Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How Montessori Helps Teachers Understand & Work with Students with ADHD

ADHD is a misunderstood disorder. Many people associate it with hyperactivity or with a child who fidgets, is constantly moving or talking, and has trouble participating in quiet activities such as silent reading time. Conventional classroom settings ask children as young as 3 and 4 years old to sit still, listen, follow directions, and work quietly. Montessori tells us that movement is crucial to learning. Sitting still at such a young age is difficult for all children, but for children with ADHD, it is almost impossible.

How do we tell if a child has ADHD or if this is just a child who has a lot to say, has more energy than most, or is less socially mature than his/her peers?
And we need to remember that the inattentive subtype (ADHD-I) has very little, if anything, to do with hyperactivity. There are some strong indicators that teachers and parents should be aware of in order to make a referral to a medical professional.

Indicators for Referring for ADHD

Behaviorally SociallyEmotionally
Short attention span Immature social skillsEasily angered, moody, irritable
Hyperactive motor behavior Relates better to younger childrenUnable to control impulses
Poor control of impulses Difficulty developing friendshipsHighly anxious
Excessive talking Difficulty with complex games Immature social skills
Disturbing others Plays too aggressively Frustrated
Daydreaming Poor decision making skills Low self-esteem
Seldom sits still Difficulty with siblingsRapid/drastic mood changes
Frequently distracted May not have to follow house rules Outbursts of temper
Difficulty following/ understanding directions Parents have difficulty accepting child’s difficulties
Difficulty completing & turning in work May be punished often
Frequently misplacing personal items

Referring children to a medical professional can help diagnose or rule out ADHD. As we learned in the previous blog, children do not outgrow ADHD. However, appropriate behavior can be learned. Punishment for inappropriate behavior does not work. And behavioral correction without constructive feedback negatively impacts a child’s self-esteem and emotional health. Without help, it is very common for children and adults with ADHD to become anxious and depressed.

Strategies for helping children with ADHD in the Montessori environment

The Montessori environment should be a safe place for children with ADHD to learn and grow, both academically and socially. Learning in the Montessori environment can be very beneficial for a child with ADHD. Giving the child the ability to make choices and work at his/her own pace removes the pressure of measuring his/her progress against that of others. The Montessori environment does not use timed tests and deadlines are developed with the teacher and student working together. Individualized lessons and attention are the norm rather than the exception. Keen observations by the teacher quickly help ascertain when strategies are working and the teacher is quickly able to make modifications in the environment.

Here are some additional strategies to employ when working with children with ADHD.

Difficulty on staying task

  • Model expected behavior
  • Explain
  • Conduct another lesson
  • Offer choice
  • Offer a snack
  • Suggest working with a friend
  • “Teach me the lesson” (ask the student to teach the teacher)

Frequent outbursts

  • Ignore the behavior
  • Ask the student to write down his/her feelings and review with student later
  • Class meeting (to offer peer-to-peer strategies)

Difficulty focusing

  • Break work into manageable chunks
  • Ask student to sit near you (gluing)
  • Remove distracting stimuli
  • Offer visual or verbal cues

Above all else, remember to exercise great patience and respect when working with children with ADHD. Behavioral corrections should be fair and consistent. Children with ADHD are extremely sensitive to correction. For example, limit the number of times you use the child’s name when correcting behavior so they don’t become sensitive or adverse to it.

Children with ADHD have many amazing and remarkable positive traits. They are often your outgoing students who make great classroom greeters when you have guests. They are energetic and like to get everyone involved in games and playground activities. They are always up for an adventure. They are imaginative, creative, inventive, and able to think on their feet. They usually have a great sense of humor and can engage most people. They are sensitive, empathetic, and often understand the needs of others.

A diagnosis of ADHD is not the end of the world. Patient, supportive adults can help students reach their full potential by seeking help from medical professionals and modeling and teaching skills the child needs to become a fully functioning, independent adult.

Works Cited
The Hill Center. Understanding learning differences: An introduction to learning disabilities. Chapel Hill. 2015.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.


  1. ADHD children very diffilcult to understand the things because I have a experienced in ADHD KIDS if you start to learn something those kids some time they will take interest some time not because their memory are not good as compare to the normal kids their hyper level is very extreme some time and some time they behaved well but their minds are all time tired and physically they are not involved any kinds of activities and they wants sit some time alone and some time they wants to play with one toys at a time but some of the Kids ADHD their perception literally changed to play with different toys . if they see some kids are playing with different kinds of attractive toys so the ADHD wants to grab those toys and play with them some time they were snatching the toys whatever they like to play . some time ADHD get the Things right away because they don't know what is good and what is wrong because their mind are not working like a normalize child. this is my feed back of ADHD KIDS because I have a experienced with those kids .

    1. I understand ADHD as something that can be a valuable learning experience in class. The other students rally around kids who struggle and build pathways of acceptance and understanding. When I've left the decision of what to do with students who struggle (like ADHD, or my personal nemesis, ODD "Oppositional Defiance Disorder") to a class meeting. The results that children come up with are expeditious and oftentimes kids will cut to the chase much more quickly than adults will.


Have questions or comments? Let us know what you thought about this article!

We appreciate feedback and love to discuss with our readers further.

NAMC Blog Inquiries Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Search the NAMC Montessori Teacher Training Blog

Are you interested in reading back through NAMC's blog articles from years gone by, or for more information on a specific topic?

Browse a select list of our most popular categories below; by clicking on one, you will see every article posted under that topic since 2007. You may also use the lower archive menu to select a year and month, displaying all blog posts in the chosen time frame.

If you are seeking a range of information on a certain topic or idea, try this search box for site-wide keyword results.

Choose From a List of Popular Article Topics

NAMC Montessori Series

Montessori Philosophy and Methodology

Montessori Classroom Management

The School Year

Montessori Materials

Montessori Curriculum

Montessori Infant/Toddler (0–3) Program

Montessori Early Childhood (3–6) Program

Montessori Elementary (6–12) Programs

What is Montessori?

Search Archives for Montessori Blog Posts by Date

Thank you to the NAMC Montessori community!

This year marks NAMC’s 20th anniversary of providing quality Montessori distance training and curriculum development to Montessorians around the globe. Since we began in 1996, we have grown to build a fantastic community of students, graduates, and schools in over 120 countries. We are grateful for your continued support and dedication to furthering the reach and success of the Montessori method. Thank you for sharing this amazing milestone with us!