Kids Health Info

ADHD - ways to help children with ADHD

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can affect children's learning and social skills, and the way a family functions. Medication, behaviour modification, home and classroom strategies and sometimes counselling can all help children with ADHD at home and at school.

    Ways to help children with ADHD

    Verbal instructions

    • Keep instructions brief and clear.
    • Say the child's name or tap them on the shoulder to make and keep eye contact when giving important information.
    • Ask your child to repeat the instruction to make sure they have taken it in and understood.
    • Your child may need prompting, monitoring and encouragement to keep them focused on tasks.

    Written work

    • Highlight important points in written information using *asterisks*, CAPITAL LETTERS or bold text.
    • Limit the amount of information that needs to be copied from a black or white board. Instead, give 'hand out' sheets with this information.

    Other learning strategies

    • Provide one-to-one instruction as often as possible.
    • A class 'buddy', who gets along well with the child, can be helpful to reinforce instructions and directions.
    • Make sure activities have plenty of 'hands on' involvement.
    • Schedule the most important learning to take place during the child's best concentration time(s). This is usually in the morning.
    • Give a checklist for what the child needs to do.
    • Physical environment:
      • Sit them near the front of the classroom.
      • Plan seating and furniture carefully to decrease distractions. For example, sit the child near classmates who will be good role models.
      • A quiet place without clutter is important for homework.

    Reducing over-activity and fatigue

    • Build rest-breaks into activities. For example, a five minute break for each 30 minutes of activity.
    • Alternate academic tasks with brief physical exercise. For example, the child could do structured tasks or errands such as delivering notes or taking lunch orders.
    • Prepare a number of low-pressure fun activities for when the child needs to spend a few minutes calming down.

    Keeping structure

    Children with ADHD can struggle with changes to routine and need to know what to expect. The following strategies can help:

    • Have a fixed routine.
    • Keep classroom activities well organised and predictable.
    • Display the daily schedule and classroom rules. For example, attach a flowchart to the inside of the child's desk or book.
    • Tell the child in advance (whenever possible) of a change in the schedule.
    • Give the child advance warning of changes. For example: 'in five minutes you will have to put your work away', and remind them more than once.
    • Keep choices to a minimum.


    • Encourage the child to take part in activities where they will experience success.
    • Set achievable goals.
    • Acknowledge their achievements by congratulating them verbally and in written ways such as notes or certificates.
    • Focus their attention on the good parts of their written work. For example, use a highlighter pen on the best sections of the child's work.
    • Help them feel important in the classroom. For example, acknowledging their effort to do a task even if they don't succeed.
    • Near the end of the day, review with the child their accomplishment/s for that day.
    • Attend to learning difficulties as soon as possible to restore self-confidence.

    Social skills

    • Involve the child in smaller groups of no more than two other children, instead of larger groups, whenever possible.
    • Reward appropriate behaviour such as sharing and cooperating.
    • Teach the child appropriate responses when they feel provoked. For example, teach them to walk away or talk to the teacher.
    • Encourage the child to join activities where 'supervised socialisation' is available, such as Scouts/Girl Guides or sporting groups.
    • Talk with the child about the consequences of their actions upon themself and upon others.
    • Use visual prompts to remind the child to think before they act. For example, 'STOP, THINK, DO'.

    Communication between home and school

    • Use a school-home daily communication book.
    • Communicate both positive aspects of day and inappropriate behaviour.
    • Teachers - be sensitive to parents' feelings. They have the difficult task of raising a child with ADHD.
    • Teachers - help parents feel proud of their child. Find positive things to share with them about their child on a regular basis. This can be done in front of the child.

    To help to encourage the child to complete homework parents can:

    • Make the work environment attractive but not too distracting.
    • Have regular scheduled time for homework.

    Key points to remember

    • Acknowledge and reward achievements and positive behaviour often.
    • Attend to learning difficulties as soon as possible.
    • A quiet place without clutter is important for homework.
    • Talk with the child about the consequences of their actions.
    • Medication, positive parenting strategies, school support and counselling can help most children with ADHD and their families.

    For more information

    Produced by the RCH Centre for Community Child Health. Thanks to the parents who reviewed this factsheet. First published Aug 2006. Updated September 2012.

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