When planning for 2020 back in January, none of us anticipated the outbreak of a global pandemic. I know I didn’t. Teachers all over the world have thus been working remotely and trying to cope with these challenging times. Students have been facing the same predicament and each of them with more or less privileged situations. While some of them don’t even have an internet connection, others can at least have remote classes and interact with students and teachers. Although this seems to be the solution, there are things to be taken into consideration when we think of students with learning disabilities. Many of them have been struggling to adapt to this new reality and teachers have been doing their best to meet their students’ needs. According to the American Psychiatric Association, around 5% of children and 2,5% of adults around the world have Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), so here are some tips on how to work better with these students.
1. Motivation is an essential tool.
We all know how important motivation is to students with ADHD. When they feel motivated, their brain works better and they are prepared to retain information and learn. According to Harmer, “Although motivation is personal to each learner, what teachers do can have a profound effect upon it.” To put it another way, slight details like showing your students why that particular topic of the class is important for them, bringing their interests to class and asking them to talk about themselves and their experiences could make a huge difference.
2. “Sit down and pay attention!”
Generally speaking, students with ADHD would have a very hard time following an instruction like that. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association, one of the symptoms of inattention is that they “often have difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., have difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading).
In a face-to-face class, I constantly advise teachers to provide students with opportunities to move during class. In the online environment, I’ve been trying to ask my students to show me objects or pets from their home, usually something I can see from their camera. I also let them get some water or even stand up during classes, provided I guarantee they are still paying attention to class. Miming games, acting out or even looking for objects around the house would be great ideas.
3. Deadlines, deadlines, everywhere.
We’re all living in a situation we had never faced or imagined we would. Students with ADHD tend to have a considerable difficulty with deadlines. Nevertheless, their productivity is usually brilliant. They have talented and creative minds. Helping them organize their routines, especially now, will avoid frustration both from student and teacher. Reminding them of homework, of a paper they need to submit and sometimes even a reminder 30 minutes before class (believe me, I’ve been doing that) is something that might not be that hard for us teachers and it will certainly change those students’ performance in class.
There’s no miracle or recipe to know what to do with each of our students. They are unique and have very special, personal needs. Teachers are constantly doing their best to prepare the best class. By getting to know your students, they’ll trust you and tell you in different ways how you can help them.
Stay safe, stay healthy and see you next time.
1) HARMER, Jeremy. Teacher knowledge: core concepts in English Language Teaching. England: Pearson Education Limited, 2012.
2) American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder. United States: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.
Priscila Vicente has been an English teacher for 17 years, having worked in regular schools and language schools as a director, course developer and teacher. She holds the CPE and the Celta, has a degree in Languages and post-graduation in Educational Psychology. She has been working with students with special needs since 2012. In the past 3 years she has also been giving courses for teachers on the topic.