Categories
ADHD

Student Perspective: Creating a Safe Environment for Students with Learning Differences

Creating a safe classroom environment for students with learning differences can have a lasting positive impact on their educational experiences. This post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. 

One critical aspect of every student’s learning experience is the classroom environment created by the teacher. Every teacher has a different classroom environment, and some may be a better fit for certain students. In my post, I will highlight the factors that I find critical in creating a positive and inclusive classroom environment for students with learning differences. 

Encourage Positive Self-Talk

Within a classroom, it is vital to encourage positivity. In many classrooms, teachers either encourage or don’t discourage people with executive function disorders to be demeaning to themselves. This can lead to other students in the class feeling that it is acceptable to be demeaning to these students as well.

There were many students in my English class with dyslexia and ADHD. My teacher created an environment where these students constantly called themselves ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid.’ Then students without learning differences in the class called someone ‘dumb’ because they could not perform a ‘normal’ English task like spelling words. Other students called a boy with ADHD highly disruptive because he forgot to take his medication. When I expressed to my teacher that I felt uncomfortable with my classmates calling each other ‘dumb’ because of their neurodiverse identities, she dismissed my claim and said it is just normal teenage behavior.

Discourage Negative Talk about Intelligence

As a teacher, if you want to foster a healthy classroom environment, you must try to discourage negative talk about students’ intelligence. It harms the students in the class who have learning differences for two reasons. First, it can make them think they are stupid for having a learning difference. Second, a negative classroom cannot foster learning.

Teachers need to help neurotypical students realize it’s not ok to make fun of the kids with learning differences. When you want to discourage this type of negative behavior, it isn’t effective to tell students to stop within the classroom. If you do, students with learning differences may have more negative thoughts about themselves. Instead, you should talk to the student one-on-one outside of class time to try to find out why they feel they are dumb and help them realize that they are just as intelligent as everyone else in their classes. 

To read more student perspectives, check out the Real-Life Experiences with Remote Learning series. If you are interested in building your executive function toolkit, join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 27th, July 29th, August 3rd, and August 5th).

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
ADHD Dyslexia Executive Function Stress Studying

Student Perspective: The Need to Preview Material

Incorporating executive function strategies into your curriculum can make a big difference for students. This post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. 

As a learner, it’s hard for me to finish assignments or do them correctly if I don’t know why I’m doing them. It is important for teachers to take time to preview material and explain the purpose behind assignments. Here are a couple of examples.

Preview Upcoming Topics

At the beginning of each trimester, it is beneficial to go over what the class will be studying. Many teachers try to do this, but in my experience, they don’t go in-depth enough. I would encourage teachers to give students more background information.

For instance, if you’re teaching about World War II in history class, tell students many aspects of what they will be studying instead of just telling them they will be covering World War II. Doing this helps students understand the scope of the material they will be covering in class and slowly eases them in, making them feel they have more control in the classroom. It’s also good for students to know what to expect once they get to the topic because it will seem less overwhelming than just jumping right in.

Preview Large Projects

It is also helpful to preview material before a large project. When introducing a new project to a class, it is essential to explain to students why the project is important. If students do not understand the reasoning behind the project, they may feel that the project is not relevant to them.

Another important step is to outline what the project should look like. While it may be difficult to present guidelines for more open-ended projects, it is vital for people who struggle with executive function.

Before you formally teach a topic or introduce new material, make sure your students have a brief understanding of what lies ahead so they won’t feel overwhelmed when they get to that topic. Previewing material can ensure that students are better prepared to complete their work and turn in higher-quality assignments.

To read more student perspectives, check out the Real-Life Experiences with Remote Learning series.

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
ADHD focus

Fidgeting and Executive Function

Students love to fidget, right? From fidget spinners to Rubik’s cubes to doodling, there is almost an entire industry dedicated to keeping students’ hands busy. But fidgeting is more than that; fidgeting might also help support executive function.

Fidgeting and the Brain

A recent study, led by Justin Fernandez at Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI), is reinforcing the benefits of fidgeting. While the study looked at the brains of people with ADHD specifically, these findings have important implications for acknowledging how students actually learn, especially when it comes to executive function.

The study found that, when the subjects were allowed to fidget, the blood flow to the prefrontal cortex increased. The prefrontal cortex is the seat of your brain’s executive function processes. We all know that executive function is essential for successful learning, so the importance of fidgeting must be recognized.

Viewed in this light, fidgeting deserves another look. Seeing students doodling or tapping away with their pencil is often interpreted as being off task. However, if fidgeting is a way to power up the brain, then perhaps fidgeting is adaptive, a part of the problem-solving process.

Fidgets for All

While many students with ADHD have access to fidgets in their 504 plans, all students can benefit from well-timed fidgeting. The need to fidget is universal, especially during remote or hybrid learning. From a movement break or a quick doodle to fidget toys like the Fidgi Pen, there are many ways to let your students fidget. (Does note-taking count as a fidget? We like to think so.)

