Classroom Interventions for Children with Attention Deficit Disorder
Children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)have difficulty
with sustained attention and/or control of behavious in the school setting.
Due to the nature of their deficits and the demands of the school environment,
impairment in educational performance is common. In order to help
them compensate for their disability, most children with ADD will require
interventions in the school. The majority of children with ADD can
be adequately managed in the regular classroom with modifications; however,
some children will require special education services. Below are
intervention suggestions for educators to consider in designing a modification
plan. Based on the research literature, these modifications hold
promise as effective interventions.
Closed classroom archetecture
Open classrooms (minimal physical barriers between classrooms) tend to be noisier and have more visual distractions from activities of nearby classes than closed classrooms (four walls and a door). Since there is evidence that high noise levels will interfere with performance and increase activity levels, closed classrooms are recommended for children with ADD (Whalen, Hanker, Collins, Finck, & Dotemoto, 1979)
Decrease auditory and visual distractions
during difficult tasks
There is some evidence that stimulating classroom, that is, classrooms with varied visual and auditory stimulation, have positive effects on the behavior of children with ADD. This could include colored posters, animals, and music. However, this increase stimulation will likely be distracting during new, complex, detailed, or otherwise difficult tasks. Therefore, efforts should be made to decrease auditory and visual distractions during difficult tasks. (Zentall 1995)
Use individual, separated desk and
move seat closer to the teaching area
Based on the need of children with ADD for immediate and frequent feedback regarding their behaviour, and the observation that teachers attend most to the children in their proximity, it is advisable to seat children with ADD close to the teaching area. In these locations, it is relatively easy for the teacher to provide the increased feedback without disrupting other children or the lesson plan. Some have the child face a corner or wall, or place the child in a three-sided cubicle to reduse distractions; however, this strategy has been found to be ineffective. In addition, the desk should be individual and physically separated from the other children. This will reduce distractions and possible peer reinforcement for inappropriate behavior (Pfiffner & Barkley 1990).
Classroom Organization and Teaching Style:
Schedule academic tasks in the morning
Children with ADD have been shown to problem solve better in the morning hours (Zager & Bowers 1983). In addition, children's behavior tends to escalate as the day progresses (Porrino et al, 1983). When possible schedule tasks that require attention and control of behavior, such as over learned, repeditive, or difficult tasks in the morning hours. Classes which involve more active participation, such as physical education and other recreational activities, can be scheduled in the afternoon hours (Pfiffner & Barkley 1990).
Increase structure for initial skill
developement and increase specific correct responding
Structure has been defined as increased information about what behavior or what performance standards are expected. Research has demonstrated that students with ADD respond worse than comparison students when the setting or task is neutral or ambiguous (unstructured). Structure allows children to know the expectations and predict the consequences of their behavour, thus, structure serves as a guide for behavior and performance. However, studies with students without disabilities have shown that classrooms with more choice opportunities, or less structure, have many positive outcomes. One study found that children tolerated more failure in a choice task than in a nonchoice task. Another study found that suggestions were related to higher task persistence that directives.
Direct methods of instruction appear to increase the accuracy of specific academic responses. Whereas, indirect methods and choice appear to increase a wider range of responses, lead to greater task persistence, and increase problem solving. You would expect to have relatively fast initial progress in skill developement in structured classrooms.
Direct methods are those that provide information to the students about what behavior and performance standards are expected. Direct methods include direct questions, token programs, corrective feedback, controlled practice with increasingly difficult material, drills of important academic skills, computer-assisted programs, and multiple choice.
Children with ADD may require more structure under conditions where initial skill developement is important, and when specific correct responding and reduced behavior is important; this would include during new tasks and during transitions. However, once the behavior is under control, indirect methods have the potential of enhancing task persistence, creativity, and problem solving. Teachers should experiment with provif\ding opportunities for choice, letting students set their own goals, and determine their own interests (Zentall 1995).
