This one is for the teachers! (parents you can use these too of course!)


Now that school is in full swing, it may be time for strategies to help your students who may have a little extra wiggles or who may need more to hold their attention. This can be frustrating for educators, but have no fear, try these 10 strategies to help active and or distracted kids.


  1. Specific, sincere positive acknowledgment is far more effective than punishment strategies. Comments should focus on what the child did right and exactly what they did. For example, rather than “you did not blurt out in class”, state exactly what desired behavior occurred.

Teacher Hack: Use a variety of positive comments – the same thing said over and over can lose its value.
And be sincere! – kids know when you do not really mean or believe what you say.

  1. Selectively ignore some inappropriate behavior. Every single misbehavior does not have to be addressed. People do better when they feel better.
  2. Set up secret signals between you and the child. This is a way of redirecting that is supportive and does not result in the embarrassment that frequent calling out in class brings. Plan with the child what the signal will be and what it means, have the child come up with ideas, this also allows them to feel like they have some control of their classroom experience.
  3. Plan seating and line arrangements carefully to reduce problems.
  4. Spend time talking with the child about things other than school – one of the best predictors of how well a child does in school is if they believe their teacher likes them and is interested in their life outside of homework.
  5. Provide calming manipulatives such as play dough, stress balls, fidgets etc. These provide needed sensory input that can increase attention, and they keep hands busy.
  6. Allow for breaks – ask the child to be your helper and run errands or do jobs in the classroom. This not only provides needed breaks, but also increases the sense of capability, responsibility and contribution to the classroom.
  7. Children cannot thrive without a physical break during the day, and this is particularly true for children with ADHD or other challenges. Do not remove recess time for misbehavior or unfinished work. If your school does not provide a good dose of recess in the middle of the day, create an activity time in your classroom – sit ups, pushups against the wall, stretches and yoga poses that are strenuous yet quiet, etc. Productivity will increase even though you take time for this.
  8. Use non-verbal cues. For example, pointing to what needs to be done without talking, making eye contact.
  9. Plan a routine for transitions. Use signals like turning off lights or playing music. You can also help the child make a cue card with the steps for packing up and lining up, for example, and point to it on their desk when it is time for this step. Stay near the child during these transitions when possible to give coaching and reminders.


Until next time,


LeNaya Smith Crawford, MAMFT, CYT



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