Essentials: How To Harness The Power Of Your Students' ADHD (with Soli Lazarus)

Essentials: How To Harness The Power Of Your Students' ADHD (with Soli Lazarus)

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In this Essentials episode of the School Behaviour Secrets podcast, Simon speaks with Soli Lazarus, a highly experienced mainstream primary teacher and SENCO who specialises in ADHD.

Soli discusses how we harness the talents of our pupils with ADHD in school - and how using humour, distraction, and making children feel special can be more effective than using punishments in the classroom.

Important links:

Soli's website

Soli's 5-minute ADHD podcast

Soli's book , ADHD Is Our Superpower

Click here for the full interview from episode 63.

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Show notes / transcription

Soli Lazarus  0:00  

So that wasted talent, that wasted gifts that these young people can give to society, because once you are excluded, you know, what does that do to somebody's self esteem and somebody's self worth? You know, I'm rubbish. You don't want me. I'm not as cool as those clever kids because I'm just always getting into trouble getting a detention.

Simon Currigan  0:20  

Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course, students. When classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural special needs power school strategy, and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear their latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast.

Hi there, Simon Currigan here and welcome to another essentials episode of School Behaviour Secrets, where I share with you one important strategy or insight from an earlier interview episode that can have an impact for the students that you work with in your school or your classroom. Because in a fast paced world full of distraction and new information, it's helpful to have reminders of proven evidence based practice. In this essentials episode, I'm going to share part of my interview with Soli Lazarus from Episode 63. Soli is a highly experienced mainstream primary teacher and SENCO, author of the book ADHD is our superpower and runs the together Club, an online membership to support families around ADHD, and provide schools, parents and charities with training and talks. She also speaks from personal experience, her own adult son has ADHD. I started by asking her about the lack of information about ADHD earlier in her career, and how that affected her both in terms of being a teacher and a parent.

Soli Lazarus  2:03  

So Simon, let me just tell you something really tragic that when I do teacher training, I asked the youngest member of staff, did you have specific ADHD training? And I would say almost certainly they either say no, this is now this is 2022. This is now they either say no. Or they'll say, Well, we did it as part of the Special Needs Unit. How long did that last a day, maybe a week? You know, it's given so little even today. That is the problem. So your question, how did it impact my teaching? The very weird thing is when I taught I always got those kids who were a little bit Sparky and I liked them. I liked the ones who jumped up and gave an answer. I liked the ones who just had a little bit more oomph. So I naturally sort of got them. Then when I got the diagnosis for David I sorted then started looking at the wall. Oh, I see now what's happening here with these other children. And then I started sort of figure out again, remember, there's still no Facebook or online support or anything. So I sort of was trying to figure out the best way to help David and that sort of then reflected in my teaching that things just had to be quick and sharp and interesting and fun and the pace had to be quicker and make them feel special. There's one tip I would say to parents or teachers, this is such an easy trick. You use humour, you use distraction, and you give children this opportunity to feel amazing, you know, feel special, feel the champion of something, punishments don't work. Why would a punishment mean that you can be more organised? Or why would a punishment mean that you can't shout out an answer because you know it, you know, we need to use different techniques and strategies in the classroom and in home to support our children rather than squash them.

Simon Currigan  3:57  

I always feel that punishments assume there's an element of choice about the behaviour. Yes. And when you're dealing with a different type of behaviour, because of the way the brain is wired, like you say, just punishing someone isn't going to help them develop those organisational skills. If the way their brain is wired means it's so much harder, naturally to be organised.

Soli Lazarus  4:16  

Yes, I love that thing, you know that you say about choice. I mean, the amount of times I have parents contacting me and they've stood with a teacher and the teacher is wagging their fingers. And it's, well, they've chosen the wrong thing to do this afternoon. And again, that's coming from a point where you think you've got a choice whether to need to move or you've got a choice whether this amazing idea just needs to blurt out your mouth, there is no choice. Do we have to facilitate that? You know, those things that our children need?

Simon Currigan  4:47  

What was the positive side of the diagnosis from your son's perspective at that time?

Soli Lazarus  4:51  

I think just as I said, for validating why he behaves like he behaved for himself as well as for us that he's not nauti you know, he's not deliberately going out of his way to wind anybody up or break up a friendship or break up a game or, or be revolting in that none of that, you know, my son lights up a room when he comes in, you know that he has the energy from within to engage and be funny and and that was all being squashed out of him. But then sort of once that diagnosis, it's almost like giving permission. But of course, that's like you are, you know, and the more we read and educate ourselves, what our children can achieve, and can do you know, the more we can facilitate that

Simon Currigan  5:38  

you've got over 30 years of experience of working with kids with ADHD and their families, what do you think has been the biggest changes over that time,

Soli Lazarus  5:46  

I think kindness and understanding for difference, when I first started teaching, and there wasn't even the national curriculum, there was this idea that everybody should be doing the same thing. And then when the national curriculum came in, then everybody should be achieving the same level, or it's math. So we're all doing maths. Whereas I think over the years, we've been more creative teachers have been allowed to teach in a more creative way. Unfortunately, I think now we're going back to that, almost three R's, you know that we have to throw in all this effort to get to a certain standard, and that's because of SATs and GCSEs, and league tables and comparing scores with scores. So the more that happens, the more pressure there is on teachers, and I've worked with the most incredible professionals who have done the most brilliant things and being really creative with our children who have got additional needs. But underneath it all those teachers have got the most incredible pressure to perform to a certain standard and get their children to a certain standard. And quite often, there's not the room for that creativity and flexibility. For instance, when I first started teaching, we had di t, you know, we had glue guns and art and drama. I mean, I remember during drama for a whole day with my class once, when I wouldn't even dream of that, you know, we have to pack the day fall, but the national curriculum subjects and the subjects were our children Excella, the art, the drama, The DT, the making the problem solving, the movement lessons, you know, all those are the ones that have been cut. So yeah, from that angle school doesn't suit our kids at the moment, because it's too target driven.

