Using classroom audio to reach students with ADHD 

Editor’s Note: Much has happened since we published this blog in June 2016; we’ve updated to include the most recent statistics and additional resources on how classroom audio is being used to reach students with ADHD. 

by Carolyn Hollowell 

Millions of students around the world struggle to pay attention in classrooms. These children and their teachers often feel frustrated by the end of the school day. In the United States, an estimated 6.1 million children ages 2-17, or 9.4% have been diagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder once called attention deficit disorder (ADD). Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls (12.9% compared to 5.6%). 

Students with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors or be overly active. In a school setting, they tend to fall behind in class or act out due to their inability to focus on activities in the classroom. They generally can’t focus on tasks as long as their peers, and this inability to focus can lead to stigmatizing students as discipline problems. 

Focus on environment to support learning 

Some districts we work with have implemented strategies that actually improve the educational experience for both these students and their teachers. 

One strategy is a multi-sensory approach to teaching. Stimulating the child’s various senses through guided activities is an effective way to ensure maximum retention and learning without distraction. One of the advocates of this multi-sensory approach is Roman Gouzman, who is the head of Tactile Instrumental Enrichment at the Feuerstein Institute. Professor Gouzman contends that using audio technologies, among other sensory means, is supremely beneficial for the learning experiences of students diagnosed with attention deficit disorders. Using classroom audio to reach students with ADHD is smart, effective, and surprisingly simple. When students receive a clear signal from their teachers and peers, they have demonstrated a significant change in listening behaviors and skills—and learn at a faster rate than their grade-alike peers in unamplified classrooms. 

There is a difference in how children perceive their surroundings through sensory signals. Students with ADHD may be easily distracted by an abundance of visual information. This visual distraction could be anything from a teacher using visual means to communicate, student activity inside the classroom, activity in the playground, or even birds flying out the window. Dealing with so much sensory information can easily overwhelm a student with attention deficit disorder. 

Using audio clarity to help students focus 

For students with learning differences, classroom amplification can have profound impact by helping students focus and listen, enabling them to take in and process information bit by bit.   

One study of first and second graders showed that in amplified classrooms, student distractibility and requests to repeat something decreased, and on-task behavior increased 17%.  

“When kids have access to the full range of sounds in the classroom … it comes in loud and clear for them,” said Jennifer Goldman, Principal, Mountain View Elementary School, Simi Valley, California. “Having that teacher voice, no matter where you are in the classroom, it really captures the students’ attention.”  

Lightspeed’s instructional audio systems provide clear audio to every student in the class, whether in large or small-group settings. By creating an environment that makes it easier to hear, educators can make it easier to also pay attention and learn.   

Read more about creating environments that help students learn:  

E-book: Improving student learning through clear, intelligible sound 

Article: Breaking down invisible barriers to learning 

Article: “Full range” of audio makes hearing easier, focuses learning 

Video: How instructional audio captures and keeps children’s attention in the classroom 

Research: Sound-field amplification to increase compliance to directions in students with ADHD