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Child with ADHD in the Classical Classroom?

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    Child with ADHD in the Classical Classroom?

    I am preparing for my 2nd year using MP to teach a 4 morning per week tutorial for 2nd/3rd grade. My program covers the entire LA, math, Latin and recitation portions of the curriculum, and next year I will be using Core 3.

    As I have grown as a teacher, I've come to embrace traditional methodology more and more. My classroom this year will be very teacher-centered, routine-oriented, and high structure. It is quiet, focused. I found last year that in this environment (as opposed to the highly student-centered, discovery-based classroom of my public-school teacher-training) I am able to accomplish so much with my students and that they are very satisfied and settled.

    This week, I was asked if I would consider taking another student who has quite severe ADHD. I know this little boy, and he is so precious. He's brilliant--very academically able. However, he's had some pretty significant trauma and life challenges, and likely some inherent neurology that has resulted in him getting kicked out of just about every school and program he's ever tried. The poor guy absolutely cannot keep his hands to himself or control his body, and cannot be unsupervised for even 2 seconds without some altercation happening.

    The one thing that this little guy has never tried, however, is a highly structured, academically rigorous, teacher-centered classroom. Everything...from Boys and Girls Club summer camp to Vacation Bible School, to his public school classroom, is totally discovery-based, child-centered, and high stimuli. He can't handle it.

    I am wondering, am I crazy to think a child like this might do better in a low-stimulus, highly structured school environment? I read Cheryl's sticky post about improving self-control, behavior, and manners, and I have to say, our classroom environment really does hit most of the things on the list. Even our break times are very long recess times where the students can fall into unregulated play...we have two short outside recess times (about 10 minutes each) and I am right with them every second. Then, we are back to work! Our day ends at noon, and they are free to go play at home after that.

    I'd love to know if anyone has had experience with how a sensory-seeking, typically out-of-control child with ADHD might respond in this kind of classroom environment.

    Thanks so much!

    I hope I can add to this without sounding silly here.

    Over the last few weeks, from comments in the forum to conversations with family members to review of my own early grade school report cards, I've come to understand that there is a strong chance that you probably just described me, as a kid. Academically very capable, neurologically highly distractible to the point of being difficult to teach. My report cards show this -

    Even with those challenges, I was in a very structured environment (private christian school) from K-6th (public for 4th only). I was also young compared to everyone else - by about 16 months. I think the structure saved me. I can list some things that helped me that I learned the hard way over time - by 10th grade, my teachers actually seemed to like me! Honestly, many of them "liked" me but found me challenging. A few however...

