Students who have attention troubles are nothing new in schools across the country. The fact that some children have difficulty in school has always been a part of the educational world. What's new is an increased number of students who have an official ADHD diagnosis. While some families may not share this information with teachers and their district, many choose to put 504 Plans into action and seek additional supports that may be needed in the classroom.
Research has shown that medicine alone does not solve all of the issues for most children with ADHD. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that combination treatment is most effective. This includes a medication to help with the hyperactivity and lack of concentration. In addition to the prescription, it includes a behavior therapy. The focus of the behavior therapy is to work on more subtle social skill concerns and organization.
Behavior therapy is a very structured plan that has rewards and consequences for an individual’s actions. These may be created by a school psychologist. Working as a team, all adults involved with the child would be shown how to use the program. The more reinforcement, the better it will work and become second nature for the child. The goal over time is to show the child different ways to do things within the classroom or at home seeking positive reinforcement and thus eliminating the undesired behavior. How does this help over medication alone? Prescription medication helps with focus and concentration on work. It does not assist with a student’s lack of organization, time management troubles, and sinking self-esteem. Positive reinforcement with behavior therapy can do all of this when all people are willing to reinforce the plan in all parts of the student’s life.
School psychologists need to be willing to work with teachers and parents to create behavior therapy plans. Observation in the classroom and input from home will help you to come up with ideas to use for reward and what may need to be removed if undesired behavior is seen. The key is to come up with things that will catch the attention of the individual child and excite them to get praise and continue to move in that direction. When they hear positive feedback from adults and even other students, they will continue to work toward their goals, even without a concrete reward.