Question:  If I have a student who has ADHD and it’s proved helpful to give him a stress ball to squeeze during class to keep his attention, how can I let him use it without the other children getting upset?  They seem to think I let him play during lessons and not them.

Myrna Shure: 
It is always difficult when one child has a special need without the other children becoming overly curious, or jealous of extra attention or privileges given by the teacher.  However, making an issue of why one child needs the squeeze ball will only make it more enticing.

This may sound unusual, but why not let all the kids squeeze the ball for a while?  This may be distracting at first, but you can build this activity into a regular lesson on relaxation techniques for kids.  This can be no more than five minutes at a time.  I think you’ll find that in a short amount of time, the novelty will wear off for all the kids except the one who needs it.  And by doing this, you will send the message that you care.

Now that the other children’s needs have been satisfied, they may still be curious about why the one child still squeezes the ball.  One possible explanation may be simply, “It helps to keep his mind on his lessons.”  That is brief, truthful, and does not violate any ethics codes of revealing the boy’s diagnosis to the rest of the class.  In a short amount of time, they won’t even notice.