    1) Sit in the front of the row in the classroom. If the classroom has tables that face each other, it's much harder to keep from getting distracted. Facing kids is bad. Facing teacher is good!
    2) Windows are beautiful and whatever is going on outside is really cool looking...and distracting. Flowers, weather, clouds, kids playing, bugs buzzing... I always wanted to sit next to a window. Who doesn't? But...when there isn't one, my attention is phenomenally better. Maybe alter the blinds so that the light comes in but the details of the outside world do not?
    3) Time limits are your friend. Given a hard deadline, I can accomplish more than most. Time limits give permission to work fast. I love working fast. He might too.
    4) No deadline means It. Will.Not. Get.Done.
    5) Lists. Lots of lists.
    6) You can't get distracted if you are taking notes. Even one word note outlines. If you are required to write down a sentence, a word, or a phrase, you will stay engaged. It's best if you are required to write down everything that the teacher writes on the board, as much as possible. If you are writing, you aren't talking, playing with your pencil, falling out of your chair, picking at your fingernails, twirling your hair...etc. Teachers that write something on the board every couple of minutes are easiest to follow. Handouts that you have to fill in are really great too!
    7) I was always in trouble for not paying attention during read aloud time. It's not that I wasn't paying attention or not participating. It's that I can lose my place or my focus waiting for the transition in the person reading or waiting while another kid works out a difficult passage out loud. Here...if the goal is to test the quality of the reading out loud, then pick the distractible kid FIRST. If the goal is to test patience, attention, etc, well...I don't know how to help. I'm not saying this is right or wrong. I'm just saying that if you want to know the quality of the reading, test this very early in the passage rather than later, because it's likely this kid is reading ahead because the frequent pauses and stops kill the ability to stay in the text.
    8) Try to never be at the back of the line. You walk slower because you are looking at everything else. The pressure of all of the other people behind you waiting keeps you focused. Pressure is good. For that matter, give this kid the line leader job. Giving something "to do" is so much better. Actually, that might be a big thing here. Give this kid a "job" everywhere you can. Like you said, if there is strict direction and focus, it may help a great deal. Give him more tasks than other kids. Is it crazy to outright tell him this "You can do a lot in a short amount of time. I'm going to ask more of you because of this." If you turn his activity into his super power, then maybe it will drive him to want to cooperate more with your structure. Board erasing, line leading, pencil sharpening, collecting the play equipment...I don't know, I'm just brainstorming here. He can't have a very healthy self esteem if he's been kicked out of everything. He probably knows that he annoys people to the point of frustration (sheesh...don't I know it). If you can turn it into something positive, and treat it like it's a good thing that he can move fast, work quickly under stress, have a big role in helping the class, then that could turn the tide. It can make him the ultimate multi-tasker rather than the kid who can't stay out of trouble for 2 minutes.

    Now that I have 4 kids of my own, I'm actually really grateful for this "talent". I find it comes in handy. A couple of my kiddos have similar tendencies too. Here's what I've added to the list from an adult teaching perspective.
    1) Movement that doesn't get out of control. I have a wiggler with DS 5(nearly 6). He just can't keep still. I found a trick just last week that did something cool. During flashcards, I made him stand up. If he got one wrong, he would have to jump up and down while he recited the correct problem with its answer 5 times. I swear, he often got them wrong or just blind guessed because he didn't want to do them. Being required to jump - a lot - seemed to encourage him to get more of them right. Also, he got tired. Wiggles were gone for the next hour!
    2) During tests/quizzes, close the windows and doors. No music. No TV on that can be heard.
    3) Having a sip of water every so often seems to pull them back to good. Don't know why.
    4) The signal. I swear this was a big one. I created a signal for my kids which basically says "You are getting out of control. Calm it down" I just tug on my right ear lobe. Here's how it works.
    Kid starts acting silly (comedian, joking, drawing attention to himself).
    I say their name and get eye contact. I pull on my ear lobe (think baseball pitcher).
    Kid pauses, takes a deep breath, responds "Yes ma'am" and stops. (Yes, they have to pause long enough to take that deep breath)
    Continue with what I was saying.
    If I have to do it more than twice, we are going to face consequences.
    This has the benefit of correction, without totally calling out. Kiddo gets the chance to self correct. You don't have to line out everything they are doing wrong. It's much more discreet, gets results, and doesn't create constant public shame. We formally talk about this. I started it for one kid and then decided it was handy for all of them. Now, everyone knows what it is. It's very helpful in public. I'm not saying to do this for the whole class....just for the kid specifically. If he gets the signal, he might self correct a bit better.

    Good luck with whatever you choose. If it helps, the teachers that seemed kind and seemed to like me and acted as if I had a real contribution to the class (and they may have been pretending looking at my long list of report cards) had the greatest impact on me. Honestly, I've always considered it a superpower!
    Last edited by cherylswope; 07-06-2019, 08:58 AM. Reason: errant word

    DS (MP3) - 9
    DS (MP2) - 7/8
    DS (K) - 6
    DD (Adorable distraction) 2 1/2


      Hi, ShawnaB.

      I love your post! Thank you for sharing this.

      The key to success will be in forethought and planning. If you decide to do this, let us know. MBentley gave you good "insider tips" to implement. We can share additional tips here.

