The Drug-Free Solution to Managing ADHD in the Classroom

The Drug-Free Solution to Managing ADHD in the ClassroomManage ADHD in the Classroom

Physical activity is essential for physical and mental health. Exercise helps with weight management, flexibility, strength, and balance; but it also produces mood-enhancing endorphins and serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine to increase focus. Physical activity is beneficial for everyone, but it may be even more advantageous when dealing with ADHD in the classroom.

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a medical condition characterized by trouble paying attention, sitting still, and controlling impulses. ADHD seems to be caused by differences in brain development and activity.

Unlike normal childlike struggles with obedience, patience, attention, and self-control, ADHD disturbances occur more often and the impulses are harder to control. These incidents can seriously disrupt environments and relationships at school and at home.

Behaviors that are potential symptoms of ADHD can be broken down into three categories: inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive. Kids can exhibit behaviors from a single category or any combination of the three.

  • Kids who exhibit behaviors in the inattentive category are easily distracted. This results in trouble listening to directions, retaining information, and completing tasks. These children may daydream excessively and seem absent-minded or forgetful.
  • Kids who exhibit behaviors in the hyperactive category are restless and easily bored. This results in trouble sitting still and staying quiet. These children may play at inappropriate times and cause unintended disruptions.
  • Kids who exhibit behaviors in the impulsive category act before fully comprehending the consequences of their actions. This results in risky actions and intense emotional responses. These kids are often impatient and may find it hard to share with others and wait their turn to speak.  

How Does ADHD Affect the Classroom?

Students who struggle with ADHD have an extremely difficult time staying still. One study showed boys with ADHD moved around the room eight times more often than other boys, while also making two times as many arm motions. This movement can be attributed to impaired motor control centers in the brain and impulse-control problems.

Related: See what health benefits standing desks can bring into the classroom

A teacher who has to deal with students with ADHD must consider potential disruptions and account for an individual student's need for movement. The struggling student may resort to fidgeting, humming, or pacing to release energy. Constant negative responses from a teacher could cause the student to feel helpless and incapable of participating in a positive manner. Establishing a proactive plan in the classroom for students with ADHD will decrease distractions and empower the ADHD student to function and excel.

Drug-Free Solutions for Dealing with ADHD in the Classroom

There are two big challenges of ADHD in the classroom. The first challenge is decreasing distractions, and the second is empowering the ADHD student. Medication is often used to mitigate symptoms of ADHD. These medications may help reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity while also improving the ability to focus and learn. However, physicians may need to try several different medications and dosages before an effective regimen is reached. Also, as with any medication, parents need to be diligent to monitor for potential side-effects. Medication may decrease distractions, but medication alone does little to increase confidence and self-worth.

Physical activity may be a great alternative, or complement, to ADHD drug therapy. The primary objective of teachers dealing with ADHD in their classrooms should be to find productive ways for ADHD students to release energy, and there are many options for achieving this goal. Teachers could send students on errands to other classrooms, allow for break time between lessons, especially as a reward for great work, or use exercise balls or standing desks to replace traditional chairs. When a teacher is proactive about ADHD in the classroom, they help build kids sense of self-worth. Parents, teachers, and students are more confident knowing the classroom is a safe place for all students to learn and grow.

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