Evidence-based strategies for ADHD
Consider how you communicate
Get their attention before speaking
Eye contact, gestures, and visual or verbal prompts may be used to get student’s full attention before giving instructions or speaking to them. Keep in mind that some students may not be comfortable with eye contact.
Give direct instruction to provide information about the learning and associated tasks. These instructions may need to be repeated at the start of each new task and complemented with written learning intentions or activities on the board, written prompts for the student on their desk, etc.
Simplify instructions and learning
Consider breaking down big tasks into smaller ones. For example, give step-by-step written and verbal instructions with visual supports (pictures). Other strategies include providing opportunities for the student to respond, using activity sequencing, and allowing choice. It is helpful to always check their understanding before moving on to the next step or activity. For example, some students may like to demonstrate their understanding by repeating instructions or answering questions.
Vary teaching strategies
Consider using pictures, videos, PowerPoint presentations, objects, or demonstrations alongside direct instruction to explain concepts and tasks. Hands-on lessons can be very engaging.
Use computer software
Multimedia educational software on the computer or tablet may help some students focus on complex lessons, such as mathematics or reading. Interactive software where students can answer questions and receive immediate feedback are good for practising these skills. Keep in mind, establishing routines for using technology can be important for enhancing engagement.
Design and tailor inclusive activities
Schedule and alternate activities
Consider giving tasks that require higher concentration earlier in the day. Mixing high- and low- interest activities throughout the day may help keep them interested. Breaks after finishing each small task may help with their attention.
Giving students choices in their work can increase engagement. Consider letting them write, draw, point to cue cards, demonstrate or talk to demonstrate their learning.
Match teaching to interests and abilities
Consider what students like and can do to keep things interesting or relevant and manageable for them. As the student demonstrates skills or knowledge, provide additional learning by slowly increasing the workload or difficulty.
Give extra help
Some students may need guidance (for example, prompts, demonstrations, effective feedback) from teachers or SLSOs when learning new skills. This help can be gradually reduced as they demonstrate the skill or knowledge. They may need to be taught how to ask for help (for example, raising hands, waiting for their turn to speak). Access our graduated guidance page.
Give time to practise
Provide students with lots of time to practise in different settings and with different materials to help them learn to use a skill in other situations.
Work collaboratively in groups or with buddies
This may reduce distractions when clear expectations, routines and procedures around group work are set, making it easier for them to focus. Students can practise new skills, make friends, and learn by watching others. Peers may also redirect a distracted student. Read more about guiding students to balance their own workload when supporting a peer.
Consider where students are seated
Minimise potential distractions
It may be helpful to sit students with their backs facing windows, doors, corridors or other busy areas of the classroom. Classroom materials that might act as distractions such as stationery, books, colourful wall displays or 3D models could be removed when not in use.
Let students who are easily disrupted by sounds wear ear plugs or headphones while they work on individual tasks.
Consider sitting students near peers who can model appropriate behaviours, or close to you so you can interact with them. Short seat breaks (for example, to run an errand, touch their toes etc.) may improve focus and restlessness.
Establish classoom expectations
Each class should create a few short and simple classroom expectations and rules that meet the needs of the teacher and students and are aligned with school-wide expectations.
Explicitly teach behavioural expectations at the beginning of the school year and continually re-teach. Use a variety of teaching and learning strategies (such as verbal instruction with the help of pictures) to teach the expectations and rules.
Teach students the expected behaviours rather than telling them what they have done wrong. Expectations and rules should be displayed where all students can see them.
Create a consistent daily routine
Expectations and routines help a student know what is planned for the day. Consider using a timer or clock to help students learn to manage their time and routines. This can be useful if students are learning to self-monitor their behaviours too.
Access our class schedule.
Students may respond well when their own and others’ efforts and achievements are given effective individual feedback frequently. Providing timely feedback regarding appropriate behaviour and behaviour of concern is important.
Use rewarding learning or wellbeing activities
Use rewarding learning or wellbeing activities and verbal encouragement for appropriate behaviours. Students may be motivated if they can choose their rewarding learning or wellbeing activities.
Consider providing verbal feedback to remind students of expectations or redirecting a student who is distracted without causing embarrassment.
Use a home-school communication system
Communicate openly and often with parents or carers. Use a daily or weekly school update to monitor how a student is going with their goals. Provide support and encourage behaviours similarly in school and at home.
Teach academic skills
Teach organisation strategies explicitly
Tools such as colour-coded folders, planners or checklists can be used to help students keep track of notes, books, homework, assignments and key dates.
Ask parents or carers for support
Draw on parent or carer support where possible. When possible with parent support, students may be able to practise newly-learned skills outside the classroom.
Support students to self-manage
Set simple and clear goals
Consider letting students and families choose academic and behavioural goals. These could be short statements that describe appropriate and achievable outcomes that students understand. Check that the goals set include behaviours that can be seen and counted. For example, a goal might be handing in four items within a set time.
Teach self-reflection skills
Consider guiding students to problem solve so they can persist with school work instead of getting frustrated. For example, they can follow these steps mentally or think out loud: “What is the problem?”, “What are my options?”, “I think this is the best option”, “Am I following my plan?” and “How did I do it?
Teach students how to self-monitor
Consider giving students a checklist of behaviours that the student would like to work on (for example, raise their hand to ask questions). Prompt the student to check off the list throughout the day. Access our self-monitoring form.