Increase the proportion of time
spent on the subject of the lesson
Inattentive and disruptive behaviors are likely to increase during delays in instruction, such as organizing, distributing resources, and discipline. In one study, approximately 20% of reading and math classes were consumed by instructional delays, and one third of the day in self-contained classrooms for students with learning disabilities was spent in waiting, management activities, and off-task behavior (Baker & Zigmond 1990). Effective classrooms are characterized by a high proportion of lesson time spent on the subject of the lesson (Rutter 1983).
Increase student pacing of tasks
When teachers pace tasks, many times the pace is too slow, resulting in inceased wait-time. However, for students with disabilities, the pace may be too fast if led by the teacher, especially during difficult tasks. Teachers may avoid these problems related to pacing by increasing student pacing of tasks (Zentall 1995).
Use a brisk pace of instruction
for easy tasks
There is some evidence that a brisk pace of instruction for tasks that require rote memory is beneficial. However, a fast pace of instruction does not appear to be beneficial for tasks that require creativity, planning, abstracting principals, or reading comprehension (Zentall 1995).
Increase the quality of instruction
and decrease the quantity of
time on a particular task or setting
The behavior of students with ADD has been shown to inprove in novel settings and with novel tasks (e.g., tests, films, games, etc.). However, their behavior would be expected to decline after they adapt to the tasks or setting. As a rule, you would expect novelty to decrease from morning to afternoon, from beginning to end of tasks, and from earlier to later. Teachers can take advantage of the effect of novelty by increasing the quality of instruction, thus increasing interest level, and decreasing the quantity of time on a particular task or setting (Zentall 1995).
Increase active participation
Children with ADD have been shown to perform better during active tasks than during passive tasks. In addition, studies show that students perfer tasks that involve active responding. Rather than focusing on decreasing behavior, teachers can channel behavior by changing the nature of the tasks and instructional methods used. Activity can be channeled both during and between tasks (Zentall 1995).
opportunities for movement during learning tasks
Methods such as flash cards and writing answers on cards involve movement between
responses. Using colored markers to highlight allows for movement during wait time.
Finger spelling and math manipulatives allow for task related movement.
opportunities for physical activity preceding each period of learning
Studies have shown increases in attention and task completion, and decreases in
disruptive behaviors when additional opportunities for gross motor activities were
provided. This could include a brisk 2-minute walk or run, play time, jumping jacks by
desk, or foring a line and walking around the room.
on-task verbal participation
Studies have also examined the effect of increasing on-task verbal responding. Reading
aloud has produced fewer errors and increased comprehension. Verbalizing math
problems has reduced errors and increased correct responding. Choral responding has
reduced off-task behaviors and increased learning. It appears to be more useful when it
is fast paced.
A student's participation can be self-directed or directed by the teacher or a peer. Traditionally, instruction is provided by the teacher in a lecture format. There are several advantages to a teacher-directed lecture. Studies have shown that there tends to be less social behavior, out-of-seat behavior, and noise and higher engagement during a teacher-directed lecture than during seatwork. Child-directed seatwork will likely require more attention, persistence, and self-control of behavior than a teacher directed lecture. However, part of the problem with seatwork may be the lack of feedback from the teacher during this time. Frequently teachers use seatwork time as a catch-up period for themselves, rather than using it to provide feedback to the children as they work alone in their seats. Giving and receiving peer tutoring can increase academic performance. One study found higher attention for peer tutoring than large group instruction (Zentall 1995).
teacher direction with seatwork
Teachers can rduce the quantity of time spent for any period of seatwork by
interspersing teacher direction with seatwork (Pfiffner & Barkley 1990).
feedback during seatwork
During seatwork time, teachers should provide feedback to students regarding their
teacher direction during small group instruction
Teachers are preferred over peers, especially when there is a low student-teacher ratio,
such as during small group instruction.
One-on-one with a peer tutor is preferable to one teacher with a large group.
Use methods of increasing the salience
of improtant task information
Increasing the stimulation of tasks can enhance attention. The studies seem to indicate that educators should consider increasing the salient features of the instructional materials by labling,highlighting, underlining, and adding color. When using these methods, it is important to enhance the salient features of the task, rather than the extraneous or unimportant features. In particular, this should be done during rote learning tasks and toward the end of tasks (Zentall 1995).