Use Fidgets Productively

Of course, a fidget free-for-all can be pretty distracting (some teachers might still have a few confiscated fidget spinners in their desk drawer). Take time to teach students how to use fidgets productively. Talk about the best time to fidget or what kinds of activities are less distracting to others. Help students see fidgeting as a productive step in completing their work instead of something to hide when the teacher looks your way.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
ADHD Uncategorized

15 Relatable ADHD Memes to Brighten Your Day

ADHD makes life hard for students, teachers, parents, everyone!

While executive function strategies can help students succeed, sometimes students with ADHD are going to have a tough time. That’s when it is important to let off steam and remember that others face similar ADHD challenges. Here are some of our favorite funny ADHD memes that will hopefully help you, or someone you know, have a good laugh and know that they are not alone.

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We hope that these make you laugh! What are your favorite ADHD memes? Let us know in the comments.

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
ADHD

Why Is ADHD So Often Missed in Girls?

We know that girls are diagnosed with ADHD less frequency than boys, even though both boys and girls have ADHD at the same rates. Unfortunately, this under-diagnosis of girls continues to be a problem.

I’m glad to see that The BBC is covering this issue as one of the keys to fixing this problem is publicizing that there is a problem to begin with! The article lays out clearly exactly what ADHD is and how it affects boys and girls similarly, supporting this important point with easy-to-understand statistics.

The author goes on to address the impact social conditioning has on how girls with ADHD often don’t appear as hyperactive as boys with ADHD:“Girls are far less likely to bounce around the classroom, fighting with the teachers and their colleagues,” says Helen Read, a consultant psychiatrist and ADHD lead for a large London NHS Trust. “A girl who did that would be so criticised by peers and other people that it is just far harder for girls to behave in that way.”While girls with ADHD are more likely to be expected to behave in school, the consequence is that they will fly under the radar and struggle with untreated ADHD for years, often with disastrous consequences. Emily Johnson-Ferguson, an adult woman with ADHD interviewed for the article, describes who her struggles with ADHD led her to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

Students with ADHD, regardless of their gender, need to learn about how ADHD impacts them in addition to strategies and supports designed to help them cope with the way their brain functions.

I think this would be a particularly good article to share with any parents or colleagues who are not aware of the prevalence of ADHD and girls. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Categories
ADHD

Self-Compassion and Managing ADHD

We all have moments when we experience anxiety, doubt, and frustration. Experiencing stressful emotions is hard enough; managing them, especially if you have ADHD, can be even more challenging. One way to ease the stress is to practice self-compassion.While negative thought patterns are not always harmful, they can become self-destructive when we fixate on them and become paralyzed with self-doubt. This can create a toxic cycle of procrastinating to avoid experiences that trigger negative feelings, which can lead to failure that reinforces those feelings.

There are many brain-based strategies for promoting emotional regulation, but one powerful way to break this harmful cycle is to practice self-compassion. How? One way, described in a recent article from ADDitudemag.com, is to talk to yourself as you would to your best friend.

When a friend is in distress, our first instinct is to comfort them with kind words. However, many of us don’t practice positive self-talk when dealing with our own mistakes, so we can’t learn from our mistakes. If you find yourself thinking, “I am a screw up, I always make mistakes!” offer yourself the advice you would give to a friend. Tell yourself something like, “Everyone makes mistakes. This is not the end of the world. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

Of course, this is easier said than done. To get started, try this simple mindfulness self-compassion strategy. (As you know, we here at SMARTS are all about systematic strategies!)

Set a timer for several minutes (anywhere from five to 15 minutes will do), and follow these instructions:

  1. Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable posture.
  2. Take a few deep breaths. Gather your attention… focus on the movement of your body with each full breath.
  3. Next, with each inhalation, observe it all… Then consider, “Everyone has moments like this.”
  4. With each exhalation, set an intention: “May I find strength and kindness for myself right now.”
  5. You will get distracted almost immediately. That’s what our mind does. Treat that distraction in the same way — it happens, no need for frustration, come back to take the next breath.
  6. Continue in this way for a few breaths or until your timer goes off. Do you think this self-compassion strategy would be helpful for your students? What other strategies do you use? Let us know in the comments!

Do you think this self-compassion strategy would be helpful for your students? What other strategies do you use? Let us know in the comments!

Categories
ADHD Learning Differences

Where Are All the Characters with ADHD? Here!

When kids read or watch a TV show or movie, they are looking for stories that in some way reflect or validate their own experience. That’s why it is so important to provide students with media that reflect the real-world diversity found in the classroom.

We have compiled a list of characters with ADHD diagnoses (or who probably should have a diagnosis). Some of these characters are more appropriate for adults (you may regret showing your kids The Hangover), but there are options for just about any age!


We’d like to say that this is THE comprehensive list of characters with ADHD, but we are really only scratching the surface. By sharing a book, show, or movie where a main character has ADHD, you are showing your students that not only is having ADHD perfectly normal, but oftentimes the traits of ADHD can come in handy as the characters navigate the challenges they face.

Characters with an official ADHD diagnosis
Characters that have many ADHD traits but no diagnosis (perhaps because the term ADHD did not exist)

So, what do you think? Did we miss any of your favorites?

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