When it comes to ADHD in children, one of the most impacted areas of their lives is school. That said, it's important to talk to the teacher about the different ways that they can support your child in the classroom.
How Do You Accommodate a Child with ADHD in the Classroom?
Because students are expected to sit at a desk all day long and listen to various lectures, ADHD symptoms in kids can absolutely impact their education. After all, it can even be difficult for an adult without the disorder to sit through an hour-long lesson. Expecting our students to do the same while managing ADHD symptoms is a tricky task. For that reason, it's important to understand the different accommodations that a child with ADHD can have in the classroom.
Luckily, there are many different accommodations that the education system can put in place to help your child succeed in the classroom. While some teachers can implement these accommodations on their own, many schools and families will try to get their student on a 504 plan (set accommodations for the student) or an IEP (individualized education plan used for special education services) that clearly describes the accommodations for a specific child.
As a parent, you can either contact the school and request an evaluation for one of these plans or talk to your student’s teacher about trying out some different ways to work with your student. It's also important to point out that while you may get an ADHD diagnosis from a medical clinic that is outside the school, the school will often conduct its own testing to decide on the best course of action.
Once you have created a plan for your child with ADHD symptoms, you may encounter some of the following accommodations from the CDC that are generally implemented for ADHD in children:
· Extra time on tests.
· Individualized instruction and assessments.
· Positive reinforcement.
· Continuous feedback.
· Assistive technology to help complete classroom tasks.
· Allowing breaks or time to move around the classroom.
· Creating an environment that limits distraction.
· Extra help with time management, organization, and planning.
· Behavior plan.
What do Teachers Need to Know About ADHD?
Teachers must understand what ADHD is and how it impacts students. Teachers need to know how to manage ADHD symptoms in kids, be aware of the tell-tale signs of the disability, and structure their classroom lessons to accommodate the students who are managing their ADHD or similar symptoms. For ADHD in children, it's important to provide enough organizational tools as well as make sure that each student gets enough individualized attention when necessary.
Often, teachers will encounter students with different types of ADHD, such as inattentive ADHD and hyperactivity disorder. When working with students who are hyperactive or otherwise require further assistance, there are some successful techniques that have been laid out by the National Resource Center on ADHD, such as:
· Frequent feedback.
· Attention for positive behavior.
· Knowledge of how ADHD impacts self-esteem and self-efficacy.
· Make assignments clear.
· Allow time for movement breaks.
· Provide organizational tools.
Tips for Advocating for Your Child with ADHD
The trick to helping your child succeed in school is to successfully advocate for them and talk to the student’s teacher about what they need. While many teachers have worked with hyperactive children and students who display ADHD symptoms, you would be completely shocked at how many are still unaware of the majority of symptoms that often come with the neurodevelopmental disorder. It is beyond helpful to do extensive research or have an IEP Advocate that can help you through the process of obtaining the proper assistance and assessability knowledge that your child may require. A descriptive, all-encompassing plan in place will help your ADHD child tremendously in terms of educational success.
ADHD children are not lazy, they are not selfish, they don't lose things on purpose, become distracted, fidget around, pick at their fingers while in class because they are not paying attention, or intentionally act as if they do not respect their teacher. Nobody wants to be told that they keep making the same mistakes, but unfortunately, this invisible disorder continues to be misunderstood and underrepresented due to its stigma. The truth is, your student doesn't want to let others down - and they wish that they didn't. Accommodations and advocacy are extremely important. An overwhelming 32.3% of students diagnosed with ADHD drop out of high school (and this statistic doesn't even include those without a proper diagnosis). A big reason for this is due to the constant rejection they receive from others who don't see anything visually wrong, so don't understand, and also due to proper accommodations that were never set into place. It doesn't help that the disorder is called Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Not all who have ADHD even suffer from hyperactivity.
When it comes down to it, you know your child best, and working with the teacher and school will ensure the best accommodations and ADHD treatment possible and you must stand strong. For that reason, use the tips below when getting ready to talk to your student’s teacher about the best course of action for your child with ADHD.
Contact the Teacher Before School Starts
Being proactive is one of the best ways to ensure that your student succeeds in school. After all, discussing the needs of your child with their teacher well beforehand will help to not only establish a good relationship with that teacher but will let that teacher know the best way to work with your student.
While you do not need to contact the teacher months beforehand, requesting a time to meet with them either over the phone or in-person before school starts or within the first few weeks will only help your students succeed. If you are working with a special education advocate, occupational therapist, school counselor, or other school personnel, it's best to get them involved as well so that the entire group can have a set plan before the school year begins.
