Help for ADHD Kids During the Dreaded School Circle Time


Sitting still can be difficult for very young children. For children with ADHD sitting still can be impossible. Most schools now use an activity called circle time to instruct children on all sorts of academic subjects. While sitting in a circle is better than being strapped to a desk, for children with ADHD, this is still a difficult school activity.

Fortunately there are strategies and devices help all children stay engaged during circle time and for children with ADHD these strategies can mean the difference between learning and sitting in a ‘time-out’ place for most of the day. This list of suggestions can help all elementary school are children and may even be helpful for use in pre-school children.

Prior to sitting at circle, children should be allowed to engage in some form of gross motor activity (e.g. stretching, jumping jacks). This may be necessary not only 2-5 minutes before circle time but may also be necessary during this time if the amount of time that the children are expected to be still is greater than 20 minutes. Children with a lot of energy may need to run around for longer than 5 minutes and if a recess break can be scheduled to occur just before having to sit still, disruptions will be minimized.

All children need a recess break, preferably in a green space. We know from countless studies that both green spaces, such as parks and tree lined playgrounds, and physical activity will improve the hyperactivity, impulsive behavior and inattentiveness of ADHD. All children benefit from green space and exercise but for children with ADHD, twenty-thirty minutes of active outdoor play is as important to their therapy as medical treatment.

The trend for many schools is to eliminate recess but most teachers are coming to find that skipping recess is counterproductive and that all children are more attentive after a fresh air break. Parents of children with ADHDF should insist that their child’s school includes a fresh air break in their curriculum.

Once circle time has started, a small doodle notebook can keep a hyperactive child busy as will a quiet ‘job’. Some teachers give fidgety kids a pile of crayons and ask them to sort them by color, other children are asked to sharpen the classroom pencils. Rubber bands can be color sorted and markers can be organized and wrapped in rubber bands. Creative teachers have found that giving active kids a ‘job’ during circle time can keep kids attentive and engaged.

Some schools have had great success using ‘talking sticks’ during circle time. For impulsive ADHD children this reminder of when it is not appropriate to talk can be a powerful and useful tool. It is also important for the teacher to communicate to the children what activity is acceptable during circle time as many young children do not intuitively know what the expectations are. Children with ADHD may be especially unaware of the teacher’s expectations and clear and age appropriate instruction regarding the rules of circle time are essential if children are to learn during this school activity.

Many ADHD school age children find it difficult to sit still during circle time. The School and classroom strategies outlined above can help make circle time an educational, relaxing and productive time for every child in the classroom.

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