Inclusivity in the Classroom: Special Education for Teens with ADHD

The goal for students with learning disabilities is to be able to learn in the least restrictive environment, but the general education classroom is not always equipped to provide adequate direct services that will help your child feel like they’re on the same page as their peers. A common myth about special education is that it is for students with severe intellectual and physical disabilities, however special education refers to an individualized plan designed for students with learning differences, such as ADHD, or emotional and behavioral issues that offers accommodations to help them reach their learning potential. Teens with ADHD are entitled to special education services to help them with time management, organization, emotion regulation, and planning.

Spectrum of Hyperactivity and Inattention

Estimates suggest around 11% of grade-school students have symptoms of ADHD. As ADHD looks different for every kid, support offered can’t be blanket solutions. Although kids are usually identified by teachers in elementary school, symptoms like talking too much in class and forgetting homework are often misunderstood as behavioral problems or low achievement. Special education teachers are trained to recognize the three subtypes of ADHD and to incorporate specific strategies in the classroom that look at these issues as learning differences rather than a reflection of their ability.

Primarily hyperactive-impulsive type

  • Fidgety
  • Has trouble sitting down for an extended period of times
  • Impulsive
  • Talks excessively and struggles to stay quiet
  • Frequently interrupts others and has trouble waiting for their turn

Primarily inattentive type

  • Difficulty staying focused during class, reading, or play activities
  • Struggles to finish tasks they’ve started
  • Makes careless mistakes around attention to details
  • Difficulty staying organized
  • Easily distracted
  • Often forgetful and misplaces things

Primarily combined type

  • Combination of hyperactivity and inattention
  • Most common type

Benefits of Special Education Services:

Smaller Classrooms. Student-teacher ratios are smaller so that teachers can give more individual attention to students.

Trained staff. Teachers have years of experience working with students with ADHD and other learning and neurodevelopmental disorders. They are able to de-escalate situations and offer support without making students feel singled out.

Structure and consistency. Instruction time is broken up into shorter periods and separated by sensory breaks. Homework is also broken up into shorter assignments. Students may be given extended time on assignments to allow for differences in processing time and possible distractions. Teachers may use calendars and  to-do lists to help students stay on track of assignments and begin to self-monitor.

Fewer distractions. Classrooms tend to be designed more simply and information is centralized rather than being spread around the room. Students change classes less often. Sensory breaks, stimulatory toys and colorful teaching materials help students to stay engaged and focused during instruction time.

Peers with similar learning styles. Many teachers implement peer-tutoring, which strengthens communication and collaboration skills. When classroom instruction is altered to accommodate the majority of students, students realize that they are not alone in struggling with certain things.

Encourages creativity. Students are presented with material in a variety of ways. Teachers understand that no two students learn alike and encourage students to look at things from multiple perspectives. There is less of an emphasis on right and wrong and more focus on how students process things differently. Creative expression is an essential part of classroom instruction.

Empowerment. While students may doubt their own abilities when comparing themselves to peers in a general classroom, when their needs are being met, they are able to thrive in the classroom and are proud of their work and achievement. Special education classrooms teach social skills, adaptive skills, and self-advocacy that help students to find success in and out of the classroom.

New Focus Academy is a residential treatment center for boys ages 12-18 who struggle with autism spectrum disorder, other neurodevelopmental disorders, and learning disorders such as ADHD. The program utilizes positive reinforcement to increase the student’s self-esteem and independence.Our academic program teaches Utah’s Common Core Curriculum with a focus on Essential Elements, such as life skills, functional math and language arts skills, community based living skills, and social-emotional skills.  The skills they learn at New Focus will help them learn to have positive social interaction, organization, and improve their self-management. Students are given the opportunity to gain the confidence they need to foster and maintain healthy relationships and lifestyle habits. We can help your family today!