Anu Roy portrait

Written by Anu Roy

Anu is a TeachFirst leadership Alumni and digital trustee and teacher committee lead for charities in England and Scotland. She is currently a digital curriculum development manager and works in inclusive education projects incorporating tech.

‘Just stop fidgeting please’.

I have been told this my entire life and truthfully, I have then said the same sentence to students during a lesson. Students who do not seem focused, who might have lost their pen, cannot find the right page. As teachers we all know these students, but with that sentence -do we run the risk of reducing them to something they cannot control?

Traditionally, the narrative around restless behaviour in the classroom can be characterised as an uninterested student, potentially becoming disruptive if the teacher does not intervene. However, neurodivergent students with ADHD may find it difficult to focus, feel restless and struggle to overcome impulsive behaviour. This is particularly challenging for BAME neurodivergent students who are continually underdiagnosed for ADHD, making it harder to raise awareness and create an action plan to support them. 

In our current education system, I have realised that there are BAME students who have struggled from nursery all the way to their graduation at university with difficulties which arise from ADHD as a root cause, but they were never diagnosed. The inequities of treatment and resources coupled with the systemic barriers faced by people of colour can mean that the joy of learning is lost when these students feel like they are not meant to succeed. Instead, educators have a duty to shape systems which support neurodivergent students and address their barriers to learning. 

The next time we see a student looking restless, instead of assuming they are disinterested, it is important for us to take the time and speak with them about whether they have trouble concentrating and what measures we can put in place to help them navigate that. When all students are excited and keen to learn, what we can accomplish in the classroom knows no limits.