Schools are complex environments that can either support or hinder the growth of children with ADHD. This article aims to provide a comprehensive roadmap for parents, caregivers, and educators on empowering children with ADHD to succeed academically. From setting up your child for success and collaborating with teachers, to leveraging special education services and practical tips for managing symptoms, this guide offers a multi-faceted approach to optimizing the educational experience for children with ADHD.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is considered a learning disorder, and can have a significant impact on students, affecting various aspects of their academic and personal lives. ADHD symptoms can impair a student’s ability to sustain attention and concentrate for extended periods, making it challenging to stay focused during lectures, study sessions, or complete assignments. Students with ADHD may experience academic underachievement and struggle to meet their full potential in the classroom.
Students with ADHD often face challenges with organization and time management during the school day. They may struggle to follow instructions, prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, and maintain an organized study routine. This can lead to difficulties in being easily distracted, completing assignments on time, time management for school activities, staying on top of coursework, and managing long-term projects. The lack of effective organizational training or skills can contribute to feelings of stress, overwhelm, and frustration, further impacting academic performance and overall self esteem.
In addition to academic challenges, ADHD can also affect interactions with other children and emotional well-being. Students with ADHD may experience impulsivity, difficulty with self-regulation, and a tendency to interrupt others. These behaviors can lead to social difficulties, strained relationships with peers, and a sense of isolation.
There are various ways parents can assist children with ADHD in succeeding at school. That support begins with an understanding of ADHD.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms:
ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that commonly manifests during childhood and often persists into adulthood. Individuals with ADHD may struggle with maintaining focus, sustaining attention, organizing tasks, tasks that require sustained mental effort, and regulating their impulses.
According to the national resource center for ADHD, the three main subtypes of ADHD include; inattentive presentation, hyperactive-impulsive presentation, and combined presentation.
Setting up your child for school success:
Parents can agree that setting a child up for success is different for everyone. The following are tips we most recommend to improve the learning environment;
Work collaboratively with teachers:
- Foster Open Communication: Develop a positive and collaborative relationship with your child’s teachers. Share information about your child’s diagnosis, strengths, educational challenges, and successful strategies used in the past.
- Request an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan: These formal plans outline specific accommodations and modifications the teacher and other classroom aids will follow, which are tailored to your child’s needs. These documents ensure that laws apply to improve the educational environment. A parent can ensure the plan includes appropriate supports, such as extended time for assignments, preferential seating, or assistive technology in the classroom.
- Request the Diagnostic and Statistical manual (dsm) to have your child evaluated when keeping up in school and reaching expectations becomes problematic. Parents who do so can help their student receive the ADHD accommodations they might need to succeed in school.
Find a behavior plan that works:
- Consistency Is Key: Close collaboration with the teacher and school professionals is important to support kids with ADHD. Through this contact with the teacher, a consistent behavior plan can be integrated into the classroom to ensure your child’s progress. Clearly define rules, rewards, and consequences to promote positive behavior and reduce impulsivity and promote quality education for a student.
- Utilize Visual Cues In The Classroom: Visual schedules, checklists, and behavior charts can be powerful tools for a student with ADHD. Visual cues help them understand expectations, track progress, and stay motivated to counteract their learning disability.
Special Education Services and Accommodations:
- Explore Available Resources: Consult with your child’s school to determine if they qualify for special education services. Typical special services or school accommodations for a student with ADHD may include additional support from specialists, resource rooms, or alternative learning environments- away from other students if necessary.
- Access Appropriate Accommodations: Depending on your child’s needs, classroom accommodations such as preferential seating, extended time on tests, or additional breaks can level the playing field and support their academic success.
What Teachers Can Do To Help:
- Provide Structure and Consistency: Staying organized in the classroom setting is beneficial for all kids, especially those with ADHD. Establish clear expectations and routines in the classroom. Utilize visual aids and verbal cues to help children with ADHD stay focused and organized. Create clear organizational systems including a homework folder for each subject, helping children function at their best in the school setting. Take advantage of the disabilities education act to make school as optimal as it can possibly be for your child.
- Differentiate Instruction: Offer a variety of organizational training, and teaching strategies, including visual aids, hands-on activities, eye contact, and movement breaks in the classroom to prevent long stretches of inactivity. Engaging children with ADHD through various methods accommodates their diverse learning styles that may be different from other kids. Doing so will help a child with ADHD avoid careless mistakes and better function at the level of other kids their age.
Tips for managing ADHD symptoms at school:
- Promote Self-regulation: Teach relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness practices to help children manage stress, anxiety, and impulsivity.
- Allow for Movement: Provide alternative seating options, such as exercise balls or standing desks. Allowing subtle movements like squeezing a stress ball or using a fidget toy can also help children with ADHD maintain focus.
- Break Tasks Into Shorter Intervals: Many children with ADHD may struggle to sustain attention for extended periods. Dividing tasks into shorter segments with built-in breaks helps prevent restlessness and enhances productivity.
