When the problem is not behavior

Here are ways for you to understand and work with ADHD children

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By Henry Fiore Jr.

Catechists, like classroom teachers, are encountering more and more children who have difficulty learning in the “traditional” manner. This is often the result of ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Children in your class who have it may be undiagnosed or diagnosed without parents informing you.  As a catechist, it is important that you understand each individual child and how he or she learns in order to make the learning experience as fruitful as possible. You are imparting the most important information in the world.

Here are some ideas for helping you deal with children who have difficulty with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.


Children with ADHD may have attention spans that are less than age appropriate. They can’t sustain attention for long, they make careless mistakes, don’t seem to be listening, and have difficulty with organizational tasks.

  • If possible, give these children preferential seating. (usually front row, but not next to a door)
  • Repeat directions often.
  • Tap gently on the child’s desk to redirect their attention
  • Break down multi-step activities into small chunks—one direction at a time.


Children with hyperactivity are “blessed with God’s gift of extra energy.” They will display any or all of the following: fidgeting, much movement, difficulty with quiet activity, and excessive talking.

These are not behavior problems; these children are simply over stimulated and really cannot help the movement. Try these strategies for helping them.

  • Have movement breaks during which you can have children get up and move into small groups or simply have everyone stand up and take a little stretch.
  • Give fidgety students a squeeze ball. They will be less likely to play with every item on the desk and the squeezing is therapeutic.
  • Give these children a chance to get up by passing out papers, getting supplies, etc.
  • Keep to your routine in every class, for example beginning and ending every lesson with prayer.


Impulsivity is probably the most difficult to keep your patience because of these behaviors: blurting out without being called upon, difficulty waiting turns, interrupting, or intruding on others’ conversations or activities. These useful tips may help.

  • Have a written set of class rules visible to the whole class.
  • Verbally repeat the rules for the individuals who need this.
  • Offer Jesus as a model. Ask these children often, “What would Jesus do?”

The most important tip of all is to keep the lines of communication open with the parents and your DRE or coordinator. They will be invaluable in providing more assistance and support.

ADHD at a glace: 

  • All ADD cases are referred to as ADHD, regardless of the hyperactivity level.
  • There are three primary characteristics of ADHD: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  • Children with ADHD cannot help some of their behaviors and their symptoms are often falsely labeled as “behavior issues."

Henry Fiore Jr.

Henry Fiore Jr. has been an administrator of Catholic schools in the diocese of Providence since 1995 and was previously a lecturer at the University of Rhode Island.

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