ADHD in Daycare

Strategies for Dealing with ADHD Behaviors in the Preschool Setting

Tips for coping with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder in the classroom.

Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder is characterized by the presence of clinically significant levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity, difficulty waiting in line, interrupting, disorganization, difficulty staying on task, short attention span, and low frustration tolerance.

Many preschool-aged children exhibit ADHD behaviors, and it often difficult for an early childhood educator to know how to manage them. There are many strategies that daycare providers and preschool teachers can use to manage ADHD children and reduce ADHD behaviors.

Positive Communication Between Teachers and Parents

Frequent negative remarks from a preschool teacher often result in school anxiety and worsening of ADHD symptoms in children, according to child neurologist Dr. Sara J. Dorison [in a May, 2008 email interview]. Many times, parents come to pick up their children and the teacher may unload a full list of negative behaviors the ADHD child had during the day.

Dr. Dorison recommends simply saying, “She had a tough day today, but tomorrow will be better!”. Be positive and encouraging. Negative comments should be limited to those written in a note or discussed over the phone and not in the presence of a child with ADHD, since it may cause the child to feel confused and discouraged to hear his teacher convey negative comments.

Gross Motor Movements Reduce ADHD Behaviors

Preschool teachers and daycare providers should review their daily routines and make sure there are frequent opportunities for gross motor activities. Laurie LeComer, author of A Parent’s Guide to Developmental Delays says that gross motor movement that is timed carefully before a child needs to sit and focus can make a big difference for kids.

Target Problematic ADHD Behaviors

It is important to identify one or two “problem behaviors” to target. As an example, if an ADHD child is physically aggressive, then the teacher and child can sit down and discuss that angry hands don’t touch.

“If all behaviors are targeted at once, the child will be confused and unable to meet the demands. This will result in frustration and poor cooperation. Other behaviors such as not cleaning, fidgeting, etc. should be dealt with after the aggression has resolved,” says Dr. Dorison.

Set Loving Limits for Children with ADHD

Here, the teacher empathically helps the child better understand what is going on inside of himself by having the child tell her what he thinks he is feeling or experiencing. Dr. Keith Kanner, child and adolescent clinical psychoanalyst and host of Fox TV’s “Your Family Matters”, says this helps children become a “better boss of their feelings”, by setting some sort of limit.

“Here, the teacher is teaching them about the ‘okayness’ of feelings, without making them feel guilty, but helping them understand cause and effect,” says Dr. Kanner.

Stay Calm in the Face of ADHD Behaviors

Early childhood educators should not become emotionally charged when ADHD behaviors emerge. Dr. Kanner warns that children pick up on anxious teachers and this makes matters worse, and advises that preschool teachers calm themselves down before intervening with an impulsive child

Behavioral Plans and Consultations for Children with ADHD

Dr. Dorison recommends that preschool teachers seek the support of a professional behavioral consultant who can come to the school and help make a behavioral plan for an ADHD child. This professional might be a psychologist that works in the school or the community. Dr. Kanner also suggests obtaining a professional consultation to help early childhood educators determine what is going on inside of a child that exhibits ADHD behaviors.

The most important thing preschool teachers or can do is educate themselves about normal behaviors versus ADHD behaviors. At the moment, stay calm and always have a plan of action for managing problematic behaviors.