IEP Goals: Helping Students with ADHD to Focus

Creating measurable IEP goals for student with ADHD

Junior school: educational discipline

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Students with special needs pertaining to ADHD will often exhibit symptoms that can disrupt the learning environment of the whole classroom. Some of the common symptoms include making careless mistakes, failing to pay close attention to details, not following instructions carefully, not listening when spoken to directly, blurting out answers before hearing the whole question, feeling restless, fidgeting, running or climbing excessively, and failing to follow instructions carefully and completely.

Focus and Sustain Attention in an Instructional Setting

If you are writing a plan to ensure that your ADHD students will be successful, you will want to make sure that your goals are based on the student's past performance and that each goal and statement is stated positively and measurable. However, before creating goals for your student, you may want to establish a learning environment that is conducive to helping children focus and sustain their attention. Some of the tactics include the following:

  • Ensure that the student is close to the source of information.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum and demonstrate/model strategies to cope with classroom distractions. (This may involve some role-playing.)
  • Establish a cue/prompt to ensure you have the student's attention prior to starting. (This could be a touch on the shoulder, saying the student's name etc.)
  • Encourage the student to repeat directions or instructions on a regular basis.
  • Allow 1-to-1 instructions/directions to happen as necessary.
  • Encourage the student to use organizers for lessons, such as main points, subheadings, materials needed, etc.
  • Use peer facilitation—train juniors or senior students who work with peers that are struggling. Peers can also help to identify issues, mediate a conflict, or just provide support.
  • Establish consequences for the lack of attention given during instructional times.
  • When the student is not focusing, encourage him to enter a note in their behavior journal, stating the inappropriate behavior.


Always develop goals that can be measured. Be specific as to the duration or the circumstance under which the goal will be implemented and use specific time slots when possible. Remember, once the IEP is written, it is imperative that the student is taught the goals and fully understands what the expectations are. Provide them with ways of tracking goals—students need to be accountable for their own changes. Below are some examples of measurable goals you can start with.

  • Set a goal for completed homework. Create a weekly calendar where you and the student can keep track of finished work. Keeping track of the goal of completing homework five days a week may help the student focus on the task of finishing homework daily.
  • Set a simple goal for jotting down reminders and assignment due dates in his school agenda five days a week. Ask to see the student's agenda at the end of the week and together count how many times they jotted down due dates of assignments and special school events. 
  • Consider creating a goal for the student to develop organizational skills for managing his daily life. For instance, ask the student to keep track of a personal checklist of daily tasks. From brushing their teeth in the morning to eating lunch or spending time on the computer, set a goal for the student to keep track of how often all of the boxes in their checklist are all marked off.

Keep in mind that goals or statements must be relevant to each student's needs. Start slowly, choosing only a couple of behaviors to change at any given time. Be sure to involve the student—this enables them to take responsibility and be accountable for their own modifications. Also, take care to provide some time to enable the student to track and or graph their successes.