ADHD in the Classroom | CDC (2023)

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(Video) ADHD in the school setting

Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience more obstacles in their path to success than the average student. The symptoms of ADHD, such as inability to pay attention, difficulty sitting still, and difficulty controlling impulses, can make it hard for children with this diagnosis to do well in school.

To meet the needs of children with ADHD, schools may offer

  • ADHD treatments, such as behavioral classroom management or organizational training;
  • Special education services; or
  • Accommodations to lessen the effect of ADHD on their learning.

Classroom Treatment Strategies for ADHD Students

There are some school-based management strategies shown to be effective for ADHD students: behavioral classroom management and organizational training.1

Did you know?

(Video) To the Teachers of ADHD Students (How Can I Help?)

Parents report that only about 1 in 3 children with ADHD receive behavioral classroom management.2

The behavioral classroom management approach encourages a student’s positive behaviors in the classroom, through a reward systems or a daily report card, and discourages their negative behaviors. This teacher-led approach has been shown to influence student behavior in a constructive manner, increasing academic engagement. Although tested mostly in elementary schools, behavioral classroom management has been shown to work students of all ages.1

Organizational training teaches children time management, planning skills, and ways to keep school materials organized in order to optimize student learning and reduce distractions. This management strategy has been tested with children and adolescents.1

These two management strategies require trained staff—including teachers, counselors, or school psychologists—follow a specific plan to teach and support positive behavior.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that the school environment, program, or placement is a part of any ADHD treatment plan. AAP also recommends teacher-administered behavior therapy as a treatment for school-aged children with ADHD. You can talk to your child’s healthcare provider and teachers about working together to support your child.

Special Education Services and Accommodations

Most children with ADHD receive some school services, such as special education services and accommodations. There are two laws that govern special services and accommodations for children with disabilities:

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The support a child with ADHD receives at school will depend on if they meet the eligibility requirements for one of two federal plans funded by IDEA and Section 504: an individualized education program (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

(Video) ADHD in the Classroom- Strategies For Teacher - Part 1

What are the main differences between the two Plans?

IEPs provide individualized special education services to meet the unique needs of the child.

A 504 Plan provides services and changes to the learning environment to meet the needs of the child as adequately as other students.3

Learn more about IEP and 504 Plans [PDF – 2.75 MB]


IEP and 504 Plans can offer accommodations for students to help them manage their ADHD, including:

  • Extra time on tests;
  • Instruction and assignments tailored to the child;
  • Positive reinforcement and feedback;
  • Using technology to assist with tasks;
  • Allowing breaks or time to move around;
  • Changes to the environment to limit distraction; and
  • Extra help with staying organized.

Did you know?

(Video) Understanding and Supporting Your Student With ADHD

Parents of children with ADHD report receiving more services through an IEP than through a 504 plan.2

There is limited information about which types of accommodations are effective for children with ADHD.3 However, there is evidence that setting clear expectations, providing immediate positive feedback, and communicating daily with parents through a daily report card can help.4

What Teachers Can Do To Help

For teachers, helping children manage their ADHD symptoms can present a challenge. Most children with ADHD are not enrolled in special education classes, but do need extra assistance on a daily basis. The National Resource Center on ADHD provides information for teachers from experts on how to help students with ADHD.

Here are some tips for classroom success.


  • Give frequent feedback and attention to positive behavior;
  • Be sensitive to the influence of ADHD on emotions, such as self-esteem issues or difficulty regulating feelings;
  • Provide extra warnings before transitions and changes in routines; and
  • Understand that children with ADHD may become deeply absorbed in activities that interest them (hyper-focus) and may need extra assistance shifting their attention.

Assignments and Tasks

  • Make assignments clear—check with the student to see if they understand what they need to do;
  • Provide choices to show mastery (for example, let the student choose among written essay, oral report, online quiz, or hands-on project;
  • Make sure assignments are not long and repetitive. Shorter assignments that provide a little challenge without being too hard may work well;
  • Allow breaks—for children with ADHD, paying attention takes extra effort and can be very tiring;
  • Allow time to move and exercise;
  • Minimize distractions in the classroom; and
  • Use organizational tools, such as a homework folder, to limit the number of things the child has to track.