      For several years I served full-time among twelve elementary schools as the coordinator of and consultant for such placements. I would love to see this young man succeed in your program.

      For a reference guide with resources and strategies, consider our updated & expanded second edition Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child. We had begun receiving requests for information on scenarios just as you describe, so we address this and more in the new edition for both the home school and classroom.


        Melissa--wow. Thank you for that extremely helpful response. That was fully beyond all my expectation, and I'm so grateful! I love what you say about preempting his need for activity with purposeful work. And to just-say-no to students sitting around a table looking at each other. I actually started my year with my then 1st/2nd graders, none of whom have particular attention challenges beyond what is common for all students that age, sitting around a table. In February, I changed our configuration to forward sitting and teacher standing in front and it made a HUGE difference for the better!

        And setting time limits is a very good point as well. I can see how that would be beneficial. I do think this young man has a tremendous capacity to accomplish a lot.

        What really breaks my heart is the emotional toll of constantly being kicked out of program after program, and I sure don't want this to be another such experience! He is such a sweet, precious child, and yet he really thinks he is nothing but trouble. And his poor grandmother, who is raising him! I think she has PTSD every time the phone rings and it is the school or the summer camp.

        I am not so proud or naive as to think that I can do for this child what many, many have not been able. I certainly cannot. But perhaps the distinctions of the classroom model might be worth trying. You all are encouraging me to stay open to the idea and pray about it.

        And Cheryl, I will get a copy of the book! I didn't realize it covered behavior scenarios. I don't see that there will be any need to adapt the curriculum for this child, but rather to adapt management strategies and environment.

        Thank you both SO MUCH.


          Originally posted by ShawnaB View Post
          What really breaks my heart is the emotional toll of constantly being kicked out of program after program, and I sure don't want this to be another such experience! He is such a sweet, precious child, and yet he really thinks he is nothing but trouble. And his poor grandmother, who is raising him! I think she has PTSD every time the phone rings and it is the school or the summer camp.

          I am not so proud or naive as to think that I can do for this child what many, many have not been able. I certainly cannot. But perhaps the distinctions of the classroom model might be worth trying. You all are encouraging me to stay open to the idea and pray about it.
          Yeah...there is that. The early years are tough. It's confusing how something like "good behavior" is so natural to most people - it's like they seem to know and understand the social rules and can easily follow them. I was always "in trouble". I never did anything "bad" - but I was always in trouble. Yet, no one would have accused me of being disobedient, rude, or disrespectful to authority. It's like I was just socially out of sync with nearly everyone else. Everyone else could sit still, stay focused, be quiet, not draw attention to themselves, stay on task, use their time wisely.... I frustrated one teacher (2nd) so much that she took my desk and put it outside of the classroom. To pay attention, I would have to peer in the doorway from the hall.

          Short story:

          Honestly, I had forgotten much of this and it's really coming back to me lately now that I am teaching my own kids who are in the same age range. I realized I was frustrating one of my sons to the point of tears because he felt like he was always getting into "trouble" during school. The day he said "I just can't do anything right"...I paused. Actually, I wanted to cry myself. I remembered my 6-7 year old self and those feelings. It sent me on a wicked house - wide search for my old report card records.

          We went through these one by one. He was so confused. How could his Mama be critiqued this way? Kids have trouble thinking of adults as having been kids once. There it was, concrete evidence that I had the exact same struggles that he was having. Bless his heart, he got angry at my old teachers. He thought they were being "mean" to me. It wasn't just one or two - many of them had some comments about my behaviors. I had to gently explain that they weren't being mean - they were teaching me. This report wasn't just about grades. It could show areas I'm doing well, and areas I needed to work on. Some of my behaviors made it very difficult for someone to teach me, and could also make it difficult if it disrupted the class and interfered with the learning of others. My grades might show that I was doing "well enough", but it doesn't show that I learned everything that I should have. Those teachers had so much more to give me and I needed to work on these areas so that I could really grow as a student. It's not that I was a "bad" kid. It's that there are correct and incorrect behaviors. I think that's a real key here - distinguish the difference between correct and incorrect behaviors for a given situation. Getting them wrong does not make a person "bad". Getting them wrong means that they need more practice getting them right.

