How to Motivate a Child with ADHD

How to Motivate a Child with ADHDAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD, presents problems for children who try to get work done.  ADHD includes symptoms of physical hyperactivity, which is the “H” in ADHD.  Inattentive ADHD, which was called ADD in the past, presents with no signs of hyperactivity, and individuals tend to be more laid-back with no disruptive tendencies.  

Those with inattentive ADHD are generally creative, insightful, and very positive.  They tend to think independently and have an unyielding attitude. They also appear to have a certain “charm” about them and the ability to inspire others.

Symptoms of inattentive ADHD

  • Trouble following instruction and deviate from task to task
  • Forgetting day to day activities
  • Avoiding tasks with an emphasis on focusing
  • Seeming to daydream and are easily distracted
  • Getting bored very easily
  • Missing details
  • Trouble getting and staying organized

Those with ADHD with hyperactivity have a tendency not to “think before they act.”  They seem not to have a “filter,” meaning they often blurt out comments that may be inappropriate, exhibit emotions without self-control, and do not think about consequences.

Symptoms of hyperactive ADHD

  • Interrupting others
  • Blurting out answers
  • Excessive talking
  • Leaving his or her seat when the expectation is to sit
  • Having difficulty participating in games or activities that require a quiet setting
  • Fidgeting or seeming to be constantly in “motion”

Those who have ADHD require a great deal of time to develop study skills. Studies have shown that the brain works like every other muscle in our body.  Although there are differences in the “growth” of the brain compared to other muscles, it is able to retain massive amounts of information.  The brain is able to organize thoughts and patterns, which increases creativity and cognitive resilience.  While exposing the brain to new ideas, the ADHD brain requires repetition of ideas and skills to gain effective study skills, goal-setting, and motivation.

How to motivate your student with ADHD     

Focus on Structure

Structure and routine are an important part of keeping a student with ADHD engaged. A structured environment should be predictable.  A daily routine helps students with ADHD have the structure needed to be successful in academics, as well as in their day to day life. Students who have ADHD battle with the ability to regulate behaviors.  Because of this, they are challenged with impulsive behaviors and self-control.   Therefore,  students with ADHD needs structure to help them manage their symptoms.

Give them Praise

Catching your student doing something right is the perfect time to praise them.  When you do, give them a high-five, a hug, or use words such as “That’s fantastic,” or “Well done.”  Words or gestures of praise not only feel good to the students, but it also encourages them to continue with the behavior in the future.  Congratulating the student with ADHD is one of  the best motivators they can receive.

Negative Motivation

Negative motivation should be used sporadically or it will lose its effectiveness.  For students with ADHD, there must be clear boundaries and consequences.  Following through with consequences lets the students know that any discipline is done out of concern and because you care about them.

Keep a Positive Environment

Students with ADHD generally have trouble focusing, especially if they are not interested in the topic.  One the most effective tools is to keep a positive environment by using positive language that encourages better behaviors.  Assure the students that you will work together to get the work done and make sure they understand that you will be looking for good behavior and work. 

Offer Rewards 

Students with ADHD who are having trouble with motivation may respond to rewards. Find out what the students like: are they more interested in a certain sporting event, a specific band, or more time on the computer? Advise students that if they follow through with specific tasks (i.e. homework, getting better grades) they will be rewarded.  Although this is not an ideal method, it may be what is needed to motivate student who are unmotivated otherwise.

Extracurricular Activities

If students with ADHD have an interest in extracurricular activities such as sports or music, encourage them to pursue it.  Coaches or other instructors can offer support in ways of positive reinforcement, structure, or other forms of assistance.  Finding the strengths of students with ADHD is important.  By finding what works best for them and adapting it to other parts of their life will help alleviate negative behaviors and likely will improve academics as well.

For students with ADHD, motivation is essential.  It is difficult to teach a student who is unwilling or unmotivated: it cannot be forced upon them.

We must remember that what motivates students who do not have ADHD may not work with those who do.  Also, motivation is not consistent: it can change over time, especially with students who have ADHD. Therefore, be willing to change and never become complacent.   

What ideas do you use to motivate your child?  We would love to hear your ideas in the comment area!

Author: Pam Crum, Lead Teacher at A Grade Ahead

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