Develop a Plan That Fits the Child:
Every child with ADHD is unique, and it’s crucial to tailor strategies and interventions to their specific needs and strengths. With the child’s teacher and school counselor, regularly reassess and modify the plan as necessary to ensure ongoing success.
Tips for making learning fun:
- Incorporate Hands-On Activities: Engage children with ADHD through interactive and experiential school experiences. Hands-on activities make learning enjoyable and promote active participation.
- Utilize Technology and Educational Games: Introduce educational apps, computer programs, or interactive games that align with the curriculum. Technology can provide a stimulating and engaging academic experience for children with ADHD.
Helping children with ADHD enjoy reading:
- Offer Diverse Reading Materials: Provide a variety of reading materials that cater to your child’s interests and reading level. Offering choices promotes engagement for kids with ADHD, as well as a positive attitude towards reading.
- Implement Reading Strategies: Use techniques like highlighting, summarizing, or reading aloud to support comprehension and pay attention during reading tasks.
Helping a child with ADHD get homework done on time:
- Use visual reminders: Create a visible calendar or checklist to keep the child organized, track school assignments and due dates. Visual cues help children with ADHD stay organized and manage their time effectively.
- Offer Support and Guidance: Sit with your child while they complete their work to provide assistance and keep them on track. Offer praise and encouragement for their efforts and accomplishments.
Ways to help your child with homework:
Many strategies can be employed to make homework assignments less of a battle and struggle for adults and children alike. Seeing beyond the challenges associated with ADHD in students and their routines will help a parent and child know that success is possible.
The following strategies can be used to support students to improve their homework habits.
Improve Overall Study skills
These skills are often assumed to be understood naturally, but more often than not, they are skills that need to be taught, practiced, and reinforced across grade levels, particularly for those with ADHD. These skills consist things such as homework routines, organization, note-taking, reading comprehension, active listening, planning skills etc.
Learning is a process that ends with the acquisition of knowledge, but it is helpful to understand how we do that. According to The 21st Century Student’s Guide to Studying: For College & Career Readiness, the equation is:
Learning = the acquisition of knowledge + retention of knowledge + the ability to demonstrate knowledge
Often one of those steps is greatly impacted, preventing a child from being able to learn optimally. Thinking about it this way will help you to identify strategies that are specific to that piece in order to improve their ability related to thinking.
Increase Self Awareness
The term self awareness is connected to metacognition – our ability to think about our thinking. Self aware learners make an effort to consciously monitor and focus on their thinking asthey learn.
This type of student demonstrates the following traits:
- Focuses on a single task
- Identifies their academic goals
- Assesses and adjusts their environment
- Monitors and adjusts their thinking
- Gauges progress towards their academic goals
Maximize and Recognize Effort
As it relates to studying, having a growth mindset means that you believe that basic ability can be developed through hard work, effort, and experience. Academic challenges are embraced, labels are rejected and there is a focus on the strategies and processes (rather than only grades or outcome). The following resources can be helpful to identify how to help a child learn about effort;
Homework can be an opportunity to practice skills learned in the classroom and demonstrate understanding. If this time is structured, it will highlight the concepts a child understands well and those needing more instruction from a child’s teacher.
Improve The Environment:
- Location: Find a quiet and comfortable space that is free from distractions. This helps promote sustained mental effort. Eliminating all distractions will be challenging, so consider those that most impede focus.
- Desktop: Give your student space to work. Is it big enough for your computer and an open book? This may not seem like an important factor at first but if a child cannot lay out the things they’ll need, it will be impossible to be efficient. Consistently having to move things to make space for others is going to get frustrating, distracting and uncomfortable, and in the end become a time waster.
- Lighting: Is it too bright that it is blinding and/or causing a headache? Is it too dark that it is putting you to sleep and you can’t see what you are reading?
- Supplies: Does your child have everything they need at their workspace? If they are constantly getting up to find materials, much time will be wasted, frustration will develop and it’s likely the ADHD symptoms of distractedness will arise. Consider having the following available:
- pens and pencils
- sticky notes
- computer and charger
- student agenda/planner
- backpack with notebooks, binders, homework sheets, etc.
Now that you have your space set up and materials organized, it is time to commit to a schedule. If possible, help your child succeed by encouraging homework time at the same time every day. Consistency is a major component of success with this process.
Remember, this plan may need to be modified according to the teachers preferences, and your kids needs. As with anything that is new or involves interrupting established habits, progress is not a straight line, takes time and patience, along with an open mind.
Supporting children with ADHD in the school environment requires a multifaceted approach. Through these strategies, you can help your student stay organized at school, and empower them to reach their full potential academically and emotionally.
Students who understand their capabilities, find the best strategies for them and that increases their confidence. Finding the most effective strategies takes time, effort and attention which in turn provides an opportunity to practice those skills regularly.