Discuss How ADHD Impacts Your Child
Understanding how ADHD symptoms impact your student is a great way to help the teacher understand how to target these symptoms in the classroom. For example, if you know that your student has a difficult time staying organized and remembering to bring home homework, you can work on making a plan with the teacher that will help make sure your child works on these skills (and, of course, remembers that homework!). There may even be an Occupational Therapist Practitioner on-site, that can help your child. It is always worth it to ask. Always seek out an Occupational Therapist for your child. They are the profession most educated and trained on helping ADHD and implementing methods that create behavior change by learning new skills, and working with the way their brain already works (sometimes with the use of adaptive equipment).
Share the Strategies that Have and Have NOT Worked in the Past
Whether your child has been in school for one year or ten, there have likely been some strategies that have worked, and some strategies that have not been successful at all. Typically, teachers will employ all of the techniques that they are familiar with, and they have to go through a period of trial and error before they find the ones that work the best for the student.
However, you likely know exactly what has worked and what hasn't. So, if you have these discussions with the teachers ahead of time, the teachers will know exactly how to work with your student. That way, success starts with the first day of school and not the 30th.
Additionally, make sure to set up frequent 504 and IEP plan updates. All of your child's progress and assessments should have been documented along the way. Hold onto these documents as proof in case anything happens to go wrong and you need to look back at past records. This is useful information if your child does not do well despite their 504 or IEP plan, as it should always be adjusted for student success.
Use Open and Honest Communication
Open and honest communication is crucial to any professional relationship. Many people have had challenges in the education system, and some may not feel comfortable discussing those challenges with new teachers or a new school. However, the challenges that were faced in the past will directly impact the student’s future experiences in school.
So, if your student is entering middle school or transferring to a new school, you have the green light to be completely honest with your experiences with prior schools. You can absolutely discuss what worked, what didn't work, what you liked, and what you didn't like. Odds are, the new team of educational professionals will be happy to hear all about the ways they can help your student for their future educational experiences.
Collaboration is Key
If your child is on a 504 plan, an IEP, has recently been diagnosed with ADHD, you will likely be working with a lot of different people in the schools. While all these people are committed to your child's success, it's important to make sure that everyone can work together and have goals set early and often reviewed.
Work with Teaching and School Staff to Develop Accommodations
As mentioned above, there are many different accommodations that you can implement in the classroom. While each student is different it has different educational needs, you can absolutely work with the teachers and school staff to add the accommodations that you think will best target your child's needs.
Because you know your child best, you likely have a better idea of what will work and what won't work. Also, you may have some suggestions that the teaching and school staff haven't thought of. So when you are sitting in those accommodation meetings, you should absolutely add your thoughts and make sure that the accommodations that you think will help your student are added to their list. This is also where getting advice from an Occupational Therapy Practitioner and/or IEP/Special Education Advocate can come in handy and make the process less stressful by removing much of the responsibility off you. Nobody expects you to be an expert. It is okay to reach out to outside resources.
Use the Same Strategies at Home
In the education system, it's common knowledge that students often behave differently at school as they do at home. While there are many reasons for this phenomenon, one of the biggest ones is that the routines and expectations are drastically different. For example, students may come to school and have stricter rules than they do at home or vice versa, so having to switch between the two sets of expectations can be challenging for some kids.
If your student has ADHD, attempting to replicate the school’s expectations and routines can help them be more successful in homework completion and making that transition to and from school. Of course, I am not saying that you should turn your home into a school, I am simply saying that you can work with the teachers and school staff to try your best to have similar expectations when it comes to schoolwork.
If you're wondering what this looks like, a perfect example is replicating time-on-task versus time off-task. Many times, teachers will have their students work for a specified amount of time and then take a break. So if your teacher has students work on a task for 20 minutes and then take a 5-minute break, use the same system at home to help your student be more successful with homework.
And the most important part - always provide a supportive environment for your child. They aren't "bad," they love you so very much - and they are trying. It may not look like it to an outsider, but trust me, they are trying so hard.
Final Thoughts for this Post
All in all, you know your student best. Especially if you have experienced ADHD symptoms yourself, providing insight and giving your experiences to teachers can help them work with your student effectively. As a parent, you should never be afraid to talk to your student’s teachers and other school staff to articulate your needs. Your child is intelligent, worthy, and deserves success - You just may be the necessary key to help them get there.
We have one life, and so does your child. Advocate for your rights, their rights, and advocate for what is right. With the right skill set, you have more control than you may believe. Your child needs you.
As I always say, "believe in your power to create change."
Allison, owner of FLORAMENTE: Holistic Solutions