Classroom Accommodations for Students with ADHD

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

With students back in school for in-person learning, parents and teachers of children with ADHD are looking for strategies that will help their students succeed this year. All children with ADHD should have at least one evidence-based treatment in place during the school day. That might be a behavior plan, daily report card, organizational skills coaching and support, and/or medication. In addition to these evidence-based interventions, many students with ADHD need extra assistance in the form of one or more classroom accommodations.

Accommodations are modifications to the classroom environment, instructional process, or assignments that help students with ADHD participate in school and show their understanding of class material. While the research evidence supporting the use of academic accommodations for ADHD is limited, I’ve seen many of my patients benefit when the accommodations are clearly matched to the student’s needs, are provided consistently, and are modified as needed based on how well the student responds.  

Classroom accommodations can be formally requested and implemented through the school’s special education services program, either through a 504 plan or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). To learn more about these plans, check out my earlier post on the similarities and differences between IEPs and 504 Plans. Some teachers also provide these accommodations outside of a formal plan as part of their general teaching practices for students with ADHD. Regardless of whether the accommodations are provided formally or informally, open and consistent communication between parents and teachers is essential.

There is a wide range of accommodations available for students with ADHD, and these strategies typically cluster around completing tasks and maintaining focus, staying organized, and managing impulsive and hyperactive symptoms. Typical accommodations include:

Completing Tasks and Maintaining Focus

  • Shortened assignments (particularly for assignments that require repetition, like math worksheets).
  • Preferential seating in the front of the classroom to reduce distraction.
  • Providing choices to show mastery (e.g., in writing, orally, via a hands-on project).
  • Allowing frequent breaks.
  • Providing clear instructions and checking in with the student to ensure understanding.
  • Using a computer to complete essays and other writing assignments.
  • Extended time on tests.

Staying Organized

  • Using a simple, color-coded organization system for papers.
  • Providing an extra set of textbooks that can be kept at home.
  • Checking the student’s backpack to make sure all necessary materials are packed up at the end of the day and that homework is taken out of the backpack and handed in every morning.
  • Weekly desk clean-outs.
  • Minimizing the number of items in the desk, backpack and cubby.

Managing Impulsivity and Hyperactivity

  • Encouraging frequent movement breaks.
  • Praising and rewarding students for raising their hand before talking.
  • Allowing students to move or fidget in a non-distracting manner.
  • Providing extra opportunities for physical activity and refraining from taking away recess as a punishment.
  • Providing a chair for students during circle time (or any time when students sit on the rug).

The first few weeks of the new school year are the ideal time to talk to your child’s teacher about the classroom accommodations that may benefit your child the most. Check out the CHADD website for this comprehensive list of classroom accommodations. Having the school psychologist observe your child in the classroom and recommend specific accommodations can also help identify the approaches that will benefit your child. Classroom accommodations aren’t a substitute for evidence-based interventions, but they are often a useful add-on that can help students with ADHD reach their full potential.   


Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


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This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.