This is the exact statement my son, William, uttered when my husband and I asked him to zip his lips in his kindergarten classroom. His teacher had flagged me down in the hallway earlier that day.
“He talks all day long,” she explained, wide-eyed. “Is he like that at home?”
“Yes,” I explained, holding back a nervous burst of laughter. If I hadn’t laughed, I would have cried. His talking rattled my brain too.
“How do you manage?” she asked.
The truth is, I wasn’t managing well.
William wasn’t either.
He was in his second year of kindergarten (his first was at a private school), and he was still struggling to do about everything required of a kindergartener. You know…. sit, write his name, read simple books, listen to the teacher).
That evening, my husband and I tried to bribe him with a new Star Wars action figure.
“You can have this new storm trooper if you’ll just be quiet Will,” we pleaded. “Your teacher can’t do her job when you’re talking.”
William paused and stared us square in the eyes, disinterested in the prize.
“I want to stop talking, but I can’t.”
I share this story to make a BIG point.
Kids with ADHD, like my son, want to control their behavior, but many tiimes, they can’t.
Hyperactivity takes many forms, too. ADHD kids don’t just leave their seats and fidget more than other kids. In the DSM-5, one of the nine diagnostic criteria for hyperactivity is excessive talking. I noticed this tendency in my son when he was little. The minute we strapped him into a car seat, highchair, you name it, his talking intensified.
Thankfully, after raising William, working as a child psychologist, and collaborating with many of my son’s teachers, I learned some GREAT STRATEGIES that address hyperactivity without sacrificing a student’s pride.
Some teachers are naturals when it comes to using these strategies, whereas others fall into using punitive methods, like sending students to the corner, out in the hallway, or even to the principal’s office.
This makes me so sad.
You know why?
Because ADHD is a neurological disorder that affects a child’s ability to regulate their behavior.
That’s why I see no difference between shaming a blind student for not being able to see, and shaming an ADHD student for not being able to remain seated.
Here are 5 Strategies I use when working with children and teachers to address hyperactivity in the classroom:
#1 Allow the student to move.
Movement is necessary for kids with ADHD. This desire for physical movement that ADHD kids have makes sense when we think about the science behind the symptoms. Studies like this one show that sensory interventions, like deep pressure and strenuous exercise, can significantly reduce restlessness in ADHD kids.
Instead of restricting movement, the key is to find ways the student can move that aren’t disruptive in the classroom. For example, chewing gum helps many ADHD kids stay quiet and seated.
Bouncy bands for chairs in elementary classroom settings are super helpful too.
Wiggle seats are another excellent tool to help ADHD kids stay seated. They minimize chatter too.
#2 Allow the child to listen to music.
The late Oliver Sacks, M.D., neurologist and author stated that nothing activates the brain so extensively as music. In a recent article in Honestly ADHD, it was noted that some music, specifically slower-tempo classical music, can actually increase focus and task-completion for ADHD kids.
#3 Allow the student to stand or work on a project in the back of the classroom.
One of the best special education teachers I know says that having puzzles in the back of her classroom has helped her ADHD students more than anything she’s ever tried. When these students finish their work, she lets them walk to the back of the classroom, stretch their legs, and settle into a puzzle. She lets her non-ADHD students do the same. I love it! Why single out the ADHD kids?
#4 Let active students help out in the classroom.
Many super-active kids tell me that their favorite parts of the school day are recess, lunch and getting to help the teacher. Some of my teacher friends even keep a list of jobs for their more active students.
For example, they ask these kiddos to hand out papers, sharpen pencils, run quick errands, sweep, pick up chairs at the end of the day, you name it.
One of my son’s middle school teachers used to send him outside to the school garden to pick vegetables! He loved it!
#5 Offer fidgets that students can manipulate in their hands.
I cannot recommend this one enough! Fidgets, like Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, help so many active kids get through testing and therapy appointments with me. Usually, once the novelty of testing has worn off, students begin to complain that it’s “boring.”
When I offer them putty to squish in their hands, the “boredom” tends to fade quickly. That’s because the putty activates better focus and reduces restlessness.
Putty doesn’t usually interfere with testing, either. Most kids hold the putty in their non-writing hand and squish-away it while they work J
Here are the Five Ways that Teachers can address Hyperactivity in the Classroom without Shaming Students:
- Allow the student to move.
- Allow the student to listen to music during work time.
- Allow the student to stand or work on a project in the back of the classroom
- Let active students help out in the classroom.
- Offer fidgets that students can manipulate in their hands.
I hope these suggestions are helpful. If yes, click ‘like’ below this post and join my tribe, ADHD&U.
Your ADHD Guru and Friend!