Meeting the Needs of Kids with ADHD

Tonya Langdon —  May 3, 2011

Yesterday, I wrote about the three categories of symptoms for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Today,  I would like to offer some suggestions for how to balance needs of the entire classroom while still meeting the needs of the child with ADHD.

  1. Be flexible! Be Creative! Engage all their senses! Skits and game lessons can enhance their learning. Understanding their learning style will also assist you in bringing the Bible to life for them.  For some children, movement is critical for learning.
  2. Develop a genuine and caring bond with the child. Sending hand written notes about what a great kid they are or for their birthday speaks volume into their lives. I have witnessed the changes in children who were disruptive and/or squirmy in class. However, after they have received a note that is mailed to them they feel valued and it shows in classroom behavior. Your words are powerful. Kids that “fall in love” with their teachers are far more cooperative.
  3. Positive reinforcement. Try starting the compliment with “I noticed….”. The compliment MUST be true and not necessarily based on their behavior or activites at church. For example “I noticed Tom, that you have been participating in our class discussion. I really appreciate your viewpoint” or “Sally, I noticed that you went over and helped the younger children without being asked! Thank you!” To really make an impact on the child, let them hear you brag to their parents what they are doing right! Their parents will appreciate it (most of the time they only hear about the negative things their child is doing or not doing). A pat on the back, a kind smile, a high five, etc… are meaningful in any child’s life.
  4. Have clear and consistent rules. Make sure the discipline is fair and fits the misbehavior. Be sure that you separate a child’s misbehavior from a deficit in social skills. Don’t assume that a child understands the unwritten social cues. You may have to help them through this process so they can learn what they did wrong and what their options are to ensure that they do not repeat the error
  5. Come up with simple signs between you and the child that are decided on them before hand. My favorite signal is to make eye contact with the child and tap my nose to let them know I need their attention. This does not single them out or drawing undue attention to them. Another one of my other signals is to let the child they need to quiet down. I do this by bringing my hands from an open position, slowly bringing finger tips towards my thumbs simultaneously. Very subtle and easy to do without disrupting the class and leaving the child in question with thier dignity.
  6. Give them a piece of clay, a squishy toy or sensory ball for them to fidget with during lesson time. Some kids can concentrate better if their hands are in motion. I have found the squishy toys for $1 at Target, Walmart or a party supply store. If they like to draw in order to process the lesson, ask them to sketch a picture of the lesson that they are hearing.
  7. In my classroom all the kids sit on the floor with their legs crossed or laying on their belly. For some children this makes it easier to squirm when they feel the need and is less disruptive to the rest of the class. My goal is for them to learn, so if laying on their bellies with their Bibles open and participating helps them, then I have achieved my goal (additionally this feels less like school).  
  8. Above all have patience, warmth and a sense of humor!

ADHD doesn’t “go away” but we can help these youngsters to learn, to problem solve, help them develop a healthy sense of self, and with the love of Jesus they can be all that God has called them to be. You might not see how you impact a child’s life;but since you are the hands and feet of Jesus for these children, you make a big difference in their lives. 

For more tips or ideas you can contact me at

Tonya Langdon

Posts Twitter Facebook

Tonya is married with three children. Tonya currently spearheads The Agape Connections (special needs ministry), teaches the 4th & 5th grade Sunday school class and leads a support group for parents who have children with A.D.H.D. and Behavioral Disorders at Skyline Church in La Mesa, Ca. The Agape Connections work with families who have special needs children so the entire family is able to attend church services and age appropriate church activities. In Tonya’s “free time” she is studying for ordination, writes articles and co-owns an office products business with her brother.

3 responses to Meeting the Needs of Kids with ADHD

  1. Tonya, Thanks for this great information…I especially appreciate your comments about the teachers’ words being powerful…this is so true! AND~ I love the instruction to use the phrase “I notice…” and to follow through with parents. Our words as Sunday School teachers/staff/volunteers might be the only positive words those parents hear all week!
    Many thanks for your expertise!

    • Katie,
      Thank you for your kinds words.

      You are right about the positive words. My son, who is now 26, has ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and was adopted as a “failure to thrive baby”. Many days, no weeks, I only heard negative things about him. Not many people were willing or able to see the good things that he was doing.
      Typical kids are also on short supply of getting kudos from any adults for various reasons. That s why I am so bent on accentuating the positive.


  2. Nice post. Your comments about the importance of providing kids with ADHD encouragement and affirmation are especially on target.