Simple Accommodations for Bible Students With ADD or ADHD

It is fairly common today to be informed by the parents of one or more of your Bible students that their child has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Books have been filled debating whether or not these diagnoses and subsequent treatments are valid, appropriate or any number of other adjectives. That debate isn’t very helpful to you though, as you try to teach your Bible students.

Whenever you have a Bible student who seems easily distracted, has trouble focusing or has trouble sitting still or following instructions, making a few changes can improve things for students and teachers. These changes are called accommodations in the secular world of education.

Here are some accommodations or changes that you can make that should improve the teaching and learning experiences of everyone when you have one or more students who have ADD, ADHD or behaviors that are similar to those often diagnosed as ADD or ADHD.

  • Seat the student as close to you and as far from possible distractions as possible. Windows, open doors, objects within reach, students seated too closely all can be distracting. Having the student closer to you also encourages direct eye contact and gives you an opportunity to give a subtle signal when the student is distracted…without interrupting your lesson. If you have more than one student who is easily distracted, try to seat a student who can focus between them.
  • Remove any distractions brought to class with the student. It’s not uncommon for children who are easily distracted to bring a distraction with them. Phones, toys and at times even fiddle objects should be placed out of sight and out of reach until after class. While fiddle objects can help some students, in a Bible class situation, they are just as likely to be a distraction for other students as they are to help the struggling one. You may have to experiment to see if they are actually helpful should a Bible student bring one to class.
  • Put as much distance between students as possible. Being able to easily touch another student or their things can prove too tempting. Spacing other students out of reach can help.
  • Have a visual class schedule. Even for hour long classes, there is generally a changing of activities. Having a visual schedule can help easily distracted students know how much time is left on the current activity and what comes next. It can also serve as a reminder that they can focus for a few more minutes until the activity changes.
  • Write instructions as well as giving them orally. This can help other students as well…especially for a complex activity. When a student appears to be distracted from the activity, simply call his or her attention to the written instructions and ask what he or she needs to do next on the task at hand.
  • Have a private signal to refocus. Talk with any impacted students privately outside of class. What is a signal just between the two of you that you can give to remind him or her to do what is expected? Use the agreed upon signal rather than verbal correction as long as the student is responsive.
  • Make the student your special helper. You can subtly add more activity by having the student be the one who hands out or collects items. Even turning on and off the light switch gives the child an opportunity to use some of that energy. In a private conversation, make sure the student understands helping is a privilege and if behavior worsens when helping, someone else will be asked to perform those tasks.
  • Allow student to stand and move around (within limits) when working on activities. Planning hands-on activities allows this to occur naturally and that’s one of the many reasons we recommend them in Bible classes.
  • Provide a boundary for the student who interrupts teaching or others who are answering or asking questions. Raising hands before speaking is often optional in Bible classes. If one or more students struggles with knowing when it is or is not appropriate to speak, you may want to make it a class rule to raise a hand and be acknowledged before speaking.
  • Suggest appropriate coping strategies for the student who is easily frustrated or angered. Spend time privately with the student and/or work with the entire class on appropriate coping strategies to use when they begin to feel frustrated or upset. Encourage any growth by praising even incremental improvements in self control.

Using a few simple accommodations can make teaching and learning easier in a Bible class that has one or more students with ADD or ADHD. It’s worth taking the time to implement them so everyone can learn as much as possible during your Bible classes.

Categories Classroom Management, Elementary, Faith Based Academic Program, Special Needs, Teens
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