What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder characterized by a pattern if inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning.[1] Some children struggle with inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity, but many are diagnosed with what is referred to as “combined type”.

How does ADHD affect kids at school?

Symptoms of ADHD can negatively impact a child’s ability to access the curriculum in the classroom for a variety of reasons. Students with ADHD have a number of challenges in the school setting, including:

  • distractions (windows, other kids, interesting posters on the wall)
  • difficulty focusing on class lectures or worksheets
  • difficulty sitting still
  • talking out of turn and other disruptive behaviors
  • poor organizational skills (might forget homework or misplace important papers or folders in their desks)
  • poor fine motor skills (this makes note taking and writing assignments difficult)
  • difficulty following instructions
  • difficulty completing long term projects independently.[2]

Students with ADHD are at risk of repeated negative interactions with teachers, poor academic performance, teasing and bullying from peers, and low self-esteem.

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Concerned about ADHD?

One of our 3-minute Self-Assessments may help identify if you or your child could benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

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How can parents support ADHD students?

Some students with ADHD qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) under the category, “Other Health Impairment,” if the school evaluation team agrees that the student’s symptoms of ADHD impair his or her ability to learn and demonstrate learning in the classroom setting[3]. An IEP is a legal document that spells out your child’s learning needs, the accommodations and services the school will provide, and how progress will be measured.

The first step is to get to know your child’s rights. “One of the most powerful things you can do to increase your ability to advocate on your child’s behalf is to understand your child’s rights under three key pieces of federal legislation: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act,” explains Ann Douglas, parent educator and author of Parenting Through the Storm.[4]

Once you understand your child’s educational rights, it’s time to seek help from the school. Your child’s classroom teacher is the logical first step, but don’t be afraid to request a team meeting to discuss the next steps for your child.

What accommodations are helpful for students with ADHD?

The best way to determine your child’s needs in the classroom is to seek input from the teacher and any other support staff. No two students are the same, even if they have the same diagnosis. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another.

Several accommodations can be useful in the classroom setting:

  • Preferential seating. ADHD students should sit in the front row (or close to the teacher), away from windows and other distractions.
  • Oral and written instructions. Oral instructions should be reiterated and written down for the student.
  • Break down assignments. Break down tasks into manageable pieces (for example, provide four math problems followed by four more until the assignment is complete.) For long term assignments, add specific dates to meet each goal.
  • Highlight key points. Highlight important words in the directions on worksheets and tests to help the ADHD student focus.
  • Use assistive technology. Use of technology in the classroom makes the learning process more visual for the ADHD student.
  • Extended time on tests. Eliminate timed tests and/or provide extended time on tests.
  • Copies of teachers notes. Some ADHD students benefit from a copy of the teacher’s lecture notes after the lecture to check for comprehension.
  • Supervised organization. Many students with ADHD benefit from a supervised daily cleanout of the backpack and desk to learn organizational strategies. Use of a homework planner checked by the teacher each day and color-coded folders can also be beneficial.
  • Manipulatives for understanding. Number lines, math manipulatives, word banks and color-coded spelling words (to help focus on difficult words) are useful for both classwork and tests.
  • Provide checklists. Detailed lists for homework assignments, organization, study skills, and checklists of frequently made mistakes help ADHD students stay on task and avoid repetitive mistakes.[5]

What about homework?

It’s reasonable to assume that your ADHD child will need help staying focused and organizing assignments. A few effecive strategies to incorporate at home:

  • Whiteboard calendar. Using a large, visible calendar to transfer long-term assignments and projects to can enable the student to better track tasks.
  • Clutter free workspace. ADHD students need a clutter-free and distraction-free workspace near an adult who can help him/her remained focused and also eliminate screens and other distractions.
  • Parent-teacher communication log. A daily communication log helps parents and teachers communicate and work together for the benefit of the student.

The team approach works

Students with ADHD can enjoy a successful and meaningful learning experience in the classroom when they benefit from a team that works together. Collaborate with your child’s teacher and seek outside help if necessary. With the right accommodations in place, your student will thrive in school.


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Last Updated: Nov 25, 2018