          I compared these expected behaviors to math problems. If I mark a problem wrong on a math worksheet, I'm not saying that the he is dumb. I'm saying that the problem needed more attention, maybe a review. I'm saying that there could have been a distraction that caused a mistake. In any case, we go back, practice the correct response, and move on. That's it. Being "good at math" can be taken down to one principle - practice. If you want to be better at math, you practice (like you say - a mastery approach). When you practice, you get better. For some people, math seems "easy", "natural", etc. They don't have to practice nearly as hard as others who really must put in the time to master it. That easy learning talent frustrates many people who weren't "gifted" with it.

          I'm taking forever to say that you have to really avoid making broad generalizations here and maybe try to gently teach that to him. If he thinks he is "nothing but trouble", then that really must be backtracked. That kind of negative self talk will only hold him back. Getting a math problem wrong doesn't make you "dumb" . It shows a need for more practice. Getting these behaviors wrong doesn't make you "bad". It shows a need for more practice of the correct behaviors.

          Another thing I did was show him my 3rd grade curriculum manual - p 99 for 3rd - "Standards for Excellent Teaching in the Classroom". I let him read it, even though it was directed at me, the teacher. He could clearly see that I'm following a protocol, and that I'm not "making it up as I go". These are "THE" official expectations, and they are very clear. That alone had a huge impact because it stated, in clear terms, this is what the class will look like. It takes away the mystery of what other kids seem to intuitively know. I underlined the very specific behaviors that he struggles with. I pointed out that this book was written years ago, and they are not "picking on anyone" or "being mean". The book establishes precisely what is considered an "incorrect" behavior. I wouldn't be much of a teacher if I allowed him to continue doing something incorrect, and never told him otherwise. So, anything that deviates will be "corrected". If his behavior falls into one of these categories of correction, he can EXPECT that I will firmly stop the incorrect behavior, and we will again practice the correct one. Over time, this will get easier because we will have practiced it so much. I proved that to him by showing that over time, the comments about my incorrect behavior were fewer and fewer. Putting in the practice of the correct behavior will get results.

          I cautioned him not to get the wrong idea when I correct his behavior. I will be firm, but I am NOT being mean - I am only showing him where he's deviated from the correct to the incorrect and we are going to pause, reset, and get back on track. I promised I would work not to be frustrated with him either. However, I would not tolerate him not listening, or failing to follow through with the self correction - any more than I would allow him to leave incorrect math problems un-checked. Just as he must correct his incorrect math answers, I will expect him to correct his incorrect behavior when I signal it's happening (That signal note above).

          When this event happens, and he pauses, breathes, and responds "Yes, ma'am", I acknowledge it with a smile, or a soft "good job" or "well done". He knows what that means. He feels better. He's happy that I'm happy with him.

          The very last thing I showed him was a Bible Verse. There are quite a few that talk about accepting correction. This one is short and to the point. "To learn, you must love discipline, it is stupid to hate correction". Proverbs 12:1 (NLT).