Develop a Plan That Fits the Child

  • Observe and talk with the student about what helps or distracts them (for example, fidget tools, limiting eye contact when listening, background music, or moving while learning can be beneficial or distracting depending on the child);
  • Communicate with parents on a regular basis; and
  • Involve the school counselor or psychologist.

Close collaboration between the school, parents, and healthcare providers will help ensure the child gets the right support.

Parent Education and Support

ADHD in the Classroom | CDC (2)

CDC funds the National Resource Center on ADHD (NRC), a program of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). The NRC provides resources, information, and advice for parents on how to help their child. Learn more about their services.

(Video) ADHD in the Classroom

How to best advocate for your child

  • Understand your child’s diagnosis, how it impacts their education, and what can be done at home to help.
  • Understand your child’s IEP. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Speak with your child’s teacher.
  • When possible, obtain written documentation from teachers, administrators, or other professionals working with your child.
  • Know your rights.
  • Play an active role in preparing your child’s IEP or 504 Plan.
  • Keep careful records, including written documentation, communication between home and school, progress reports, and evaluations.
  • Try to maintain a good working relationship with the school while being a strong advocate for your child.
  • Communicate any concerns you may have about your child’s progress or IEP or 504 Plan.
  • Encourage your child every day, and work with your child to create a system to help with homework and other school projects.5

What every parent should know

More Information


  1. Evans S, Owens J, Bunford N. Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 2014;43(4):527-551 [Read overview]
  2. DuPaul GJ, Chronis-Tuscano A,Danielson ML, Visser SN. Predictors of receipt of school services in a national sample of youth with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders Published online December 10, 2018. [Read summary]
  3. Harrison JR, Bunford N, Evans SW, Owens JS. Educational accommodations for students with behavioral challenges: A systematic review of the literature. Review of Educational Research 2013;83(4):551-97.
  4. Moore DA, Russell AE, Matthews J, Ford TJ, Rogers M, Ukoumunne OC, et al. School-based interventions for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review with multiple synthesis methods. Review of Education. Published online October 18, 2018.


What does ADHD look like in a classroom? ›

Inattentive Symptoms of ADHD:

Doesn't seem to be listening when spoken to directly. Has trouble organizing tasks and possessions. Often fails to finish work in school or chores in the classroom. Often avoids or resists tasks that require sustained mental effort, including doing homework.

How do you accommodate ADHD students in the classroom? ›

  1. Extra time on tests;
  2. Instruction and assignments tailored to the child;
  3. Positive reinforcement and feedback;
  4. Using technology to assist with tasks;
  5. Allowing breaks or time to move around;
  6. Changes to the environment to limit distraction; and.
  7. Extra help with staying organized.

Can a child with ADHD be in a regular classroom? ›

Kids with ADHD can thrive in school, but it often takes some thoughtful planning and a team effort to get them there. Use these strategies to set your child up for academic success. The classroom can be a dizzying and overwhelming place for a child or teen with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What challenges do ADHD students face in the classroom? ›

Children with ADHD struggle more with boredom and putting mental effort into challenging tasks. Virtual learning or in-person school with more rules may lack the novelty and excitement. Teachers may need to find new ways to keep children with ADHD from being bored and keep them engaged in learning.

How do ADHD students learn differently? ›

In general, children with ADHD are right-brained learners. They prefer to learn visually — by watching or doing a task in an activity-based, hands-on format, not by listening to lectures, practicing drills, or memorizing. There are many ways to implement visual learning outside the classroom.

How do students with ADHD learn best? ›

Keep instructions simple and structured. Use props, charts, and other visual aids. Vary the pace and include different kinds of activities. Many students with ADHD do well with competitive games or other activities that are rapid and intense.

What is the best environment for ADHD? ›

According to Dr. Zentall, children with ADHD seek change/novelty and high-interest activities. They do best with an engaging active curriculum at school and an active home environment. Incorporating physical movement and motor activity throughout the day increases successes.

What is an example of an IEP for ADHD? ›

Some examples of IEP goals for a student with ADHD may include: The student will stay on task throughout the lesson. The student will use a checklist to complete all tasks throughout the lesson. The student will maintain appropriate personal space with peers throughout the P.E. lesson.

