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2 Ways to focus with ADHD

Date: January 30th, 2015
By: Polly Bath

Polly Bath: For years, we’ve been managing children with attention deficit disorder and other diagnoses that impact attention in the classroom.

We manage a child with ADHD by taking away distractions, clearing their desk, giving them a small room to work in, or not having them sit by the window.

And for years, this MANAGEMENT has not worked! Because it doesn’t CHANGE the behavior!

In order to change the child’s behavior, we have to teach them some skills on how to handle their lack of focus or their inability to maintain themselves around distractions.

Here are some actual techniques we can use when trying to help an ADHD student focus…

We have all been in the situation where your student gets distracted with the things on his desk. I want to go into a literature lesson, but I don’t necessarily want to tell him to clear off his desk. That hasn’t worked for him in the past.

Instead, I’ll take a few minutes to talk to him. It would go something like this:

Polly: “Hey, buddy. I’ve got an idea for you today. Sometimes I know it’s hard for you to deal with all the distractions and all this kind of stuff on your desk. I want you to listen to two words. Those two words are going to be ‘right now.’ That’s going to be the code word. When I say ‘right now,’ it means that I’m about to give a direction that’s going to ask you to focus on something. What are the two words that I just said? Do you remember?”

Male Student: “Right now?”

Polly: “Exactly!”

Male Student: “You want me to clear this stuff off?”

Polly: “No, I don’t want you to clear this stuff off. That’s the point. I want you to be able to say to your brain that when I hear ‘right now,’ it means no matter what’s on my desk, it’s time for me to focus on whatever comes after ‘right now.’”

“Right now” is the phrase I use to help my student learn that every time he hears “right now”, it means a direction is coming and he has to focus.

We would want to avoid using phrases like “pay attention” or “it’s time to focus now.” Because those have negative connotations to them.

Here is another situation we are familiar with: our student can’t focus because he keeps thinking about what he has to do later that day.

When that happens, I give my student a journal and tell him to take a couple minutes to write down exactly what he has to do after school. This allows him to get rid of what is on his mind at that moment. Then, he is able to focus better.

Always remember, children with ADHD need to learn how to deal with distractions. These are just a couple techniques I use to help do that. But don’t think they will solve the problem right away.

Living with ADHD is something these kids are going to do forever. So, we need to teach them these techniques and use them day in and day out, CONSISTENTLY. By doing this, it will become a way of life for them!