Math Strategies for Kids with ADHD and Their Parents

Imagine this scene: Along the back wall of a store are 25 TV sets, each showing a different video or tuned to a different station. One catches your eye, so you watch it and ignore the other 24. Your child, who has ADHD, tries to watch all of them and becomes overwhelmed. This is the sort of thing that happens when he or she goes to school. Here are some ideas to help your child overcome the surroundings and to learn math.

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Teaching Math to ADHD Kids

Common Characteristics of ADHD Kids

Although ADHD kids are just as individual as any other child, there are some characteristics that they often have in common:

  1. They are easily distracted.
  2. They can be very impulsive.
  3. They interrupt frequently.
  4. They fidget a lot and often seem to need to be constantly moving.
  5. They often find it hard to follow directions.

These behaviors interfere with learning and are difficult for teachers to handle in a class full of students. For this reason some parents of ADHD kids choose to homeschool their child. At the very least, they must often provide supplement instruction at home (e.g., help with homework). Some strategies for overcoming these problems for learning math are below.

Easily Distracted

There are a number of strategies for helping an ADHD child to be less distracted. As much as possible, allow the child to work in a location away from windows, pictures, noises, pets and anything else that your ADHD kid finds distracting. Sitting in a carrel (commercially purchased or homemade from cardboard) is also often helpful.

Finding an online curriculum that uses multimedia and interactive lessons that keeps your child's interest is often a good solution. You might say that this sort of lesson 'distracts from the distractions.' In some cases, ADHD kids may be able to play on the computer or watch a compelling video for long periods of time.

Often Impulsive

In a school setting (and often at home), impulsivity is interpreted as misbehavior. Although in a sense this is true, it is generally not intentional misbehavior. For some students a behavior plan is helpful. It can be especially helpful if the child can see the plan easily (e.g., by having it on a plasticized sheet that is placed on the desk or near-by wall).

Each time your child behaves in a non-impulsive way, showing that she has thought through her behavior, be sure to provide reinforcement through compliments and by telling other family members about her success.

Sometimes an ADHD kid is impulsive because he feels out of control and doesn't know what to expect next. Having a written schedule or checklist of everything you will cover that day will eliminate surprises, give a sense of accomplishment as items are checked off and give him some control.

Frequently Interrupt

Frequent interruptions are simply one form of impulsivity. The same guidelines for impulsivity generally work here. Instead of a written checklist, you may have a secret sign (such as scratching your left ear if in a classroom or a 'theatrical' cough at home) that will remind the child not to interrupt.

Constantly Moving and Fidgeting

The ADHD child is different from a non-ADHD child in that she likely is unable to pay attention to you or the teacher when she is sitting still. She will be able to listen more closely if she can move. The clue for dealing with this is to find acceptable ways to wiggle. At home the child may be able to walk back and forth across the room (even non-ADHD children sometimes find it easier to memorize something while pacing the floor), do quiet exercises such as sit-ups or dust the furniture. At school the child might be permitted to doodle, do hand exercises or quietly wiggle her feet.

Alternating quiet and active lessons may also help. Whenever possible, add acceptable movements during a lesson such as moving from one corner of the room to another each time the child answers a question correctly.

Can't Seem to Follow Directions

If your ADHD kid has difficulty following directions, don't give multi-step directions. Instead, give them one step at a time. You can either write the steps down on a checklist or, when your child has completed one step, have them come to you for the next one.

Just as the child is overwhelmed with too many steps in directions, he can also be overwhelmed when given a page with many problems. The work can seem more manageable if he covers up all but one problem and knows that's all he has to do at the moment. Sometimes spreading the problems out to only four (or even one) on a page is a good solution. If that results in the feeling of too many pages to deal with, use smaller paper and give only one or two pages to the student at a time.

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

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