Setting Up for Success
The aim of these guidelines is to maximise learning opportunities for the student with ADD/ADHD. They are to help ensure the curriculum is more accessible to these students through increasing opportunities for active engagement in classroom programmes.
The three following areas are about how to practically adapt the learning environment, method of instruction and interaction to support the student having difficulty.
Changes to the Learning Environment
The following changes in the classroom will provide the student with `time and space' to process instructions and respond more effectively. Provide:
- A `things to do' checklist that applies to the student each day
- Model formats of setting out tasks as well as examples
- Extra time for the student to process information. Check understanding frequently.
- Designated personal space ie, a work area close to centre of instruction and teacher, and away as much as possible from distractors
- An established place where the student can store and sort through their resources. For younger students, labels with pictures and/or symbols for storing equipment and completed work will be useful.
- Quiet work times throughout the day including opportunities to work on their own as well as in groups. Also, choose group members who are usually task-focused.
- Space for the student to move and work, including adequate lighting and ventilation, and quick access to all parts of classroom instructional areas
- Changes of pace, including regular short breaks that involve physical activity and opportunities to move within a defined physical area. One suggestion is a "take-a-break" card for the student to indicate they are taking a two to three minute in-seat break from work.
- Assistance through transitions to and from the classroom, and from one activity to another. Set up routines and use them consistently. Alert the student to transitions coming up a few minutes before the instruction to change is given.
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How the material is presented can significantly affect the student's understanding of what is being asked.
The following adaptations to instructions will enable the student to respond more effectively:
- Facilitate inclusion and involvement at levels appropriate to the student through co-operative learning using advance groupings and defined roles, as well as multi-level teaching
- Use visual, written and display options rather than relying on auditory examples and information giving
- Call attention to due dates and task expectations. Write them down - a visual cue or symbol is often very helpful
- Break down larger or longer assignments or tasks into smaller manageable increments
- Establish priorities for action. Provide a sequence of action steps to assist task engagement and completion. Monitor and provide feedback on the way
- Follow up general classroom or group instructions with a check of understanding or individualised instruction
- Consider using buddies, peer tutoring and co-operative learning to encourage engagement on task as well as skill-building
- Set achievable goals particularly in terms of written task modifications, such as, set a small number of examples to be completed initially and then gradually increase them. This will limit inappropriate negotiation about tasks
- Establish routines and timetables. A written timetable, overview or outline is useful when letting the student know what will be happening that day or in a specific lesson
- Ensure the student can tell the time and read calendars and timetables
- Use multi-sensory instructions and provide opportunities for `hands on' activities
- Help students by listing or discussing main ideas or concepts in advance. Make learning more tangible using flow charts, mapping of concepts or checkpoints as guides
- Be clear and specific in expectations. With complex tasks provide one step at a time. Keep the time the student has to listen to a minimum
- Prompt for any key activities that will be happening the next day. Prompt and remind for transition from one activity to another for example, "in five minutes you will need to pack up, or hand in your work". Visual cues such as hand movement gestures coupled with a verbal instruction are very useful
- If the student has not started a task, gain his/her attention and indicate with visual cues and/or gestures such as pointing to where the student should be. Individualise instructions by being face-on, getting eye contact, using their name. Get down to his/her level, tell the student the instruction simply and then get the student to tell you what he/she is to do. Demonstrate and/or model what is expected if necessary
- Provide regular, immediate corrective feedback for checking understanding and mastery. Prompt answers after a brief wait
- Encourage the student to talk through a task. This helps the student understand what is required, and the sequence of actions to be taken
- Cue key points in information by underlining, highlighting and pointing. Use post-it notes to highlight relevant sections in text or handouts
- Read, or where available and appropriate, have a peer or support person read written instructions or material to the student, drawing out the main points. Consider using a scribe or other equipment if appropriate to the student's needs
- Use the demonstration - modelling - guided practice - individualised feedback teaching cycle for introducing new skills.
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Making the Most of Interactions with the Student
When interacting with the student be specific, follow up on instructions and acknowledge appropriate behaviour:
- Communicate regularly and frequently with the student's parents/caregivers. They have a wealth of knowledge about their child's needs, interests, concerns and know successful ways to make the most of interactions. Keeping in touch helps ensure consistency for the student across the home and school settings. School to home weekly notebooks or short regular phone calls are useful
- Work with the student's parents/caregivers on some acceptable ways of explaining the student's needs to peers
- Catch the student doing the right thing early on in the school day and the period. Acknowledge specific achievements in terms of tasks as well as effort, attention to task, and in-class interactions. Do it immediately, often and discreetly using verbal as well as gestural and/or visual feedback
- Acknowledge the student at the beginning of each day and after every long break as this will assist them with settling into class activities
- Reinforce appropriate actions on a 3 to 1 ratio ie, attention to appropriate learning needs three times as often as attention to inappropriate activities
- Use teacher proximity to moderate off-task activities
- Consider short-term contracts to achieve learning goals and task expectations. These need to be negotiated with the student rather than imposed; initially work on achieving success within a short time frame, and then lead to something the student really wants to do. Rewards and reinforcement need to be accessible quickly and regularly at first, as well as relevant to the student
- Provide plenty of opportunities for the student to respond and participate with delays between turns (at first kept to a minimum)
- Give choice within set alternatives starting with one out of two possible choices
- Develop some private cues with the student that will signal such things as when they need to refocus, or take some time out from the task or situation.
Key times for maintaining on task are...
- Just after starting, when there is a higher probability that the student is still engaged and responsive to having the scene set for continued engagement
- Around quarter of the way through the task time, when it is useful to check understanding of task, provide teaching or redirection as necessary
- About three-quarters of the way through when the rate of reinforcement needs to be increased to maintain task focus.
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