How do you discipline a child with ADHD? ›

1 These discipline strategies can be instrumental in helping a child with challenging behaviors to follow the rules.
  1. Provide Positive Attention. ...
  2. Give Effective Instructions. ...
  3. Praise Your Child's Effort. ...
  4. Use Time-Out When Necessary. ...
  5. Ignore Mild Misbehaviors. ...
  6. Allow for Natural Consequences. ...
  7. Establish a Reward System.
Dec 11, 2022

What type of classroom is best for ADHD? ›

What is the best classroom environment for a child with ADHD? The ideal classroom will be informal but structured. That may sound contradictory at first, because we tend to think of structure and formality as being the same thing.

What are kids with ADHD good at? ›

These may include hyperfocus, resilience, creativity, conversational skills, spontaneity, and abundant energy. Many people view these benefits as “superpowers” because those with ADHD can hone them to their advantage.

Are ADHD kids considered special needs? ›

Federal Law Protects Students from Disability Discrimination

Regardless of how well he or she performs in school, a student who has trouble concentrating, reading, thinking, organizing or prioritizing projects, among other important tasks, because of ADHD may have a disability and be protected under Section 504.

Why do children with ADHD struggle academically? ›

ADHD can have a significant impact on a student's ability to learn because it can interfere with a child's concentration, focus, and impulse control which leads to difficulty in understanding and retaining information.

Is ADHD considered a learning disability? ›

Although ADHD is not considered a learning disability, research indicates that from 30-50 percent of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability, and that the two conditions can interact to make learning extremely challenging.

What are 3 learning barriers that could be confused with ADHD? ›

Some of the most prominent intrinsic barriers include language and communication difficulties, health difficulties such as HIV and tuberculosis, sensory impairments, intellectual and learning difficulties, and pervasive developmental disorders [17].

Can students with ADHD find success in the classroom? ›

Students with ADHD can be successful in the classroom, but there is work needed to done that will help to differentiate instruction for each student.

How do children with ADHD behave differently? ›

How ADHD Affects Kids. ADHD causes kids to be more inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive than is normal for their age. ADHD makes it harder for kids to develop the skills that control attention, behavior, emotions, and activity. As a result, they often act in ways that are hard for parents manage.

How does ADHD make learning harder? ›

Disorganization: Disorganization can make it hard for people with ADHD to study or prioritize tasks. It can also cause them to miss deadlines and forget schoolwork, affecting grades. Impulsivity: ADHD can cause impulsive behavior — this can lead to a student getting into trouble at school.

How teachers can support learners with ADHD? ›

Establish Rules and Routines

Make routines and stick to them. This can help a student with ADHD to stay on task and reduce distracting changes. Routines do not have to be fully planned out – something as small as always writing the homework task on the whiteboard can be an effective routine.

What calms people with ADHD? ›

Restlessness and fidgety behavior associated with ADHD can be reduced by taking exercise breaks. Walking and running, and activities like yoga or meditation that incorporate deep breathing and mindfulness can be beneficial and induce relaxation and calm.

What kind of teacher does a child with ADHD need? ›

The best teacher for a child with ADHD is one who celebrates and works with their students' creativity, energy, and curiosity. One who not only follows but improves classroom accommodations. And one who goes above and beyond to help their students feel smart, successful, and appreciated.

What worsens ADHD? ›

11 Things That Make Adult ADHD Worse
  • Lack of Exercise. 1/11. If your memory is hazy, your ADHD may be to blame. ...
  • Eating Out Often. 2/11. ...
  • Too Much Junk Food. 3/11. ...
  • Skipping Breakfast. 4/11. ...
  • Messy Homes and Offices. 5/11. ...
  • Too Much Stuff. 6/11. ...
  • The Wrong Meds. 7/11. ...
  • Lack of Sleep. 8/11.
Nov 18, 2021

What is the difference between a 504 and an IEP for ADHD? ›

Like an IEP, a 504 plan details the academic, organizational, and social accommodations that will be used to help a child access learning at school. But 504 plans are less formal, apply to more situations, and can be used by children with a wider range of disabilities than can IEPs.

How does an IEP help students with ADHD? ›

If your child's ADHD is so severe that it causes major impairment, he might qualify under IDEA. If so, a document called an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is designed to outline services, accommodations, special education, and goals for your child. The IEP document is usually about 10 to 12 pages long.

What is an example of a 504 plan for ADHD? ›

Here are several examples of appropriate accommodations that might be included in a Section 504 Plan for a child with ADHD: Reducing the number of homework problems without reducing the level or content of what is being taught. Giving the student a quiet place to work, free from distractions.

