performing it to the class".


You can break down the steps of what to in an achievable way. For example, instead of saying something like "You need to hurry up, the class is waiting for you. Everyone is ready waiting, patiently." You can say, "You have 30 seconds to get your book and pen from your bag", you now have 30 seconds to sit down and have your book open to the next clear page to write in."


When I found this out, my heart broke a little. But it is important to know that ADHD learners receive more negative feedback than people that do not have ADHD. They spend a lot of their lives hearing that they are not good enough or that they can't complete everyday tasks. Whether this is intentional or not, they lose their confidence and often struggle to see their worth on a daily basis. So, it is really important to praise an ADHD learner, however you can - even for the little things! I know that a learner, ADHD impaired or not, will feel more confident in themselves as a learner and even as an individual when they know someone believes in them...and how they do that, is by hearing encouragement and have faith from someone that does believe in them.

Place care towards your ADHD learners. They do try and they try often - it just isn't obvious to see, due to the difficulties they face building up focus and retaining it long enough.


If you are a teacher who is at their "wit's end", so to speak, please take care of your wellbeing. Seek help and support from others. Not knowing how to assist learners isn't a reflection on your worth and ability as a teacher, it is just simply, you need support and/or further experience.

If you are stuck for ideas on where to gain support, here are some examples:

your colleagues, psychologists, school counselors, readings, library books, registered or official Educational websites, other teachers outside of your work/school, the child's parents, the community, registered Professional Development workers, Educational workshops, and social media platforms that support teachers.

Hope you enjoyed this blog on ADHD learners and how to help support their learning and focus within the classroom.

Time, experience, manaakitanga.

Tovah O'Neill

If you would like to learn more about learning disabilities, take a look at this blog about autism:

If you would like to learn about developing a safe environment in the classroom, take a look at this blog:

If you would like to learn about shy students and how to support them, take a look at this blog:

If you would like to book an online tutor, you can do so here:


All areas of support, discussions and the descriptions of ADHD is derived from my own paraphrased recollection when seeing a psychologist about an ADHD learner.

I am not trained in psychology. I would recommend seeing one when in doubt and when making important decisions for a child's life and learning pathway.

Nowhere in this blog does it refer to ADHD medication and there is no stand (literal or implied) on medicating learners as well.

Nowhere in this blog does it promote a specific person or place to seek support.

Tovah's Tutoring Company ® and my own self is not liable for any negative influencing or ramifications that may occur outside of reading this blog.


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