Start your free 7-day Joon App trial

Creating an Optimal School Environment for Students With ADHD

May 18, 2023
Table of Contents

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most widespread neurodevelopmental disorders in kids. Whether you work in a private or public school setting, most teachers will encounter students with ADHD.

    Statistics indicate that children with ADHD are more likely to fail in school, experience behavioral problems at school, and face other challenges that affect their education, like higher rates of bullying and learning disabilities. However, a child with ADHD can succeed, and many of these things can be avoided or mitigated if approached correctly.

    It's important that teachers know how to create an optimal environment to meet the needs of their students and use the school's resources to the best of their ability. 

    So, how can teachers support students with ADHD? This article will discuss how educators can create a better learning environment for children with ADHD.

    Struggling to motivate your ADHD child?
    Download the Joon App and start your free 7-day trial.  
    Download App

    How to Create a Better School Environment for Kids with ADHD

    People’s first-hand experiences with the school system and ADHD often show that it is not built for students with the disorder. As-is, a child’s classroom may not meet their needs. Kids with ADHD might face prevalent distractions, not have enough time to move around, or find that instructions and lessons and instructions aren’t presented in an ADHD-friendly manner. 

    Unfortunately, only some students have adequate support or special education services in place. Both private school students and public school students may feel misunderstood or overlooked with ADHD. Even so, small changes can make a big difference in academic success and school enjoyment for children with ADHD. Review the following tips to create the best school environment for ADHD.

    Using Joon in the Classroom

    Joon is a to-do app and game created for children with ADHD and related disorders. Using Joon is a great way to help motivate students to do well in school, stay focused on projects, finish homework assignments, and engage in daily routines that support their education. Here's how it works:

    Adults sign up first with Joon Parent App and make a task list for their children. Since task lists are fully customizable with Joon, you can include anything from reading time to working on assignments and eating breakfast before class. Kids connect with a separate app called Joon Pet Game, where they get rewards for finishing tasks that allow them to care for a virtual pet.

    Geared toward kids ages 6-12+, Joon aids in task completion, independence, and confidence in children. 90% of kids who use Joon finish all their tasks, and the app is backed by professionals such as child psychologists and teachers. 

    Click here to try the app for free.

    Structured Classrooms

    The way you structure a classroom and learning activities can make a difference for kids with ADHD. Public schools and other school environments may offer little help to teachers who want to support their students, so don't put pressure on yourself when there are things you can't control. With that said, consider the following modifications.

    • More time to move around. Movement is known to help relieve ADHD symptoms and can support mood, behavior, and concentration in kids. Alternating between seated activities and physical activities can be key for students with ADHD. That way, they do not need to sit for too long throughout the school day.
    • Break instructions down into small steps. For example, you may take a large math problem and turn it into several smaller steps, approaching one at a time.
    • Engaging lessons and activities. Kids with ADHD often do best if activities are hands-on. Including hands-on lessons (or helping a specific student in class adjust a school assignment to make it more hands-on or engaging) may benefit them. For example, providing physical objects to count during a math problem.
    • Give assistance with transitions. With ADHD, kids can have a harder time transitioning from one task to another. Planning for transition time between activities and gently directing a student when they need help can be valuable.

    Providing, allowing, or advocating for helpful tools can also improve the school environment for a student with ADHD. Daily checklists that help kids keep track of tasks and the availability of stress balls and other fidgets are just two examples.

    Supportive Teachers

    Teacher training in ADHD is integral, but not all educators have the information they need to understand students with ADHD fully. Supportive, patient, and understanding teachers who take the time to treat each student as unique will make a difference. Here are some of the steps you can take:

