Managing ADHD Impulses in the Classroom

class-1459570__340Impulsivity is a common symptom of ADHD. The sudden urge to do or say something, coupled with the difficulty of regulating behaviors and emotions make children with ADHD more likely to be labeled and treated as troublemakers.

Noted behaviors in the classroom setting are blurting inappropriate comments, making noises, being goofy, not completing work, getting into other’s space, arguing, threatening, and grabbing. These are common behavioral thoughts most children have, although children with ADHD struggle with stopping these thoughts, thinking of the consequences before following through with their behavioral urges, and using adaptive coping skills.

In an effort to decrease the disruptions and consequential frustration, below is a list of classroom interventions that will be of help when implemented consistently.



  1. Re-evaluate Your Expectations: Expect impulses to happen in children with ADHD. Note the children are not being purposeful or malicious, but reacting to their body’s reflexes.
  2. Be Neutral: Respond in a non-reactive manner in an effort to decrease one’s shame and defensiveness, which may later be observed in defiant behaviors.
  3. Use Visual Reminders: Proactively discuss with the children the classroom rules and natural consequences. Post visual reminders of the expectations on the child’s desk, the classroom wall, on homework assignments, or tests. When impulsive behaviors are observed, without using your words, point to the symbol that indicates the need to STOP, breathe, and think about making a prideful choice.
  4. Acknowledge Impulse Control: Build children’s self-awareness and confidence, by narrating your observations of their behavioral control. For example, “I notice Jenny is sitting calmly in her chair while we wait for the directions. This makes me happy.”
  5. Use a Visual Schedule: Posting the day’s schedule on the board helps provide children a sense of control because they are aware of the day’s expectation.
  6. Permit Activity Breaks: Uncomfortable feelings and urges in everyone are easily decreased when we engage in an action. The physical movement messages to our brain that we are safe and have control. So, even if the impulse is to hit someone, the simple act of just standing up and down or stretching your arms will help eliminate the negative urges. This is often why a common suggestion when others are upset is to go for a walk. The movement helps water down the frustration.
  7. Model Self-Control: When you are frustrated or upset, narrate your feelings and self-care strategies and then simultaneously do it. For example, “I am feeling upset that I can’t find my book. I have the urge to throw my pencil, but I know that is not a safe choice. I am going to sit down and take a deep breath so I can think clearly.”
  8. original-2048366-1Practice Relaxation: When minds and bodies are relaxed, children are more likely to use reason and logic and think through the consequences before engaging in non-prideful behaviors. Start the day or before each transition with breathing exercises or meditations. This will help settle high energy and impulses.