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How Do Boys with ADHD Learn?

By Staff Writer

Boys with ADHD learn differently – not better or worse, just differently. For this reason, teaching children with ADHD requires a different approach. Instead of telling boys with ADHD to sit still and pay attention, research shows that they need to be active in order to learn.

One of the best ways to ensure that a child with ADHD is learning and developing to their full potential is to educate them in an environment where their special needs can be met. In addition to having a complete understanding of the issues that arise for boys with ADHD, a child’s teachers should understand the disorders that commonly occur alongside ADHD, such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and learning disabilities.

Here are some ways that the best ADHD schools create a setting that maximizes learning:

  • Provide a structured environment and consistent schedule
  • Give clear, simple instructions
  • Break down lengthy  instructions into manageable components
  • Provide regular opportunities to engage in hands-on or “experiential” learning and physical activity
  • Seat students near the teacher at the front of the classroom, preferably in classes with small student-teacher ratios
  • Minimize classroom distractions such as loud noises or flickering lights
  • Utilize specialized programs to aid with reading comprehension and language skills
  • Create an individualized education plan and teach to the child’s specific learning style
  • Allow extra time for certain tasks
  • Be calm, patient and supportive to minimize the child’s stress and frustration
  • Establish and enforce consequences for undesirable behaviors
  • Reinforce desirable behaviors using tokens and rewards

Learning by Doing

There are a number of ways to create opportunities for hands-on learning in a school setting. For example, Stone Mountain School – a North Carolina boarding school for boys with ADHD and related issues – intersperses academic coursework with learning trips, woodworking, art and other experiential activities.

“Experience is the best teacher – that’s true for boys with ADHD as well as those without it,” said Eric Morlino, the Career Technology Education Instructor at Stone Mountain School.

On any given day, boys at Stone Mountain’s ADHD boarding school may be found:

  • Firing pottery in a kiln
  • Doing woodwork on a lathe
  • Landscaping a flower bed
  • Painting a mural
  • Hiking or playing sports

Boys with ADHD often struggle in traditional school environments and believe they aren’t capable of academic success. At Stone Mountain School, students who struggle with anxiety and low self-esteem make impressive strides once they realize they can get involved and make a difference.

Because wood shop and art class allow students to be active and work with their hands, they are a great place for boys with ADHD to begin developing confidence to tackle projects in the classroom. They are able to see results immediately, take risks and learn from their mistakes, while learning life skills that will serve them as they grow into young adults.

“The careful process of crafting a piece of wood encourages students to focus on the task at hand,” said Mr. Morlino. “In shop class, the noise of the lathe or sander seems to melt away some of their frustrations.”


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