Harnessing ADHD—The Power of ADHD in the Classroom

written by: Eagle Hill School
We often think of students who have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) as students who have a learning disability. While it is true that these children may learn differently than others, viewing this difference as a dis-ability is a mistake.

Instead of categorizing ADHD as an impairment, we should consider that perhaps these children have extraordinary powers that allow them to think in new and imaginative ways.

The Power of ADHD

ADHD is characterized by a common inattentiveness, or a tendency to bounce from idea to idea, sometimes so rapidly that it seems like these ideas aren’t connected. However, for many students suffering with ADHD, the world to them doesn’t seem like a spinning vortex, but rather an infinitely interesting place with countless possibilities.

Most children with ADHD desperately want to learn the course material in front of them, but because of the way their brains are wired, they simply can’t. Instead of trying to force these unique students into a standard mold, educators, schools, and parents should consider ways to reframe their lessons in a context that makes sense for them.

Pick Up the Pace

The brain of someone with ADHD works a bit differently than a typical brain. Because of this, when things are paced at normal speed, people with ADHD find themselves bored or unable to focus. However, when in crisis, or when things are just moving a bit faster, their brains respond differently. What seems like breakneck speed to us feels normal to them.

As educators we can leverage this in our lesson plans and classroom discussions, building off this energy in ways that allow these students to move at a pace more natural to them.
  • Free Flow—Consider trying regular discussions about topics that are allowed to move freely in any direction instead of following a strict script.
  • Game On—Playing “games” is a great way to stimulate and engage the entire class. These games can range from actual tabletop games that reflect the course material to simply involving each student in playing a role in a story or contributing a key piece of information.
Get Creative
Quite literally...get creative. People with ADHD process an enormous amount of information—just like people without ADHD. However, their filtering system doesn’t organize and process this information in the same way a “normal” brain does. This is called executive functioning, and many people with ADHD suffer in this area.

While it can be exhausting for sufferers to deal with such a large input of constant information, it can also, and has also, made for some of the greatest creations and inventions in the world. Because these lines of thought are not conventional, they often are new approaches to problems or completely novel ideas.

Reframe the Conversation

When thinking about how to best educate our students and children with ADHD, we should take a step back and reexamine how we look at the situation as a whole.

These students are often the brightest and most creative in the classroom. Tailoring programs to better suit their needs and working with them on an individual basis are essential first steps in reworking the current model. If these children start to feel empowered, like they too can be major contributors, a whole new horizon will begin to open for them.

What is Learning Diversity About?

Learning Diversity is a blog hosted by Eagle Hill School where educators, students, and other members of the LD community regularly contribute posts and critical essays about learning and living in spaces that privilege the inevitability of human diversity.

The contributors of Learning Diversity come together to engage our readers from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences and mathematics, athletics, and residential life. Embracing learning diversity means understanding and respecting our students as whole persons.

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Eagle Hill School

An innovative approach to LD education in a classic New England boarding school environment, where diverse learners achieve success.