Children's decreased attention spans, in general, can be
attributed to a faster paced media, but when a child has Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), maintaining classroom
control is even more difficult.
What is ADHD? ADHD occurs before age 7, persists for a minimum of
six months, and includes symptoms such as lack of attention and
listening skills, fidgeting, and talking excessively. There are
basically three kinds of ADHD: hyperactive/inattentive,
hyperactive/impulsive, and hyperactive combined
ADHD begins in early childhood, and the prevalence of ADHD varies,
but a conservative estimate is 3 percent of school-aged children
have ADHD. There's a ratio of 3 to 1 with more boys than girls
being diagnosed with ADHD.
The cause of ADHD is presumed as a neurobiological disorder
involving the portions of the brain that control inhibition and
focusing attention. There's ongoing research involving genetic
factors and chemical imbalances in the brain. ADHD affects the part
of the brain that controls "executive functions" such as planning,
organization, staying focused, controlling emotional impulses, and
What does ADHD look like?
It depends on the kind of ADHD. Inattention has behaviors of
failing to pay close attention to details, failing to listen, not
completing tasks, being disorganized, resisting work, being
forgetful, and losing materials. Impulsivity has behaviors of
fidgeting, squirming, and interrupting others. The child will also
have difficulty sitting still or taking turns. The third kind
involves both sets of behaviors.
What are practical ways to minister to children with ADHD? If you
look at the deep sense of failure a child with ADHD experiences,
you'll understand that your first ministry is to help the child
know God's love and acceptance. Help the child celebrate the unique
special abilities that ADHD brings, such as an ability to
multitask, high energy for leading games or singing, creativity
potential, and more.
Also try the following:
• Maintain a schedule or routine.
• Prepare children ahead of time for transitions from one activity
• Emphasize time limits on various activities.
• Give clear, brief directions.
• Arrange your classroom to enhance attention. Place your children
with ADHD toward the front of your classroom to minimize
distractions for them.
• Allow for movement and change in posture. Kids don't have to
always sit in chairs! Give these children manipulatives to keep
their hands busy during storytime.
• Read books or articles about ADHD, such as Practical Ideas That
Really Work for Students With ADHD by Kathleen McConnell, Gail
Ryser, and Judith Higgins. Or check out www.add.org.
• Be aware of the child's ADHD medication. And, if a child who
requires medication is unmedicated regularly, alert your children's
ministry director so that he or she can discuss this with the
• Be in close, collaborative communication with parents. Ask them
what works best with their child. Convey your joy at having their
child in your classroom.
[Q]: We have an older child in our ministry who
wets the bed. What should I do for this child at our next overnight
[A]: The technical term for nighttime bed-wetting
for children over 3 is "nocturnal enuresis," and experts say that
only 1 to 2 percent of children with this condition have actual
The first thing to do for a child who wets the bed is to discuss
this with the child privately to avoid embarrassing the child.
Communicate with the child's parents and assure them that
everything will be fine.
Don't serve the child any beverages two hours before bedtime, and
avoid beverages with caffeine, which is a natural diuretic, or
fruit juices, which are bladder irritants.
Remind the child privately to use the restroom before bedtime. And
follow a timed wake-up schedule for the child to use the restroom.
Handle any accidents as discreetly as possible.
Sally Castle is associate professor of special education at
Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio.