Coping with ADHD Super Powers

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, then it is going to go through its whole life thinking it is stupid”

Albert Einstein

Wednesday is my favourite day, I look forward each week to the time I can spend with a Year 6 pupil, who as his Mother says has a very special superpower, ADHD. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviours (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active. This can be quite intimidating to a new teacher or tutor who has set ideas about how children behave and react in different situations. However, every child is different with varying needs and ADHD children are no different, there are some very easy strategies which can be deployed to maximise your time with them and help them to enjoy learning again.

  • Predictable routines are very important, the child and I both know that the tutoring session is at 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon, after he has finished school and had the opportunity for some down time. I cannot afford to be late for this as anxiety and stress will start to manifest itself and will make the session far less productive.
  • The learning environment needs to be uncluttered, we have a perfect space in their kitchen with a work station with a computer and room for written activities, this allows me to transition between activities quickly and minimises the wait time.
  • Short sharp activities and structured transitions are essential, my 5-minute sand timer is an excellent support or a countdown clock also works, although there is no need to be quite limited by time, if an activity is going well, just keep going as there is no need to transition just for the sake of it. If this means you do not finish all of your activities, then so be it.
  • Children with ADHD can have motivational issues, they figure they can use their disability as an excuse for not doing work, the child and the parents know that I have zero tolerance for this, particularly as I know how talented they really are. Clear parameters in terms of expectations are critical, as with boys in general stick to the old mantra, be firm, fair and consistent.
  • Set up buddy pairs – I have been lucky in that my son has been available to support me, same age and with good organisation and study skills, this gives my student the opportunity to be mentored in good habits.
  • Build movement breaks into the routine, last week halfway through the session we played some cricket wth the scores jotted down in Roman numerals and the totals added up, this kept his concentration and enabled us to learn proactively.
  • Where outside learning is not possible it is important to set short, achievable targets and activities. Mind maps are a essential tool here allowing links between topics and also is an essential memory tool.
  • All students learn better when the activities are more hands on, using play dough is a good tip, particularly when creating rewards, allow the student to use the play dough to manipulate the shape into something creative.
  • Essentially variety is the spice of life, creating activities which both motivate and inspire, building on likes and dislikes. My student is sport mad and it helps I am their cricket and rugby coach so I try to relate as much of that as I can into the various activities. This allows an engagement beyond normal teaching.

There are huge challenges when tutoring a student with any kind of special educational need or disability (SEND), especially with ADHD in this case. With public examinations fast approaching understanding that individual and developing skills will reap huge benefits.

I am delighted that the parent of this student has supplied the following testimonial, proving that the hard work is most certainly paying off.

“Richard has just started tutoring our 10 yr old boy who is year 6 and has a super power – ADHD. We were very nervous as parents when the first session took place as anyone with a child with ADHD would know that they have a very short attention span. Once we could see how Richard was very engaging and personable with our child but kept tasks short, clear and concise, Richard was able to hold his attention the whole time during their sessions and they have loads of fun learning about various topics. 
Our child is always excited to see Richard as he can’t wait to see and learn what they will do for their session.  
Finding Richard has been a dream come true as a parent, as it has been very hard to find someone like Richard with a wealth of teaching experience but someone who tunes into kids and their super powers!”

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