Today, it is hard to imagine that every church does not have a least one child in each classroom that exhibits manifestations of ADHD. ADHD results from a subtle malfunction in the intricate transmission of neurochemical messages between brain cells. This condition seems to affect boys a little more than girls and is characterized by behavioral and learning disorders. A child with ADHD will have problems in two major areas: hyperactive-impulsive behavior and inattentiveness. These children are often judged by their behavior and often labeled as defiant or silly.
It is important that church Bible study leaders create a learning environment that enables all children (even those with ADHD) to learn about Jesus and feel accepted with unconditional love. As a grandparent with more than one grandchild diagnosed with ADHD, it is my heart’s desire that as a KidMin leader you take the time to understand the characteristics of these kids and be committed to developing strategies for a fun, safe time at church.
These amazing kids can exhibit any/all of these characteristics:
- Lack of impulse control
- Challenged with turn-taking
- Difficulty in following directions
- Has a tendency to not stay with the group
- Will demonstrate times of fidgeting, tapping, and squirming
Suggested strategies include:
- Start fresh with every session. Each child needs to feel that you are glad he has come to church.
- Set clear expectations and limit your room to a few basic rules.
- Post a visual schedule; placing times on elements in the session can frustrate children with ADHD and they become stressed when the group does not stay on schedule. They do like the consistency of knowing what order to expect.
- Provide a merging time at the beginning of learning sessions. This gives them an opportunity to “ease into the environment.” Purpose to have a more structured group time later in the session.
- Limit “sit still” time. Plan for “hands-on” activities.
- Offer “fidget toys” during times of listening.
- Keep transition times to a minimum.
- Make sure you have the child’s attention. If necessary, have the child repeat a given direction.
- When possible, include a video element. This can be captivating for kids with ADHD.
- Enlist an additional helper to “shadow” a child with ADHD.
- Provide encouragement for the child’s parent(s). They can often be exhausted and frustrated and so appreciate that you love their child and are excited to have him/her in your class.
Closing note: I teach four-year-olds on Sunday mornings. I find it very interesting that EVERY week my student with ADHD at some point in the session will say, “I love you, Mr. Jerry!” That, my fellow KidMin leaders, is one of life’s greatest rewards! It is, indeed, worth the time to understand ADHD and be willing to develop strategies so that all kids have the opportunity to learn about the Creator of the universe and His Son, Jesus.
Jerry Vogel serves as an Editorial Ministry Specialist in Lifeway Church Resources. He is married to Janie and has four children and thirteen grand kids. Jerry is committed to enriching the lives of those who teach kids as well as making eternal investments in the lives of children.