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The Beeper System: Helping Students With ADHD Stay On Task in the Classroom

written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 8/2/2012

Teachers who have students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may find that time management is a problem. One solution is the beeper system, which helps students stick to a schedule. Learn how you would use the beeper management system to help your students.

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    If you teach special education, you probably have had a student with attention deficit disorder (ADHD). In the United States, between 3 and 7 percent of the school-age population have ADHD, a disorder that causes problems with attention and behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Three subtypes of ADHD exist: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive and combined. Children with predominantly inattentive ADHD have six or more inattention symptoms and five or less hyperactive-impulsive symptoms; vice versa is true for predominantly hyperactive-impulsive. Children with combined type ADHD have six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

    One issue that can arise with ADHD is time management. Students may have problems completing a task on time — they may become distracted and do not turn in a finished assignment. So how can teachers help these students stay on task during class? They can use the beeper management system.

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    How Does the Beeper System Work?

    So how would you use a beeper management system with your student? Start by setting a schedule with her. Say for example your student has trouble completing an assignment in a set amount of time. First, discuss with the student how much time she has for the assignment. When you are programming the beeper, it will go off at certain intervals to remind the student to stay on task. Figure out at what time the student needs to be reminded. Does she get distracted after five minutes or 10 minutes?

    Some of the more expensive beeper systems have particular messages that you can choose as the reminders. Explain to the student that when the beeper goes off with a reminder, she should check if she is staying on track. Make a note if the student becomes distracted way before the beeper goes off. If it is set to go off every 10 minutes and she becomes distracted much earlier, you may need to set the beeper for lower intervals.

    As the student's attention gets better, try lengthening the intervals. If the student is able to stay on task, provide a reward as positive reinforcement — talk to the student about a reward she would like if she can stay on task. If the student is still having problems, talk to her about what is working and what is not working with the beeper management system.

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    Different Options

    Several types of beepers exist for ADHD students. ADDitude reviewed several types of beepers that have varying price ranges. Depending on the model used, the child can wear the beeper or she can put it on her desk. Because some of the beeper options can become expensive, check to see if the student already owns one. If you feel the student will benefit greatly from utilizing one in the classroom, inquire with your school's CSE team to see if this can be incorporated as an assistive technology into your student's IEP.