Question: I know of a student who is easily over-stimulated when the classroom he is in becomes busy or noisy.  What are some suggested strategies to use with this student to help him stay on task and calm?

Myrna Shure: Try to involve the child in the solution to this problem.  Coming up with his own ideas will empower him to try them out.  You can help him do this with a few guiding questions.

l)  What is your favorite activity (or subject) in school?

If the child likes art, for example, let him engage in an art activity at a time when there is noise. If he likes math, give him a page of problems from a math workbook to work on during a time there is noise. If you can, stay with him for a     few minutes to get him started (or if you can’t, perhaps a teacher’s aide might.)

The idea of the above is to help the child focus on a single focused task. With lots of activities competing for his attention, the child is in charge and will feel a sense of mastery. If necessary, you can start with simpler, but single-focused activities, giving him a choice between watering the plants, feeding the fish, sharpening a pencil, or erasing the blackboard.

If he attends to the above if even for a very few moments, praise him to being able to stick with it even though there’s noise in the room.  

2) How do you feel when there is lots of noise in the room?

3) Can you think of a way to do your work even when there is noise?

Let the child think of more than one solution to this problem.  Then, next time he acts over-stimulated, remind him that he thought of his own idea on how to stick with it even when there is noise.

It is tempting to suggest ways to stay on task, but children often tune out when we tell them what to do. Sitting with him, putting your arm around him to show you care about how he feels, and asking the above questions should be a good start.