The Best Way to Teach a Child with ADHD to Self Regulate

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Minimize Distractions

Children with ADHD are often very easily distracted. These distractions can interfere with classroom instruction as well as the student’s need to complete schoolwork. The best way to teach a child with ADHD to self regulate is to minimize distractions, following these tips:

  • Physical Placement: Move child to an area of the classroom away from doors and windows and pets. This teaches the child that they can control how to better avoid distractions in life. With overcrowding in many schools and limited seating arrangements, it may not always be possible to keep a child away from distractions.

  • Physical Movement: Allow the child to move around when possible and break up seated activities with some physical movement. Empowering the child with ADHD to take physical breaks when necessary will help them realize when they need a break and how to appropriately take one to burn off excess energy. Some kids may take advantage of this and choose to move around when they don’t want to work or are bored.

  • Write important information down: Important information to help remind the child to stay on track, or reference the blackboard when in doubt, can help them learn ways to get the job done. By learning to write reminders to themselves, children learn how to keep organized. The child must read the reminder for it to be useful.

Impulsivity Control

Impulsiveness is common for kids with ADHD. They may also have problems sticking to a routine and may display aggressive or unruly behavior. The best way to teach a child with ADHD to self regulate is to minimize impulsiveness, following these tips:

  • Use a written behavior plan: A behavior plan outlining acceptable behaviors, alternatives and consequences may be beneficial in helping the child to think before reacting. It can be taped to their desk or locker, or both. Again, it is up to the child to be responsible enough to look at this plan in order to follow it.

  • Use a schedule: If the child knows what tasks are planned and is able to check them off as they are completed, they may feel more in control of their day and be calmer as a result. Not all activities are planned and they can be subject to change. A detailed and accurate schedule may not be possible in all cases.

Fidgeting and Hyperactivity

ADHD causes children to be constantly on the go or always needing to be touching or playing with something. Children can learn to reduce this behavior with the following tips:

  • Expend extra energy: If the child is feeling like they have extra energy, they should be allowed to take a physical break. It may mean walking around the class or doing some exercise in the hall. They can even run an errand for the teacher. Kids may take advantage of being able to leave the classroom or even become a distraction to others. It may also cause social upset between the child with ADHD and other children in the classroom. So be careful here.

  • Involvement in sports: Doing some physical activity before and/or after school may help the child burn off extra energy. Not all children can afford before or after school sports programs though.

  • Fidget toys: Children with ADHD should be allowed to use stress balls or other toys to fidget with, so long as it’s discreet and not interrupting others. These toys may be used incorrectly and be more of a distraction than a helper to controlling fidgeting. They may also cause other students to want to play with toys in class.

Following Directions

Most kids with ADHD have a very hard time following instructions. They may pretend to understand the tasks at hand and may even appear to be writing down instructions, but they can lack the follow-through to get it done. Often, they completely misunderstand the task and provide work that was not asked for. The best way to teach a child with ADHD to self regulate is to learn how to follow directions, using these tips:

  • Break down tasks: Help the child learn to break down tasks into smaller sections. Allow them to complete a task and come back to see what has to be done next. This will help them understand the task fully and make sure it’s done right before proceeding to the next step. It may take some time before a child is able to break down tasks on their own.

  • Staying on track: If the child ventures off track, they need gentle reminders to get back on track. Constant reinforcement of the question “What should you be doing right now” may help the child remember to rethink what they are doing so they can get back on track. It is difficult for teachers or caregivers to always be monitoring the child to see if they are still on track. Constantly monitoring the child may lead to nagging or having the child wait for reminders from other people.


Being organized is critical in getting work done and managing a daily routine. Children with ADHD greatly lack this organizational ability, which only adds to their confusion when it comes to getting things done. The best way to teach a child with ADHD to self regulate is to be efficient with organization, following these tips:

  • Tools: Children must learn to have all the tools they need to complete a task. From binders, to textbooks and writing utensils, establish a method so the child can easily find and get what they need. Color-coded dividers and notebooks with zippered pouches to hold supplies can be beneficial.

  • Lists: Having lists of what needs to be done and allowing them to check off completed tasks can be very useful. Many adults, even those without ADHD use checklists everyday in some form or another, to get their work done.

References Using ADD as a Crutch ADD/ADHD and School