As if homeschooling isn’t enough of a challenge, teaching a distracted child who has trouble focusing is even harder.

Not all kids with ADD or ADHD have dyslexia but it is believed that about 40% of dyslexic kids have some sort of problem focusing.  I have shared in the past about how I overlooked one of our older kids’ severe ADD (inattentive type) because she wasn’t impulsive and hyperactive. You can read more about the common signs of ADD & ADHD and its relationship to dyslexia here ‘What Parents of Dyslexics Need to Know About ADD.

How to Teach the Distractible Child

A Day in the Life With ADD and ADHD

I am writing this post after correcting and redirecting one of my more particularly distracted children  so many times during our co-op last week that I came home with a pounding headache, jangling nerves and a pretty discouraged attitude.   It. was. exhausting.

I’m well acquainted with looking for outside the box solutions for my kids and so I set out to learn more about ADD and ADHD to find some new insights into what was triggering this child’s impulsive, wild behavior during our homeschool co-op class.

Determining the Trigger

Our fast-paced, interactive and hands-on co-op has little trouble keeping our son’s attention.  It fits the bill perfectly in most ways for methods for teaching a child with attention issues.  Our weekly co-op has many of the ideal elements for teaching a child with attention issues:

  • short lessons,
  • lots of hands-on activities,
  • music used for memorizing,
  • and discussion rather than writing and reading

What was happening, however, was that with all of the action, he was becoming over-stimulated and as such, acting out in impulsive ways like running around, falling on the ground, standing on chairs, hugging classmates too hard and too often.

For the child with attention and focus issues like ADD and ADHD having too much stimulation can be as bad (or worse) than not having enough stimulation (i.e. long periods of sitting, no opportunity to move, etc).

Common Causes of Over Stimulation

Sight.  Is their learning area too busy? Are there too many colors or things to see and look at?

This really wasn’t such a big deal in our son’s class.  Although the class is held in a room usually used for childcare at our local church, the workspace is clean and the area is not overly busy.

Sound.  Is the area too quiet or too loud? Some kids need quiet to concentrate.  Others learn better if there is some amount of background noise or music to block out the other noises.

This is definitely a trigger for our son during his weekly co-op class.  The kids have opportunity to get up and move frequently throughout the morning.  Much of the Classical Conversations memory work is learned through music, songs, chants and sign language.

Since I am in class with him every week, I have observed that for some of the kids this seems like an invitation to run, jump, slide, and twirl.  The very gifted teacher understands this need to move and allows for a certain amount of this.  However, our son has trouble refocusing after this ‘wiggle time’.

Textures.  This is becoming a more common issue, but are they bothered by the feel of their chair, their clothes? What can you work to control in this area?

Kids with focus issues are really struggling to balance the sensory input that they experience throughout the day.

Tips on Teaching Distractible Kids in Classes or Group Settings

Limit visual distractions. We all love the educational posters and visual reminders, but that could be overwhelming for your child.  When possible, try taking them down and see if that helps.

Visual distraction can occur on the page as well.  If your child is working a page of math facts, cover up all but the problem he or she is working on to avoid visual overload.

Give them a fidget. A fidget as a small toy or item your child can fiddle with to help them concentrate. They should be small, help the child to actually concentrate rather than cause more distraction, has to not distract the teacher or other kids and it has to not make noise.  For a list of inexpensive fidgets, see the fidget widget below.  🙂  Contains affiliate links.

Take breaks.   When our little power house gets too excited in our co-op, I don’t have the freedom to stop the class activities like I do at home, but I can take a walk outside with him.  Just a brisk walk around the building that houses our co-op fills his lungs with fresh air and empties the noise and busyness out of his little system.

Self awareness.  Talk with your kids about what things are distracting to them.  Talk with them about appropriate behavior before class.  Remind them of your conversation during class and go over your expectations after class.  Clear, concise instruction is key here.  No long lectures.  We are going to try some role playing this week.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Rewards and Consequences.  My work as a social worker with troubled kids before having my own children aught me well in the ways of behavior modification.  While I highly value the condition of my kids hearts (character) sometimes they just need better boundaries.

An example of how we use rewards and consequences:  For my 7-year old diamond in the rough, I draw 3 lines on our dry erase board every morning. If he complains about chores, schoolwork or serving in general, I give him a gentle reminder, “It sounds like you are complaining.”  If he doesn’t respond to this gentle correction, I remind him that he will lose a line if he continues.  If he loses 3 lines, he loses his 1 hour of iPad play.

This could be modified for any behavior issue that your child needs work on.

Resources to Learn More About the Distractible Child

As with any learning difficulty, it is super important to educate yourself on ADD and ADHD and how it affects your individual child.  I recommend all of the following ADD and ADHD resources because I have either read them myself or they have been recommended to me by someone that I respect and trust.