ADHD and Secondary School Learners by Fin O’Regan May 2009

The key factors for the child with ADHD in Secondary school are clearly specified rules, expectations and instructions with frequent and consistent feedback on behaviour and redirection to task. In addition reasonable and meaningful consequences for both compliance and non compliance will be necessary along with adults who will deal with his/her problems based on knowledge, compassion and respect.

Key rules should be devised in order of seriousness and an example of a priority schedule could be as follows: 

  • Completion of work and tasks
  • No physical or verbal aggression to others
  • Use of mobile phones etc… reflected in school policy 
  • No eating or drinking in class
  • Timekeeping
  • Uniform or Dress Code if there is one

In terms of day-to-day management of students with ADHD in the classroom specific tried and trusted strategies and suggestions are listed below. In some cases this will simply confirm good practice but as always the key is to keep consistent with the overall structure but to remain flexible with some of the minor distractions and incidents that will occur.

Key Strategies that should be employed:

  • Seat the student near teacher but include as part of the regular class
  • Place the student up front with his/her back to the rest of the class to keep other students out of view.
  • Surround the student with ADHD with good role models, preferably those seen as “Significant others” Encourage peer tutoring and co-operative learning.
  • Avoid distracting stimuli.  Try not to place the child near heaters, doors or windows, high traffic areas.
  • Many children with ADHD children do not handle change well so avoid Transitions, Changes in schedule, Physical relocation, Disruptions. (Monitor closely on field trips)
  • Be creative!  Produce a “stimuli reduced area” for all students to access 
  • Maintain eye contact with student during verbal instruction.
  • Make directions clear and concise.  Be consistent with daily instructions.
  • Simplify complex directions.  Avoid multiple commands.
  • Make sure the student comprehends before beginning the task.
  • Repeat in a calm, positive manner, if needed.
  • Help the child to feel comfortable with seeking assistance (most teenagers with ADHD won’t ask)
  • Require a daily assignment notebook. Make sure student writes down the assignment and both parents/teachers sign daily for homework tasks
  • Give one task at a time but monitor frequently.
  • Modify assignments as necessary.  Develop an individualised programme,
  • Make sure you are testing knowledge and not attention span.
  • Give extra time for certain tasks.  The child with ADHD may work slowly

 Also keep in mind the ADHD child can get easily frustrated.  Stress, pressure    fatigue can break down the child’s self control and lead to poor behaviour.

Specific remedial provision within an I.E.P may also include the following in addition to addressing, Reading Spelling and Math fundamentals as 40% of children with ADHD also have co-existing issues with Dyslexia

Depending on the level of literacy and numeracy the approach may entail the use of the LSA or a specialist in either dyslexia or one of the other specialists.

Materials used may vary in terms of the techniques employed but there is no doubt that many approaches involve ICT, which appears to be medium that relates well to the learning process of children with ADHD.

The reason why ICT appears to the child with ADHD could be summed up in the following list:

  • The ADHD child responds to individualised or 1 -1 setting
  • Attention is focused on the screen
  • Multi-sensory experience
  • Non-threatening: can retry problems, constant feedback and reinforcement
  • Impersonal: computer doesn’t yell or have favourites
  • Variety of presentation; attend better to novel stimuli
  • Student can control pace
  • Flexible: programmed to do many things
  • Rapid assessment
  • Game like approach: challenge

 Helpful Study Skills for Students with ADHD:

Children with ADHD often have difficulty in learning how to study effectively on their own. The following strategies may assist ADHD students in developing the study skills necessary for academic success:

•     Adapt worksheets. Teach a child how to adapt instructional worksheets. For example, help a child fold his or her reading worksheet to reveal only one question at a time. The child can also use a  blank piece of paper to cover the other questions on the page.

•     Checklist of frequent mistakes. Provide the child with a checklist of mistakes that he or she frequently makes in written assignments (e.g., punctuation or capitalization errors), mathematics (e.g., addition or subtraction errors), or other academic subjects. Teach the child how to use this list when proofreading his or her work at home and school.

•     Checklist of homework supplies. Provide the child with a checklist that identifies categories of items needed for homework assignments (e.g., books, pencils, and homework assignment sheets).

•     Uncluttered workspace. Teach a child with ADHD how to prepare an uncluttered workspace to complete assignments. For example, instruct the child to clear away unnecessary books or other materials before beginning his or her seatwork.

•     Monitor homework assignments. Keep track of how well your students with ADHD complete their assigned homework. Discuss and resolve with them and their parents any problems in completing these assignments. For example, evaluate the difficulty of the assignments and how long the children spend on their homework each night. Keep in mind that the quality, rather than the quantity, of homework assigned is the most important issue. While doing homework is an important part of developing study skills, it should be used to reinforce skills and to review material learned in class, rather than to present, in advance, large

Finally for Key stage and GCSE examinations a whole host of special arrangements exist for students not just with ADHD but also with other learning difficulties. Although knowledge of this and applying for them in advance is important the key is practice of the options requested.

Working with a reader for example is a skilled technique and this will need to have at least 3 or 4 trailed occasions before attempting the exam.

Current special arrangement options are listed below:   

 Time allowance

Rest periods

Use of readers


Word processors

Spelling, punctuation and grammar


No easy educational solutions exist for students with ADHD. Every teacher will attempt their own strategy in delivering the curriculum and will find ways of presenting the material and getting their students to complete tasks in a host of ways.

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