The Department of Education (DOE) updated its guidelines for teaching disabled pupils, which includes students with ADHD. Find out what this means for your classroom.

This past summer, the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) expanded upon the role of teachers in the education of students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This disorder is characterized by an inability to concentrate, consistent state of restlessness, and inability to complete tasks.

students with ADHDBy offering clarity to Section 504 of 1973’s Rehabilitation Act, the government seeks to eliminate misunderstandings of teachers regarding their role in the education of students with ADHD and discrimination that can occur when schools are not properly prepared or informed. The assistant secretary for civil rights, Catherine E. Lhamon, revealed that the primary motivation for this step was to ensure all students receive the same opportunities for education, regardless of ability.

“On this 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am pleased to honor Congress’ promise with guidance clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools. The Department will continue to work with the education community to ensure that students with ADHD, and all students, are provided with equal access to education.”

Government-funded schools are required to provide free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children, whether they are part of the general class population or have a physical or learning disability, such as students with ADHD. There are a few key ingredients to successfully teaching students with ADHD and creating a nurturing environment.

1. Identify, Evaluate, and Adjust

When students have not been properly evaluated, teachers cannot be held accountable for identifying disabilities. Educators are responsible for how they educate pupils once they are identified as students with ADHD. Provisions within Section 504 require that children who are suspected to be students with ADHD be evaluated by the school district. Once evaluations have been performed, teachers must offer lesson plans to fulfill the needs of every student.

2. Practice Patience

students with ADHDStudents with ADHD can become disruptive in class, through no fault of their own. It is best to practice patience, take time to understand the root cause of the behavior, and reset the student’s focus. Teachers are under a lot of pressure to cover standards and prepare students for standardized tests, so it can be frustrating when classroom disruptions occur. Remind yourself that their behavior is the result of a disability, not a choice, and respond appropriately.

3. Restructure the Learning Space

Teaching exceptional students requires a classroom environment that features unconventional education methods. To accommodate every student, implement student-focused techniques such as blended learning tactics, experiential learning, and incorporating technology in the classroom. Many teachers have also found success with providing students with ADHD alternative seating arrangements, such as exercise balls instead of traditional chairs. It may seem counterintuitive, but allowing students with ADHD to have more opportunities to move and release excess energy can help them focus on learning.

The U.S. DOE reports that of the OCR’s 16,000 elementary and secondary education disability discrimination complaints received since 2011, more than 10 percent were alleged injustices against students with ADHD. While parent involvement is vital, teachers must understand the difficulties faced by their students with ADHD and resolve to help their progress through meaningful accommodations.

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