How does yelling affect a child with ADHD? ›

Yelling doesn't help kids with ADHD learn better behavior. In fact, harsh punishment can lead them to act out more in the future. Try these calm, collected ways to deal with discipline instead.

What are the annoying behaviors of ADHD? ›

Kids with ADHD often have behavior problems. They get angry quickly, throw tantrums, and refuse to do things they don't want to do. These kids aren't trying to be bad. The problem is that ADHD can make it hard for them to do things they find difficult or boring.

How do you calm down ADHD in class? ›

You can also try these tips to help with school:
  1. Sit in the front of class to limit distractions.
  2. Turn off your phone when doing homework. ...
  3. Talk with your teacher about your ADHD. ...
  4. Use tools that help you stay organized. ...
  5. Get plenty of exercise. ...
  6. Take activity breaks. ...
  7. Learn to meditate.

Where should students with ADHD sit? ›

ADHD students should sit in the front row (or close to the teacher), away from windows and other distractions. Oral and written instructions. Oral instructions should be reiterated and written down for the student. Break down assignments.

What not to do with a child with ADHD? ›

“Don'ts” for dealing with an ADHD child
  1. Don't sweat the small stuff. Be willing to make some compromises with your child. ...
  2. Don't get overwhelmed and lash out. Remember that your child's behavior is caused by a disorder. ...
  3. Don't be negative. ...
  4. Don't let your child or the disorder take control.

What age does ADHD peak in children? ›

At what age are symptoms of ADHD the worst? The symptoms of hyperactivity are typically most severe at age 7 to 8, gradually declining thereafter. Peak severity of impulsive behaviour is usually at age 7 or 8. There is no specific age of peak severity for inattentive behaviour.

What are typical ADHD behaviors in children? ›

Inattentiveness (difficulty concentrating and focusing)

having a short attention span and being easily distracted. making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork. appearing forgetful or losing things. being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming.

Is ADHD in the autism category? ›

ADHD is not on the autism spectrum, but they have some of the same symptoms. And having one of these conditions increases the chances of having the other. Experts have changed the way they think about how autism and ADHD are related.

Does ADHD alone qualify for IEP? ›

Having a diagnosis of ADHD by itself does not make a student eligible for an IEP. The assessment must also show that by reason of the disability the student needs special education and related services.

Do you get money for a child with ADHD? ›

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) helps with the cost of caring for an eligible ADHD child, under 16 years of age, needing extra looking after and having had these difficulties for at least three months.

What are the 3 main symptoms of ADHD? ›

The 3 categories of symptoms of ADHD include the following:
  • Inattention: Short attention span for age (difficulty sustaining attention) Difficulty listening to others. ...
  • Impulsivity: Often interrupts others. ...
  • Hyperactivity: Seems to be in constant motion; runs or climbs, at times with no apparent goal except motion.

Do kids with ADHD do worse in school? ›

How Can ADHD Affect Kids at School? ADHD can affect a student's ability to focus, pay attention, listen, or put effort into schoolwork. ADHD also can make a student fidgety, restless, talk too much, or disrupt the class. Kids with ADHD might also have learning disabilities that cause them to have problems in school.

What are 4 indicators that a child might have ADHD? ›

ADHD in children may present through symptoms including inattentiveness, impulsivity, hyperactivity, fidgeting, excessive talking, trouble waiting turn, and difficulty following direction.

Do people with ADHD struggle with math? ›

ADHD symptoms can make math more difficult. But ADHD can also increase your chances of having a co-occurring math learning disorder called dyscalculia. Statistics from the early 2000s (the most recent available) suggest that 31 percent of students with ADHD also have a math disability.

Why is math hard for ADHD? ›

Students who are affected by ADHD often have a hard time with math because their memory is not very strong and blocking out external stimuli is a struggle. Memory, which is where information is stored for later use, is one of many executive functions.

At what point is ADHD a disability? ›

ADHD is only a protected disability when it interferes with a person's ability to work and participate in society but not for mild conditions that don't interfere with functionality. The Centers for Disease Control considers ADHD to be a developmental disability.

What foods should ADHD people avoid? ›

Some of the common foods that can cause ADHD reactions include milk, chocolate, soy, wheat, eggs, beans, corn, tomatoes, grapes, and oranges. If you suspect a food sensitivity may be contributing to your child's ADHD symptoms, talk to your ADHD dietitian or doctor about trying an elimination diet.

