The high cost of teaching in classrooms with ADHD-challenged children includes numerous interruptions to scheduled lesson plans that subordinate valuable teaching time, in order to provide repeated behavioral intervention for those few students who struggle just to stay focussed. Unfortunately, recent and proposed cutbacks to special education programs in various school districts around the country means that mainstream classroom teachers will increasingly find themselves losing more and more teaching time to behavioral intervention.

Behavioral treatment interventions for learning difficulties associated with ADHD are few, and show uneven, or unreliable effectiveness. Of all the evidence-based alternatives to medication-control of attentional deficit syndromes, only “behavioral contingency management” (BCM) has shown any long-standing empirical effect as indicated in the literature on ADHD or in studies of children with inattentive and disruptive behavior.

BCM involves behavior modification, a set of therapies and techniques that involves changing environmental contingencies based on a person’s behavior:  reinforcing desired behaviors while simultaneously ignoring or punishing undesired ones.

Particularly effective in cases of individuals with learning or behavior difficulties, behavior modification therapy is widely used in both clinical and educational settings.

In a conventional classroom learning situation, behavior modification is most readily applied to issues of behavior management, rather than to learning specific content.  Thus it is particularly relevant to shaping skill performance.


simple and effective way of delivering positive reinforcement in classroom behavior modification is by providing compliments, approval, encouragement, and affirmation. Conversely, the use of redress, admonishing or redirecting commentary is a way of discouraging (punishing) inappropriate behavior.  A ratio of five compliments for every one complaint is generally seen as being the most effective in altering behavior in a desired direction.