Book review: 100 ideas for supporting pupils with ADHD

By Geoff Kewley and Pauline Latham. Reviewed by a psychologist and associate member of the Salvesen Mindroom Research Centre.

Cover of 100 ideas book. Green with yellow writing.

Date published: 2008

Paperback price: £10.49

Link to book on Bloomsbury website 

Reviewer: Psychologist and associate member of the Research Centre team

Reviewer expertise: Senior Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Development.  Lectured on ADHD to undergraduate and postgraduate students, supported children with ADHD through different voluntary positions and have close family members with ADHD.

What is the book about and who is it aimed at?

The book provides 100 ideas for teachers to support pupils with ADHD.  The book is aimed at teachers primarily, but also all other staff involved in supporting pupils with ADHD in primary school contexts.   Some of the ideas may also be relevant to secondary school contexts, although this is not the main audience for the book. 

A brief description of the book.

The book contains 100 ideas to support children with ADHD. There is almost no description of what ADHD is, therefore, it is assumed that the reader already has a good knowledge this. 

The book contains short (approximately 1 page) ideas to support pupils.  These vary from very broad suggestions (e.g., develop your knowledge, ensure a whole-school led approach) to more specific and practical suggestions to use in the classroom (e.g., to help with recall, make handwriting more fun). 

Integrated throughout the ideas is important information about ADHD (e.g., children with ADHD typically show wider variability in performance than children without ADHD, children with ADHD can by hypersensitive).  Some of this information could have been helpfully summarised at the start of the book as it’s important for teachers to understand and relevant throughout.   

The book focuses mostly on supporting practice and improving the learning environment for students with ADHD. 

Is the content in line with best practice or research evidence?

There is no reference to research literature throughout the book, yet many of the practical suggestions are generally in line with what would be considered to be good practice.  In truth, there is insufficient research to provide a robust evidence base to support/reject many of the ideas provided in the book.

The authors provide links to websites (page 5) and encourage teachers to develop their knowledge and understanding of ADHD by accessing these.  Reference to high-quality books or peer-reviewed research literature is noticeably absent.

The book was first published in 2008; research and understanding of ADHD has evolved quite considerably since then.  For example, a greater acknowledgement of co-occurring difficulties experienced by many children with ADHD would be expected.  The final section of the book does focus on this, but it feels a little like an afterthought rather than something that is integrated throughout.

Furthermore, research on learning styles has been widely discredited (learning styles theory suggests that there are different types of learner – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile).  However, in this book, readers are told that all children (and teachers) have different learning styles and understanding students’ learning styles is important.  The inclusion of this type of information may make it difficult for teachers to work out which ‘ideas’ to have confidence in, and which are educational myths. 

Who would this book be helpful for its target reader?

The book could help teachers understand how to better support children with ADHD in their classroom.  Indeed, many of the practical suggestions given are also good teaching strategies that would benefit all learners (e.g., provide students with a simple overview of what you want them to achieve). 

The organisation/layout of the book is particularly helpful for teachers to find information quickly as the 100 ideas are organised across 13 different sections (e.g., preparing to teach the child with ADHD, lesson time, behavioural difficulties, helping the pupil with organisation, transitions, ADHD and other difficulties, etc).  Throughout, there are clear practical suggestions for teachers, which is often what teachers are looking for. 

It is unrealistic to think that teachers would implement the suggestions from all 100 ideas.  Indeed, within each idea there are often several suggestions which gives the impression that quantity of content has been prioritised over quality.  Furthermore, I’d strongly encourage teachers to think carefully about whether the ideas provided are going to benefit their student with ADHD or risk alienating them.   Ideas need to be considered carefully within the context that teachers are working in and the knowledge they have of the students they are supporting.

The book has been written for an audience of primary school teachers/staff working in primary school contexts and is unlikely to be similarly helpful to anyone beyond this.  However, parents of children with ADHD may benefit from understanding more about the type of learning environment that suits their child and some information/ideas could possibly be transferred to the home context.

What is your final, overall opinion on the book?

In some ways it’s a good book for teachers looking for practical suggestions to support students with ADHD - it’s very easy for teachers to dip in and out of and find information quickly.  Indeed, the structure of the book is possibly its greatest strength.

The book would have benefitted from an introduction to ADHD to provide background knowledge highlighting common difficulties and areas of strength.  The absence of research evidence to support practical ideas is an issue. 

The authors highlight at the beginning of the book the importance of understanding students with ADHD and acknowledge that myths and misinformation around ADHD have been problematic.  They encourage teachers to reflect on their own attitudes to ADHD and highlight the importance of a positive approach.  While much of the language and ideas used within the book is positive (e.g., recognising potential, play to their strengths), there are certain phrases throughout the book (e.g., “children with ADHD have a genuine problem”; “ADHD is a potential life sentence”) which challenge the positive approach the authors are endorsing.  Furthermore, there is content within the book which has been discredited (e.g., learning styles) or is very questionable and not underpinned by any scientific research (“children with ADHD need to be treated as being about a third younger than their chronological age”).  As a result, it could be a challenge for teachers to identify the good content from the bad.   Interestingly, the book has been reprinted nine times since it was published in 2008 – a revised version to reflect current understanding of ADHD (and learning in general) would be very welcome.

The authors also highlight at the beginning that they use ‘he’ throughout to reflect the fact that ADHD is “more common in boys”.  While this may be true, ADHD is often under diagnosed in girls, as the authors also acknowledge (idea 23 – remember the girls!).  Indeed, at times, this book has the potential to endorse, rather than challenge, some of the negative and/or narrow stereotypes associated with ADHD.