What vitamins help ADHD? ›

Vitamin B & C

Finally, supplementing vitamins B and C can also help alleviate ADD and ADHD symptoms. Vitamin C, like zinc, iron, and magnesium, is used to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine. Additionally, vitamin B deficiency is linked to irritability and fatigue in children.

What helps with ADHD meltdowns? ›

9 ways to help soothe them
  • Find the trigger. Look at what might be triggering your child's behaviors. ...
  • Explain consequences in advance. ...
  • Talk to your child and encourage them to talk back. ...
  • Distract your child. ...
  • Give them a time-out. ...
  • Ignore the meltdown. ...
  • Give reminders. ...
  • Reward your child for positive behavior.
Mar 15, 2021

What are the signs of ADHD in students? ›

Symptoms in children and teenagers
  • having a short attention span and being easily distracted.
  • making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork.
  • appearing forgetful or losing things.
  • being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming.
  • appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions.

How can teachers identify ADHD? ›

If a child constantly fidgets, doesn't wait their turn, forgets homework, doesn't pay attention, cannot complete tasks or is not learning as expected, it is also cause for concern.” Any of these symptoms may lead a teacher to believe that the child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

What is a characteristic of an ADHD learner? ›

Avoid or dislike tasks that require focused mental effort, such as homework. Lose items needed for tasks or activities, for example, toys, school assignments, pencils. Be easily distracted. Forget to do some daily activities, such as forgetting to do chores.

What are 5 signs a child may have ADHD? ›

Main key symptoms of ADHD in young children
  • Listening difficulties.
  • Not following instructions.
  • Making careless mistakes.
  • Highly distractible.
  • Day dreaming.
  • Forgetting/Losing things.
  • Not finishing tasks.
  • Easily bored.

What are examples of hyperactivity in the classroom? ›

A child who can't seem to sit still, who blurts out answers in class without raising his hand, who doesn't finish his homework, who seems to be daydreaming when the teacher gives instructions—these are well-known symptoms of ADHD.

How do I unmask ADHD? ›

For someone to fully unmask, they need to feel safe; they need to know, by observing your actions and behaviors, that there won't be negative consequences to being oneself. The more that you can show real acceptance, the more the ADHDer will be able to unmask.

How does ADHD affect a child in the classroom? ›

ADHD can affect a student's ability to focus, pay attention, listen, or put effort into schoolwork. ADHD also can make a student fidgety, restless, talk too much, or disrupt the class. Kids with ADHD might also have learning disabilities that cause them to have problems in school.

What are good traits of ADHD people? ›

These may include hyperfocus, resilience, creativity, conversational skills, spontaneity, and abundant energy. Many people view these benefits as “superpowers” because those with ADHD can hone them to their advantage. People with ADHD have a unique perspective that others may find interesting and valuable.

Is ADHD defined as a learning disability? ›

ADHD is not considered to be a learning disability. It can be determined to be a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), making a student eligible to receive special education services.

What type of learning disorder is ADHD? ›

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not a learning disability; however, it does make learning difficult. For example, it is hard to learn when you struggle to focus on what your teacher is saying or when you can't seem to be able to sit down and pay attention to a book. You can have both.

What age does ADHD peak? ›

At what age are symptoms of ADHD the worst? The symptoms of hyperactivity are typically most severe at age 7 to 8, gradually declining thereafter. Peak severity of impulsive behaviour is usually at age 7 or 8. There is no specific age of peak severity for inattentive behaviour.

What does a child with ADHD act like? ›

ADHD causes kids to be more inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive than is normal for their age. ADHD makes it harder for kids to develop the skills that control attention, behavior, emotions, and activity. As a result, they often act in ways that are hard for parents manage.


1. ADHD Classroom Strategies
2. ADHD in children : Tips For Teachers : Nip in the Bud
(Nip in the Bud)
3. Managing ADHD in the classroom
(Suvash Therapy Clinic)
4. Teaching Students with ADHD: Commonly Misunderstood Symptoms
(ADDitude Magazine)
5. Teach for Success - Rethinking ADHD - symptoms at school
6. Brad's Story: A 12 year-old with ADHD
(Johnson & Johnson)


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