Modify task length
During individual seatwork, it is common for children with ADD to complete little of their assigned work, particularly with lengthy or multiple tasks. This is due to their deficit in sustained attention. It is advisable to modify the length of tasks to fit more within the child's attention span, and to provide frequent feedback to the child regarding their performance (Pfiffner & Barkley 1990).
For example, rather than giving a child 20 minutes to complete 20 math problems, the teacher can divide the 20 problems into 4 "chunks" of five problems each. The teacher can either cut up the sheet of math problems or use a sheet of paper to cover up all but one row of problems. The child can be instructed to complete the problems in a smaller period of time (e.g. 5 minutes) and to bring the completed work up to the teacher's desk. An external timer also can be used as a representation of elapsed time.. When the child finishes the "chunk" of work, s/he can bring the work to the teacher for feedback and reinforcement for task completion.
THis simple modification accomplishes several things. First, it addresses a unique need of the child with ADD by providing a task that fits within the child's attention span. Second, it allows for more frequent feedback about performance. Third, it allows for movement between tasks.
Educators can provide an environment that will cue or prompt compliance to teacher commands and class rulles by communicating effectively.
Compliance to teacher requests begins with a command. Teachers can intervene to increase the likelihood that children will mind by using effective commands. The qualities of an effective command are listed in the table below (Eyberg & Boggs 1989).
|1. Requests should be direct rather than indirect||A direct requestshould leave no question in the child's mind that s/he is being told to do something, givingno illusion of choice.||Indirect Request:
"Let's pick up the toys."
"How about washing your hands?"
"Why don't you open your book?"
"Do you want to throw away that paper?"
|2. Requests should be positively stated||Positively stated request give the child information about what "to do." Negatively worded requests only tell the child what "NOT to do."||Negative request:
|3. Requests should be specific. Avoid vague requests||Vague requests are so general and nonspecific that the child may not know exactly what to do to be obedient.||Vague requests:
"Clean up your act!"
|4. Give only one command at a time. Avoid "hidden" requests.||Some children have a hard time remembering more than one thing at a time. You do not want to punish a child for having a short attention span or failing to remember.||Stringing requests:
"Go close the door, then turn in your papers, and then go sit in your seat."
|5. Requests should be simple.||The child should be intellectually and physically capable of doing what you are requesting.||Too difficult:
"Write the letter A." (If the child does not have the writing skills or does not know the alphabet)
"Hand me the green block." (If the child does not know the colors)
"Put the paper under the box." (If the child does not understand the concept of 'under')
Use warnings effectively
After an effective command, the five second rule goes into effect. The five second rule has twso parts. First, give the child the opportunity to mind by waiting a full five seconds before deciding whether the child has begun to comply.
Second, do not interact with the child during this five seconds. Interaction during this time, may distract the child from compliance.
If the child has begun to comply within the five seconds, wait until the command is completed and reward the child with a labeled praise. For example, "John, thank you for throwing away the trash like I told you. I like it when you mind me!"
If, after five seconds, the child has not begun to comply, the child should be given a warning. A warning is an if-then statement that connects the command with a consequense. For example, "John, if you don't pick up that paper and throw it in the trash, you will have to go to time out."
After the warning, the five second rule goes into effect again. Compliance after the warning should be rewarded with a labeled praise. Failure to begin to comply should be punished immediately.
Use clearly stated rules
There are some behaviors that are not adequately controlled by direct commands. These behaviors usually include those that you have said, "no, don't, stop, or quit" to repeatedly. These behaviors may require a class rule. Before implementing class rules, make them explicit by discussing them with the children at a neutral time. Describe the problem behaviors. Explain the rules, the consequences for violating the rules. Use a warning on the first violation after establishing a rule. Subsequent violations receive no warning and are immediately consequented. It is also helpful to provide visual reminders of the rules and to review the rules prior to problem situations, such as prior to transistions.
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