    • Learn about ADHD. Learn about ADHD so that you can develop a compassionate understanding of a child's symptoms, taking care not to "label" children or give up. Kids with ADHD may have no idea that they're interrupting, daydreaming, or doing anything else that could disrupt their learning process or that of other students. If a child receives support services, work to understand what those are and stick to them.
    • Assist students in staying on track, understanding instructions, or in other situations where a child needs help.
    • Focus on a child's strengths. Even if a child experiences disruptive behavior frequently, don't forget to give them praise for good behavior. Positive reinforcement goes a long way for children and can increase the behaviors you want to see.
    • Consider diverse learning styles. A child's learning style may differ regardless of ADHD. Some kids are auditory learners. Others learn best through visuals, bodily/kinetic activities, or reading and writing. Exposing students to different kinds of lessons or ways of doing things can be helpful. When viable, offer kids a choice of different ways to finish projects, including options that fit different learning styles. Choice can be empowering for kids in and of itself
    • Get educated on bullying. Kids with ADHD can face a number of social concerns at a higher rate, including trouble maintaining close friendships and an increased risk of bullying from other students. School staff should take bullying seriously and take steps to handle it appropriately in and outside of class.
    • Look out for signs of co-occurring concerns. People with ADHD are more likely to have an array of other conditions, including learning disabilities, which teachers may be the first to pick up on.

    Collaborating with parents is often essential to improving a child's school experience. Be available to parents and check in regularly if possible. Some parents will know they can check in with the teacher outside of standard parent-teacher conferences, but other parents may not know they can until they're told.

    Interventions to Help with Focus

    In addition to doing what you can to create the right school environment for kids, there are practices teachers and other school staff can do to help a child with ADHD focus. Even with ADHD, every individual student is different, so it can take trial and error to find what works. With that in mind, here are some ADHD-friendly interventions a teacher may use to promote concentration in students.

    Allowing breaks 

    Frequent breaks are a common accommodation for children with ADHD. They can help a student focus, avoid frustration, and manage ADHD symptoms. Try giving a student more breaks, within reason, if it could help them.

    Changes to the environment to limit distraction

    Modifications to the classroom environment can aid concentration in kids with ADHD. First, maintaining organizational skills and ensuring that your classroom does not have unnecessary clutter is ideal. Seating arrangements can also help. You may seat children with ADHD who talk during class next to quiet, less talkative children. Similarly, it can be beneficial to seat kids away from distractions like cubbies, pencil sharpeners, and doors or windows.

    A quiet workspace 

    Just as visual stimuli can be distracting, unnecessary noise can disrupt focus in children with ADHD. This is part of why some children with ADHD test separately in addition to other accommodations, like extra time for testing.

    Having a designated "quiet space" in the classroom can be valuable for many students - not just those with ADHD. After all, noise can lead to overstimulation or distress in addition to distraction.

    If you work with younger children, a quiet space created not necessarily for work but to go to during times of distress can be beneficial. You might include stuffed animals and other soothing objects.

    Calendars to keep track of important deadlines

    Hang a visual calendar with upcoming projects, events, deadlines, and other important information written on it on the wall of your classroom. Make it vibrant and direct kids to or review the calendar with them regularly (e.g., when they ask about a deadline) so they develop a habit of looking at it.

    Noise-blocking headphones to reduce distractions

    Noise-canceling headphones are a common accommodation used for students with ADHD in certain scenarios, such as when a child is taking a test or exam. The use of noise-canceling headphones can reduce auditory distractions that may otherwise impact a child's focus.

    Timers to help students stay on task

    People with ADHD often have trouble keeping track of time. Timers can help a child stay on track and know what to expect (e.g., how long they have left on a task).

    Give gentle reminders

    Many children will experience off-task behavior from time to time, even with proper accommodations and treatment. Rather than reprimand a child with ADHD, remind or redirect children gently.

    Have boundaries

    You may have a child in class who disrupts other students, or there may be another situation where you need to set clear, firm boundaries. Explain the boundaries you have calmly and work with kids to stick to them, taking care not to label kids as disruptive or give up.

    Note for parents: A behavior chart may be valuable for some children. If you see anything in this article that would improve school for your child, don't hesitate to bring it up!


    Teachers in both public and private schools can use numerous practices to create a supportive school environment for students with ADHD. Understanding ADHD, creating a supportive classroom, working on compassionate behavior management, and making adjustments that promote focus can all help kids succeed. Some teachers are in a situation where they must fight to be heard by the school board or higher-ups. Use self-care and remember that doing what you can is something to take pride in. While a perfect school environment is not always possible, a dedicated, supportive, and compassionate teacher can make a difference in a child's life. 


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.