Simon Currigan  7:35  

And I think when you look at the exclusion figures, yes, you look at not just ADHD, but the high proportion of kids with SEN, you've got to look at, you know, just the way we structure our education system. Is it meeting the needs of a wide range of pupils? Actually, yes,

Soli Lazarus  7:52  

I mean, I could come and give you a hug if we weren't in different places. Honestly, this is what I bang on about all the time, our children with Sen. So not just ADHD, but Sen are six times more likely to be excluded six times. So that wasted talent, that wasted gifts that these young people can give to society. Because once you are excluded, you know, what does that do to somebody's self esteem and somebody's self worth, you know, I'm rubbish, you don't want me, I'm not as cool as those clever kids, because I'm just always getting into trouble. I'm getting a detention. And then I'll start behaving how you expect me to behave? So you tell me I'm rubbish. You tell me I'm excluded. Our children are also very vulnerable. So you get a young teenager, who then is excluded, who's then very, very vulnerable, who hasn't got very good social skills. Our children are lagging behind with their emotional intelligence. So they then get drawn into stuff that they shouldn't. And we estimate is, well, we know it's 25%. But we think it might be 40% of people in the criminal justice system, have ADHD or undiagnosed ADHD. So again, I say, what a waste of talent. What a waste of these beautiful gifts that these young people have got. Because we know an ADHD brain is crammed full of thoughts and opinions and ideas and different ways of doing things and thinking outside the box. And, and we're wasting all that, you know, we're chucking them into a system that is just going to break. So it is tragic.

Simon Currigan  9:33  

Okay, so let's imagine we go in a time machine. Yeah, back to the start of your teaching career. First day on the job. What's the one piece of advice or the thing you know, now that you wish you could tell your younger self as a teacher initially?

Soli Lazarus  9:47  

Well, I think it's to have the confidence to do it differently. And it's the confidence that if that one child needs to do their writing, standing up or sitting down, or that one too Old needs just to do short tasks and not complete it, but do it in their own way. Or if that one child needs a different piece of equipment, have the confidence as a teacher just to say, even if the head teacher walks in now, even if an Ofsted inspector even if the Prime Minister walked into my classroom, now, I would have the confidence to say it's fine that that pupil is doing their very best, and I'm providing them what they need. It is just ranking up that confidence to know that it's okay to do it differently.

Simon Currigan  10:32  

I guess it's our thing about fairness isn't the same as everyone having exactly the same Yes. And we're quite happy with the idea of giving kids who are younger, different reading books, but were more inflexible, maybe as an education professional about how children access the curriculum.

Soli Lazarus  10:49  

Yeah, I do get it all the time. So I finished my training, and people will still come up to me and say, Yes, but if we do that, for one, we have to do the 29 others. And I say no, you don't. Again, you're providing what this child needs. It's the reasonable adjustment of what this child needs. And it's to do with giving them the right tools in order to get to the same place as everybody else that and if they need a laptop, fine. It a school needs to be flexible with the behaviour policy for that one pupil. That's what they need, because we can't punish ADHD out of an ADHD brain. So if you need to do it differently, fine. And again, it goes back to that. Yeah, it's fair for that child. And it's also a teacher having that confidence to say, Yeah, I am going to do it differently. You know, yes, this child might get a red car because he's shouted out, but he's perfectly capable not shout out this other child, actually, do you know what? I'll give him a whiteboard. So instead of shouting out, because he's got the answer, I'll let him just write his answer on a whiteboard. And then it's when when, you know, not everybody needs a whiteboard. So yeah, it's just providing our kids with what they need, just to give them equity. There's a brilliant graphic, I don't know if you've seen it, it's it's three people looking over a fence or trying to look over a fence, there's a tall guy, a medium guy, and a little guy. So the tall guy is already looking over the fence, and the other two can't. So then everybody has one box to stand on. The tall guy didn't need that. The middle guy is perfect, he can now look over the fence. And the small guy, he still can't look over the fence, he actually needs three boxes, to look over the fence. And I use that graphic in my training. And I say what those three boxes represent is the reasonable adjustment, what you have to provide for everybody to look over the fence. Some people don't need anything he was taught he didn't need it. But some people, some of our pupils need three boxes. Do you know what? Let's give them four. Let's give them 10 boxes, if it means that they can look over the fence, they've got equal access to the curriculum, and they can just be the amazing people that society need.

Simon Currigan  13:03  

And that was Soli Lazarus talking about supporting pupils with ADHD. If you want to hear the full interview Solly shed loads of practical information on this topic. So head back to Episode 63. And I'll put a direct link in the episode description. And I'll also put links to Soli's book ADHD is our superpower and her together club in the episode description. If you've enjoyed listening today, please remember to rate and review us It takes just 30 seconds. And when you do so it prompts the algorithm to recommend school behaviour secrets to other listeners. And that helps us grow the podcast and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents. And while you've got your podcast app open, remember to hit the subscribe button so you never miss another episode. Thanks for listening, and I look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviour secrets

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)