ADHD and School

adhd

School can be a challenge for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—but here’s how you can help your child or teen succeed in the classroom.

Child sitting at shared classroom table sticks tongue out as he focuses while drawing on paper, classmates and teacher behind

Setting up your child for school success

The classroom environment can pose challenges for a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). The very tasks these students find the most difficult—sitting still, listening quietly, concentrating—are the ones they are required to do all day long. Perhaps most frustrating of all is that most of these children want to be able to learn and behave like their unaffected peers. Neurological deficits, not unwillingness, keep kids with attention deficit disorder from learning in traditional ways.

As a parent, you can help your child cope with these deficits and overcome the challenges school creates. You can work with your child to implement practical strategies for learning both inside and out of the classroom and communicate with teachers about how your child learns best. With consistent support, the following strategies can help your child enjoy learning, meet educational challenges—and experience success at school and beyond.

Tips for working with teachers

Remember that your child’s teacher has a full plate: in addition to managing a group of children with distinct personalities and learning styles, they can also expect to have at least one student with ADHD. Teachers may try their best to help your child with attention deficit disorder learn effectively, but parental involvement can dramatically improve your child’s education. You have the power to optimize your child’s chances for success by supporting the steps taken in the classroom. If you can work with and support your child’s teacher, you can directly affect the experience of your child with ADHD at school.

There are a number of ways you can work with teachers to keep your child on track at school. Together you can help your child learn to find their feet in the classroom and work effectively through the challenges of the school day. As a parent, you are your child’s advocate. For your child to succeed in the classroom, it is vital that you communicate their needs to the adults at school. It is equally important for you to listen to what the teachers and other school officials have to say.

You can ensure that communication with your child’s school is constructive and productive. Try to keep in mind that your mutual purpose is finding out how to best help your child succeed in school. Whether you talk over the phone, email, or meet in person, make an effort to be calm, specific, and above all positive—a good attitude can go a long way when communicating with the school.

Plan ahead. You can arrange to speak with school officials or teachers before the school year even begins. If the year has started, plan to speak with a teacher or counselor on at least a monthly basis.

Make meetings happen. Agree on a time that works for both you and your child’s teacher and stick to it. If it’s convenient, meet in your child’s classroom so you can get a sense of their physical learning environment.

Create goals together. Discuss your hopes for your child’s school success. Together, write down specific and realistic goals and talk about how to help your child reach them.

Listen carefully. Like you, your child’s teacher wants to see them succeed at school. Listen to what they have to say—even if it is sometimes hard to hear. Understanding your child’s challenges in school is the key to finding solutions that work.

Share information. You know your child’s history, and your child’s teacher sees them every day: together you have a lot of information that can lead to better understanding of your child’s hardships. Share your observations freely, and encourage your child’s teachers to do the same.

Ask the hard questions and give a complete picture. Be sure to list any medications your child takes and explain any other treatments. Share with the teacher which tactics work well—and which don’t—for your child at home. Ask if your child is having any problems in school, including on the playground. Find out if they are eligible for any special services to help with learning.

Developing and using a behavior plan

Children with ADD/ADHD are capable of appropriate classroom behavior, but they need structure and clear expectations in order to keep their symptoms in check. As a parent, you can help by developing a behavior plan for your child—and sticking to it. Whatever type of behavior plan you decide to implement, create it in close collaboration with your child and their teacher.

Kids with attention deficit disorder respond best to specific goals and daily positive reinforcement—as well as worthwhile rewards. Yes, you may have to hang a carrot on a stick to motivate your child to behave better in class. Create a plan that incorporates small rewards for small victories and larger rewards for bigger accomplishments.

Find a behavior plan that works

Click here to download a highly regarded behavior plan called The Daily Report Card, which can be adjusted for elementary, middle, and even high school students with ADHD.

Source: Center for Children and Families

Tips for managing ADHD symptoms at school

ADHD impacts each child’s brain differently, so each case can look quite different in the classroom. Children with ADHD exhibit a range of symptoms: some seem to bounce off the walls, some daydream constantly, and others just can’t seem to follow the rules.

As a parent, you can help your child reduce any or all of these types of behaviors. It is important to understand how attention deficit disorder affects different children’s behavior so that you can choose the appropriate strategies for tackling the problem. There are a variety of fairly straightforward approaches you and your child’s teacher can take to best manage the symptoms of ADHD—and put your child on the road to school success.

Managing distractibility

Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. and Melinda Smith, M.A.