Classroom Accommodations for Students with ADHD

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

All children with ADHD should have at least one evidence-based learning strategy (Evidence -based learning strategies are those that have been evaluated by researchers within school settings and found to be effective) in place during the school day.  That might be a behavior plan which teaches new skills while substituting problematic behaviors with suitable alternatives. A Daily Report Card provides students with ADHD with explicit expectations and maintains a steady system of rewards and consequences to guide their behavior in a positive direction. Organizational skills training is an effective intervention for children with ADHD, teaching them crucial organizational, time management, and planning skills to improve academic performance and daily functioning. In addition to these evidence-based interventions, many students with ADHD need extra assistance in the form of one or more classroom accommodations to help them succeed. 
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. 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). Read more about these plans and if your student qualifies here. 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). 
Early in the school year is the ideal time to talk to your child’s teacher about the classroom accommodations that may benefit your child the most. Check out the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (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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