Managing ADHD In Preschool

Strategies for Dealing with ADHD Behaviors in Daycare

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, disorganization, difficulty staying on task, short attention span, difficulty waiting in line, interrupting, and low frustration tolerance.

Many preschool-aged children may exhibit ADHD behaviors and it often difficult for a preschool teacher to know how to manage them. There are several strategies that daycare providers and preschool teachers can use to manage ADHD children and ADHD behaviors.

Set Realistic Expectations

Adults who work with children must set reasonable expectations of their students, especially if they exhibit ADHD behaviors. Child neurologist Dr. Sara J. Dorison explains that insisting that a child sits for extended periods of time is likely to be unattainable.

Therefore, a teacher would be wise to allow ADHD children a bit more leeway in terms of physical activity. “If the child is not able to meet expectations, then the expectations need to be changed or accommodations can be made such as allowing a child to run class errands or hand out snacks instead of trying to wait quietly,” says Dr. Dorison.

Encourage the Child

It is vital that adults working with children with ADHD be very positive and encouraging. A child with ADHD may not feel good about him or herself and the fact that he is struggling. It is important to keep ADHD children motivated to succeed.

According to Dr. Dorison, it is essential that the teacher comment positively at unexpected times regarding good behavior. If you find an ADHD child behaving, complimenting him or her increases the positive behavior and the child’s interest in complying.

Dr. Keith Kanner, child and adolescent clinical psychoanalyst and host of Fox TV’s “Your Family Matters”, discourages disciplining or shaming the child in front of the class. Instead, use private talk times to get your point across.

Also, when a child is missing information or not able to control impulses, Laurie LeComer, author of A Parent’s Guide to Developmental Delay [Perigee Trade,2006], recommends taking a “Partner in Success” or “Guide” approach.

Preschool teachers should keep the class feeling positively towards an ADHD child. “Often the other children in the class feel negatively towards a child that hits and gets reprimanded by the teacher. When an ADHD child has a good day, the teacher can say to the class, ‘Let’s all cheer for Jane since she had a great day with no angry hands touching!’” says Dr. Dorison.

Help Children Express Their Feelings

Children who are impulsive are not good communicators and often are afraid of their feelings. For this reason, preschool teachers and daycare providers must help preschoolers use their words to express their feelings. “When a loving teacher tells them that it is okay to feel something and guides them into appropriate expression, they feel less anxious and oftentimes reduce acting out, ” says Dr. Kanner.

Dr. Kanner also stresses the importance of helping preschool-aged children with conflict resolution. When early childhood educators facilitate this process, it helps children understand each other and the practice of solving conflicts with other students. The children will then internalize the process and it will be generalized for future situations.

Positive Reward System

Set up a reward system where the child or the entire class will earn preferred objects or activities for good behavior. “Choose the expected behaviors carefully. You want to place positive focus on something the child does well,” advises LeComer.

Dr. Dorison recommends a reward system that could be implemented every hour, depending on how severe the issue is. For example, a child might receive a sticker every hour if she did not push or hit another child. Later, the system could then be changed to a sticker before lunch behavior and after lunch behavior.

Education for Preschool Teachers

Some teachers study the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) and make their own diagnoses but this is a bad idea. Preschool teachers must educate themselves about the differences in normal and abnormal development. Dr. Kanner suggests that early childhood educators get the child assessed by a “developmentally oriented professional” who can compare normal development to non-normal and can think beyond a descriptive diagnosis.

It is important that ADHD children be provided with encouragement and loving structure in order to succeed in a challenging environment that is preschool. For more information about ADHD in preschool, see ADHD in Preschool Children.