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Ideas for Substitutes: Engaging Children with ADHD by Playing to Their Strengths

Life Mental Health / Foter /  (CC BY 2.0)

Any substitute teacher walking into a classroom will probably have at least one child with an ADHD diagnosis in the room, no matter the age group. According to the CDC, about 10% of students ages 3 - 17 have been diagnosed with this disability.  Instead of having to deal with it, or even fear it, embrace the children who struggle with this issue by knowing their strengths. Then keep them in the back of your mind so that when a child is struggling, you can come up with ideas for substitutes to help them succeed.

Yes, a child with ADHD is impulsive, and has a hard time focusing. But when you look over this list of positive characteristics, it may change your mind as to whether this is a disability. Children with ADHD are:

  1. Creative. They can think outside the box to come up with solutions and look at things from a different perspective.
  2. Athletic. Gross motor skills are often strong, so incorporate some movement into a lesson to engage these children.
  3. Enthusiastic. Having a hard time getting the class excited over something? This is the child who can get others looking forward to something coming up.
  4. Quick-thinking. These students can multi-task, problem-solve, and take in a lot of information quickly.
  5. Hyper-focused. It doesn't seem like a child could have problems with attention, yet be almost obsessed with something, but if you find something that interests one of these students, you can find them concentrating intensely on that subject for long periods of time.
  6. Leaders. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Vince Lombardi, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates had ADD or similar learning disorders. Give one of these children the opportunity to lead, and see where it takes them.
As a teacher, try to shift your attitude about ADHD. Instead of looking at it as a negative, try to remember these positive characteristics and plan activities that will allow these students to show their strengths and find success.
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