Steps to Improving Attention in ADHD

1. Medication Management

The inability to focus and concentrate for individuals with ADHD has a neurobiological basis, meaning there are known biological and chemical differences in the brain of an ADHD child than from other children without ADHD.  This brief video offers a good explanation. Therefore, it is so important to find the right medication and dosage. It may take ongoing visits with the psychiatrist to find the right prescription, but it is an important step towards successfully treating the symptoms. If you are not sure about medicating your child, you may find my post on medication helpful.

2. Gradually Improve Skills
Set smaller goals first based on their current functioning levels. For example, if they can successfully follow a one-step direction, set your first goal for following two-step directions. If you expect huge advances in a short period of time, it can lead to frustration, disappointment, and low self-esteem for the child.
3. Games to Make Learning Active
Our teachers reading this article already know this about learning. Active and fun learning is more effective, more memorable, than static learning. For individuals with ADHD,  it takes a lot more stimulus to maintain attention. The more stimulating, or interesting/fun/active, the greater chances you have to maintain their attention! Here is a great site with some fun ideas for attention-improving games. One of my favorite games to improve attention is Stare!.
4. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
Setting clear goals and expectations is important for all areas of the child’s life. This includes chores, routines, and grades.  “Clear” is an important factor here. If you tell your child they must be “good,” that can mean different things to different people. What does “good’ mean to you? When establishing expectations for a clean room, be specific. What are your expectations for a clean room- bed made and dirty clothes put away? Giving some thought about your expectations and communicating these clearly will improve likelihood that everyone is more successful.
5. Reward Good Performance
As much as we would like to believe that people will be motivated by a sheer internal motivation for self-improvement, this is not often the case, especially when it comes to kids and adolescents. Growing up, I was rewarded with $5 per “B” and $10 per “A” and remember how good it felt to meet goals. You don’t have to limit rewards to money though. Time for video gaming or a trip to a favorite restaurant is also a good motivator. Talk it over with you child and come to an agreement that works for your family. Sandbox Learning has some good ideas in this article.
6. Keep a Structured Routine
Routines are important for all kids, but especially for individuals with ADHD. Daily and weekly routines establish consistency and sets clear expectations. Check out this article on for some more information on establishing routines.
8. Homework/Work Habits
Practicing good homework habits is so important to success as an individual with ADHD. I’ve listed a few tips below, but there are more good homework tips here.
  • Schedule regular breaks. Set a timer for every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, depending on the person.
  • Set short term goals, such as completing 10 out of 20 questions, then taking a break, and completing the next 10 questions.
  • Find an environment with little to no distractions. Even the desk space should be tidy, not cluttered.
  • Play background music. This goes against what many people believe to be non-distracting, but many people find that certain music actually enhances attention.
  • Have fidgeting items handy.
9. Find Appropriate Fidgeting Tasks
Fidgeting can actually be helpful to maintaining attention, but it’s important to find appropriate outlets.
  • Chewing gum while reading
  • Pacing back and forth while memorizing flashcards
  • Rubbing a smooth stone or doodling while in class

For more ideas on fidgeting activities, visit and!

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Published by

Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

3 thoughts on “Steps to Improving Attention in ADHD

  1. […] Here are a few ideas that came to my mind to help inspire and motivate some of Chicago’s amazing, but stressed out, teachers! 1. Sand Tray Activity: This might be fun if you already have sand tray materials. Get a couple sand trays (keep it simple with a tupaware box and minimal sand) and some miniatures. Ask the teachers to get in groups and, using the miniatures, create a picture in the sand of one side that pictures their best day and one side that pictures their worse day. Have them share with others when they are done and talk about those together. Sharing their bad day side will give them a sense of support and there will likely be a bit of humor. Sharing their good days will encourage them and remind them why they entered education in the first place. It will also allow you an opportunity to learn more about the needs of your teachers. 2. Stress Relief Education and Exercises: Talk about various ways to relieve stress in and out of the school. You can teach deep breathing and even go through a meditation activity. Inner Health Studio has a large variety of guided imagery scripts and worksheets on stress, anxiety, anger, and more. Your teachers would love you if you dim the lights and talk them through a guided imagery to relax and refresh them! 3. Tell Them How You Can Help: This is a great way to share all the many ways a school counselor or social worker and be of assistance to the teachers and other staff. I found this article, The Top 10 Ways School Counselors Can Support Teachers, to be a very straight forward list of how you can support the teachers. I suggest giving this as a handout as you go through each one on the list. 4. Anger Balloon Activity: I love this video on Anger Balloons because it is a fun demonstration of how anger can build up inside and explode if we don’t deal with it regularly. I use this in counseling and have the clients tell me what makes them angry and blow a little into the balloon with each thing. I suggest having one teacher blow into the balloon while the teachers shout out frustrations and things that stress them out throughout the year. Once the ballon is full, then you can continue with the demonstration about what would happen if you didn’t relieve some of the air (aka stress). 5. Filling Their Buckets: I wrote a post on bucket filling last year that I think would be a great activity to do with the teachers. I suggest getting the book. Read the book out loud for them. It’s a child’s book, but adults love getting read to! Then, have each teacher write down compliments, encouragement, and other bucket-filling statements for other teachers in the room. Depending on how many teacheres are there, you can have them all share in the meeting, or wait until afterward. You can even go so far as to get a “bucket” for every teacher so that others can drop special notes of encouragement for them over the next week, month, or semester. If you are reading this and have ideas to share, please leave your comment! You May Also Like: Five Common Problems That Lead To School Counseling What Would You Tell Your Teenage Self? Steps To Improving Attention In ADHD […]

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