          This is a very personal approach, and the only reason I'm sharing this is so that you can see one possible way of addressing it. It's a "next level" type of conversation and although he may seem young for it, his life experiences have already been "next level". This approach is very direct and it over-teaches what is expected. Kids that struggle in these areas might benefit because it isn't nebulous and vague. Going back to my own personal history, I can't honestly tell you what I was doing "wrong", only that I was causing "trouble". Rather than be signaled for correction, I was punished. Back then, it was allowed for teachers to repeatedly slap the palm of your hand with a wooden ruler, give swats, kicked outside of the class, loss of recess privileges, writing sentences etc. I'm not advocating "no discipline". I'm saying that this cycle of wrong behavior/punishment/ostracizing didn't end for a very long time. This kid you are considering teaching knows what punishment is. He clearly has a sense of "right/wrong and good/bad". His self esteem has taken a beating because he can only conclude that he causes trouble no matter what. Other people are naturally "good" and he isn't. Don't underestimate yourself here - you are more than capable of teaching this kid effectively. Perhaps, some direct communication from you about what you expect and how you will be treating him, and what you want him to do with specifics. If you had the chance to outline that one-on-one before you begin the class, then you can't be considered "mean", nor can he consider himself "bad". For him, this will be a full on reset to his educational program. That change up could make him more receptive. If he understands that you believe him good, and that you will coach him to getting better at class time, then you really might change his life.


          DS (MP3) - 9
          DS (MP2) - 7/8
          DS (K) - 6
          DD (Adorable distraction) 2 1/2


            Originally posted by MBentley View Post
            Those teachers had so much more to give me and I needed to work on these areas so that I could really grow as a student. It's not that I was a "bad" kid. It's that there are correct and incorrect behaviors. I think that's a real key here - distinguish the difference between correct and incorrect behaviors for a given situation. Getting them wrong does not make a person "bad". Getting them wrong means that they need more practice getting them right.

            This is such a great way to communicate this issue with the kiddos! I also love your idea to share the classroom expectations with the kids. I have used that with specific assignment instructions, but it never occurred to me to use it for the behavioral aspects.

            Thanks for the great insight!

            DD16 MP11
            DS16 11th grade SPed charter, MP3
            DS9 MP 3
            DS7 MP Jr K
            DS4 MP Jr K


              There was a mama on here who has since enrolled her special needs child in bricks and mortar school due to life circumstances.

              He really struggled at first. So, the school set up a modified schedule. He only attended half days for half of the week. Just kind of eased him into the routine. This went on for weeks, possibly a whole semester. I'm not sure. I know it wasn't just a week. It took her boy time to adjust to the sensory load, the academics, the behavior expectations. I thought it was genius.

              Maybe gently starting this child. Attend for one hour to start. Attend everyother day. Something to very intentionally build a successful school day instead of having yet another poor experience. Plus, it gives everybody a break; the child, the teacher, the other students as you all build up endurance.
              Married to DH for 14 years. Living the rural life in the Colorado mountains

              DS11- Simply Classical 5/6
              DD9- Simply Classical 5/6 (neurotypical, but schooling with big brother to save mom's sanity)
              DD 6- Classic Core First Grade

              We've completed:
              Classic Core Jr. kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
              Simply Classical levels B, C, 1, 2, 3, and 4.


                Hello again, and thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful responses and encouragement! I want to give a quick update. I've been in contact with this child's grandparents (his guardians), and we are all taking some time to think and pray about what might be best for him, and what each of us is able and willing to do. For grandma and grandpa, both of whom work together running a small business, the idea of having their grandson home at noon Mon-Thurs and all day Friday is an adjustment. They have never homeschooled any child, although grandma is a high school and college-level science teacher (retired). She has said that her grandson does very well one-on-one and is a very eager learner. He would likely do VERY well as a completely homeschooled student, but I don't think that is a reality for him in this situation. I guess the idea of keeping your child home and spending every day teaching them is just a little bit of a non-starter for a lot of "normal (non-homeschooling) people! LOL!

                So even the part-time school approach is a bit of a stretch for everyone.

                They are also taking this little guy in for a medical evaluation and may consider trying ADHD medication. I know this is a controversial topic, but in this case, with this child, I am glad to hear they are open to exploring that route. For some children, the use of short-acting meds can be life-changing for the good...particularly for those who HAVE to go to school.

                So that is where we are. In the meantime, I am devouring the resources about classroom management that have been shared with me by the MP consultants from HLS teachers. What a treasure trove of wisdom. I am doing my best to create a classroom with an environment that is conducive to successful learning for all kinds of students.