Leading Children Who Learn Differently: ADHD

If you’ve taught children in any capacity, you’ve probably encountered a child with ADHD—the child who can’t sit still or the one who blurts out the answer even when you’ve repeatedly asked him to wait for his turn. Sometimes, your patience wins out and you successfully finish your lesson. Other times, you leave the room feeling like a worn-out, limp dishrag that couldn’t keep order, much less lead children to Jesus. What is the answer?

The first step is understanding what ADHD in children looks like. The 3 main characteristics are hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. If you see these behaviors on a consistent basis, you are probably teaching a child (or children) with ADHD.

Now, what can you do? After you are prepared and prayed up, here’s what you shouldn’t do: Do not diagnose the child, tell the parent your opinion on ADHD or about available medications, or gossip with other church members about “that” child. Church and all activities should remain safe places for children and their families.

It’s hard enough to engage a roomful of children at school, but even more difficult in a church setting. Discipline is different, hours are shorter, and if your class is at night, attention spans are pretty much gone after a busy day. But here are a few hints for ADHD that might be useful:

Hyperactivity: Make sure your lessons are multisensory and geared toward a variety of learning styles. Children with ADHD are more successful learners when they move around, have choices, and have multiple ways to learn.

Impulsivity: Often when a child is unable to control his behavior or responses, an extra adult can help. Many times, the close proximity of an adult is enough to remind a child to rein in his impulses. A light tap on the arm or pat on the leg can remind a child of appropriate behavior. The adult can also talk to the child to choose a predetermined sign to keep him on track.

Inattention: Keep distractions to a minimum. Children are distracted by clutter. At the beginning of each class, collect all electronic devices in a basket. Seat children with their backs toward the doors or windows. Remove items like pencils, paper, and books when not in use. Change activities frequently and have extra choices for those who finish quickly.

For additional ideas and insight, a Christian counselor or children’s minister can be a great resource.

By Jennifer Smith

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