Traditional classrooms are not always the best learning environment for an ADHD kid in school. Schools have come a long way in adjusting to individual children’s needs, and there are more resources than ever. But you still have to communicate frequently with the teacher before and during the school year to help your child succeed. There is also a lot you can do at home to prepare or support your child’s success at school. Here are 7 tips for ADHD students and their parents to increase success at school.
Plan before the school year even starts to set your child up for success. Research the teachers to assess who is most qualified and willing to implement personalized strategies to help an ADHD kid in school. Once a teacher has been selected talk with that teacher beforehand. Don’t wait until the school year starts. Building a relationship with you and your child will help them have a better idea of how to help.
If you haven’t already looked into getting an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan for your child, do so right away. Individualized plans provide ADHD support in many different ways ranging from extra time to complete tests to being allowed a fidget toy to encourage concentration. Start the process as soon as possible to establish appropriate accommodations for your child.
Allow for movement
Many teachers are including movement throughout the day already. Talk with the teacher to find out what they are doing in the classroom to include movement. If they are not, it can be added in based on your child’s IEP or 504 plan. It is also helpful to ensure that your child is seated near the teacher and away from windows and doors. This will reduce outside distractions.
In addition, there are several ADHD strategies that can be used at a desk to help with concentration.
ADHD movement strategies
- Fidget toys: fidget toys are a great way to keep your child’s body active in movement and actually increases an ADHD child’s ability to focus.
- Doodling: a simple paper and pencil can allow your child to move without becoming a distraction to other children.
- Stress ball: a stress ball is helpful for movement but can also be used when strong emotions arise. ADHD children’s emotions often come up suddenly and can quickly lead to aggression. A stress ball can help redirect the aggression.
- Moving an object from one side of the desk to the other: this activity can be helpful when working to complete an assignment or to track the passing of time. Each time a child completes a problem or a period of time passes, they can move a paper clip (or other object) to the other side of the desk.
There are endless techniques that can be used when helping ADHD students incorporate movement while sitting in the classroom. With these strategies be sure to implement rules for their use so your child does not take advantage of the freedom or become distracting to other students.
Establish a behavioral reward system
There are many different ways reward systems can be used. They can be used only in school, only at home, or a combination of both. It is helpful to reinforce what behaviors are expected and occurring in school. The teacher will be more willing to work with you when you support and encourage positive behavior at school.
Focus the reward system on praise and earning. There will be times when a negative consequence is needed so it’s best to prepare for this, but ADHD children respond much better to positive reinforcement. Make the rewards frequent and reachable or your child will become discouraged and not try. Ask your child for feedback and suggestions for improvement. They know what is best and motivating for them.
Prepare for school routine
Provide a written schedule (or picture schedule for younger children) your child can refer to throughout the day so they know what’s coming next. This can help with organization as well as focus. Role-play the routine with your child many times before school begins. It may even be helpful to go to the school so your child can practice the routine in the actual environment.
Transitions, such as moving between classes or coming in from lunch, can also be difficult for an ADHD kid in school. You can create brief steps of what to do during a transition and how to get settled into the next activity. Again, Role-playing is crucial to finding success in preparing your child to respond well to transitions.
Children respond best to positive reinforcement.
Have organization strategies
Keeping classwork and supplies organized is often one of the biggest struggles for an ADHD kid in school. There are many tips for ADHD students to stay organized, but here are just a few to get started:
- Color code class folders
- Create an organization system for the desk at school and home
- Keep a set of books at home so your child doesn’t have to transfer them back and forth
- Use an assignment notebook the teacher and student can use at school and then pass to the parent for home use
- Check your child’s backpack as soon as your child leaves school and before they return to school
Help in the classroom and give (and accept) feedback
Regularly spending time in the classroom will allow you to observe your child’s strengths and weaknesses as their behavior may be different at school than at home. From this you can decide what skills your child most needs to learn to succeed. You’ll also be able to observe how the teacher is doing in meeting your child’s needs. Be empathetic to the teacher and praise their efforts and success as well.
Set up frequent meetings or communication with the teacher to discuss progress and to facilitate any feedback that needs to be given on either side. If you are open to feedback then the teacher will be more open as well.
Teach your them to manage without you
Most importantly, you want your child to learn to function and manage on their own. Include your child in communicating with the teacher about what is working or not working. Also include them in setting up and adjusting the behavior system and rewards. The more ownership your child takes in their education the more successful they will be. Your child will be expected to take on more responsibility for organization and executive functioning skills as they move onto secondary school. Your expectations of their independence should gradually increase over time through managing less of their schedule and organization.
Use Preventive Teaching and Role-play
Use the skill of Preventive Teaching to teach skills in all areas: staying on task, interpersonal interactions, organization, following directions, decision making, etc. You can create concrete steps for your child to follow in any areas they are struggling. Teach them the steps, explain how it will benefit them, and then Role-play many times until they are able to do it on their own. Once they have mastered a skill move onto something else.
Helping create a positive experience at school will heal and elevate your family in all areas, not just in school. Taking the time to include them in creating the positive experience will also build a lasting relationship. The skills they learn in communicating with authority figures and managing ADHD symptoms in all environments will benefit them for the rest of their life.