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Many parents, at some point, realize their child might need learning accommodations for ADHD symptoms in order to learn effectively. Whether they’re homeschooling, distance learning, or going to brick-and-mortar schools, ADHD symptoms can be tricky and require some alternative methods.
Of course, no child is alike, even those that share an ADHD diagnosis! As I shared in my Executive Functioning Checklist, ADHD covers a broad variety of symptoms, and every child with ADHD will have a unique mix of them. My list of accommodations for ADHD is broken down by symptom category (organization, focusing, initiation, etc) to help you find the accommodations that will work best for your individual child.
If you’re homeschooling, consider hosting your own family ADHD meeting! Talk about what your child needs, what’s getting in their way, and how best to support them (likely using some of these accommodations for ADHD).
If your child attends a school that regularly hosts IEP or 504 special education meetings, go through this accommodation list before your next one and suggest any you thought might be beneficial to your child and see what they say! In all my years as a teacher, my favorite IEP meetings were those in which loving parents came with useful suggestions based on their knowledge of their child.
No matter how your family does school, once you’ve identified useful accommodations, it’s time for the fun part- learning!
- Fidget toys (I have a whole article reviewing my favorite fidget toys here!)
- Headphones to play focus-aiding music
- Preferential seating close to front, near teacher, away from distractions, etc. Whatever works!
- Provide a quiet space to work, either one created in the classroom or in a separate room
- Before changing activities, give “five minute warnings” or similar in advance
- Noise-cancelling headphones
Accommodations for ADHD- Organization
- Posted schedules, routines, and rules on wall of classroom
- If changes will be made to the schedule, routine, or rules, prepare child in advance as much as possible.
- Regular calendar/agenda book/planner checks by teacher
- Color-code folders, notebooks, and other materials by subject or whatever other system you prefer
- Grade only content, not neatness or penmanship
- Provide graphic organizers
Planning & Initiation Accommodations
- Have all assignments broken down into smaller chunks, usually with separate deadlines (For example: instead of “essay due Friday” have one paragraph due every day leading up to Friday)
- Receive a copy of class notes after attempting to take some themselves
- Provide graphic organizers to visualize plans
- “Check for understanding” before beginning independent work. I’ve seen this be most successful when the child explains, in his or her own words, what’s expected of them in the next ten minutes, half hour, etc before being turned loose.
- Extra time for tests, assignments, and projects. Sometimes with the added caveat of “as long as s/he displays a good effort to use time wisely so far.”
- Have the parent/teacher give directions both verbally and in writing
- Provide a written rubric so child is clear on expectations
- Have an aide sit with them to coach them through steps of a process or help keep them on track
Accommodations for ADHD- Emotional Control
- With social worker, teacher, or parent, create a list of “deescalation strategies” the child can use when they start escalating emotionally. Some examples: “go get a drink,” “visit X trusted adult,” “do some deep breathing,” etc.
- With social worker, teacher, or parent, create a “behavior plan.” It should include behaviors to minimize like blurting out answers, wandering around room, or distracting others. It should also include incentives for reducing these behaviors and a way to track progress.
- Create “secret signal” with teacher/parent for when they need to use a deescalation strategy. This prevents embarrassment and being called out in front of everyone. The signal might be a tap on their desk or shoulder, a code word, or something else.
- Time with a social worker (either individually or as part of a small group) to improve social skills, emotional coping abilities, etc.
- Limit public correction. Instead, have private check-ins where feedback on behavior is given.
- Regularly have child check “emotional temperature” to improve self-regulation
Bonus: Alternative seating
This one isn’t specifically an ADHD symptom, but I’ve found over and over again how much my students with ADHD benefitted from a seat other than a simple metal or plastic chair. Firstly, because it usually ticks the box of giving them a repetitive movement to perform to improve brain function (bouncing, kicking, rocking, etc). Even better though, most of these also help them get some level of exercise in their day. We all know how important that is for kids with ADHD!
At the end of the day though, these options are only a small sampling of choices you have. The only limit for seating-specific learning accommodations for ADHD is your imagination!
- Yoga balls (with or without a stability base, depending on the child)
- Balance disks
- Motion stools
- Stationary bikes or under-the-desk pedals (Pro-tip: check reviews to find QUIET options. Loud ones will create 10x more havoc than they provide help.)
- Standing desks
- Bungee chairs
- Beanbag chairs
For further reading on this topic:
- The Executive Functioning Checklist
- Executive Functioning Activities Masterlist
- Help My Child Focus Naturally: 5 Tried and True Strategies for Home
- Stress-free Morning Routines for Kids with ADHD
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.