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Working With Your ADHD Child's Teachers and School

Kari Lane is a doctoral-level registered nurse. Her expertise is in geriatrics. She has a familial, hereditary, sensorineural hearing loss.

Children with ADHD can be either overly excited or easily distracted, or both.

Children with ADHD can be either overly excited or easily distracted, or both.

ADHD Defined

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) comes in two types: inattentive type (Type 1) or non-inattentive type (Type 2). Either type typically means the child has trouble in school. Many different techniques can be used to help a child to focus and learn in the best way for them. I have found that the biggest problem is that many parents do not know how to get the school to help or what questions to ask.

We will address some of these issues here.

Estimated number of children who ever had ADHD, in millions

*Note: Because the 2016 NSCH survey used different methods, estimates are not directly comparable with estimates based on previous NSCH data. Because of an increased focus on ADHD in younger children, age ranges were expanded to include children 2-17

*Note: Because the 2016 NSCH survey used different methods, estimates are not directly comparable with estimates based on previous NSCH data. Because of an increased focus on ADHD in younger children, age ranges were expanded to include children 2-17

First Steps to Help Children

As college professors, my colleagues and I see many students come to college with untreated ADHD. They are surprised when they cannot succeed in college, perhaps even after a year or two of college classes. We can identify ADHD in behaviors noted when in class but especially when they are testing. There are many choices to obtain help for kids, let's start with younger children.

1. Talk to the school counselor and the child's teachers.

  • what behaviors seem to impair the child's learning
  • what types of activities occur when the child seems to be focused or very focused
  • when are they disruptive or when are they not disruptive

2. Unfortunately in the current United States educational system, children need to be performing poorly in order to get help. This means that their grades need to be suffering or they need to be failing. Exceptions:

  • catching this earlier is better, in grade school kids are not given letter grades but satisfactory/unsatisfactory grades, so when they struggle it is more apparent
  • if the child has a diagnosis that places them in the position of having a serious cognitive or developmental disorder the school will act first
  • unfortunately, ADHD is more difficult to catch in some kids

3. Talk to the child's physician. Let them know your concerns. Bring documentation from the teachers and the school to this meeting. Find out if they are comfortable treating the child or if they would rather refer the child to a Child Psychiatrist.

  • Child Psychiatrists treat ADHD with drugs/medication (this is their primary specialty, if you do not want to treat your child with medication I would seek other alternative medicine routes).
  • They often add counseling and/or tutoring

2 Educational Plans Available in Schools

There are two educational plans available in elementary, middle, and high schools to assist kids with learning struggles. They are called the 504 plan and the Individualized Education Program (IEP). These programs are meant to help level the playing field and provide each child with the same or similar opportunities for learning.

If you feel your child needs more assistance in order to learn, you must request an evaluation. The teacher might be able to initiate, but you can initiate these at any time. You contact the teacher and the school counselor and ask for a learning evaluation. It may help to specify exactly what you want (if you know). It is outlined below.

All 504 Plans fall under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is a civil rights law that does not allow discrimination against public school students with disabilities (yes ADHD is a disability). This includes students who have trouble with learning, attention, or both.

The goals are to assist students who have learning and/or attention problems learn and participate in traditional classrooms. A 504 plan outlines what the child needs, what accommodations the teachers need to provide, and any modifications that should be applied. These activities are meant to remove barriers to learning and help students succeed or learn to function in the 'real world'. To qualify for a 504 plan the student must

  • have a physical or mental impairment that isn't temporary that 'limits' life functions
  • have a record of such

But they are not automatically eligible. The school must evaluate the child in their classroom environment and determine if their ability to learn is significantly impaired. The school can move forward without the parents' permission but they must request a 'due process hearing' to legally do so without parental permission.

An IEP or Individualized Education Program is a legal contract that all schools provide to any child receiving special education services. A federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires public schools to create an IEP for every child who receives special education services. It is meant to outline and specify exactly what your child needs to help them learn, including special learning goals and interventions. Specifically, it will include:

  • statement of the child's ability to perform
  • your child's educational goals (done yearly)
  • special education support and services
  • accommodations your child will be allowed
  • how and when the school measures your child's progress
  • transition planning that prepares teens for life after high school

The Truth


Asking the School for an Evaluation

You can ask the school to evaluate your child for ADHD, or you can get specific and ask for an ADHD evaluation with specific tests. These tests are specific tests that can be done to assist in the diagnosis of ADHD.

  • Time on Task - An evaluator will compare the amount of time your child appears focused on the task the teacher has given them for 15 seconds, then they will observe another student for 15 seconds. They repeat this over the course of an hour-long period and then compare the amount of time your child was on task to that of their peers. They will come up with a percentage and tell you something like your child was on task 48% of the time, his peers were on task 94% of the time.
  • Vanderbilt Scale - a survey that a teacher (or more than one) and you the parent completes. Used by a wide variety of professionals to determine types of behaviors seen in school and at home.
  • ADHD Symptom Checklist - a 21 item checklist that reviews symptoms of ADHD and in which settings those symptoms appear.
  • Executive Function Performance Test - measures the child's ability to plan ahead, think critically, monitor their own behavior, organization, and solving puzzles
  • IQ Evaluation - IQ stands for intellectual ability. You can have your child's IQ evaluated to see if they need additional assistance with a specific subject
  • Learning Disabilities - Depending on your child's needs, your child's reading, math/numerical, or focus can be evaluated. There are many different types of learning disabilities that may need to be evaluated.

Lucas Tower

Accommodations the School can Use

  1. Special seating, at the front of the room or away from persons who are distracting
  2. Allowing extra time to complete assigned work
  3. Break assignment into smaller chunks
  4. Provide written instructions as oral instructions
  5. Set timers
  6. Use a note taker
  7. Cue him to stay on task in a simple (and not embarrassing manner)
  8. Provide a 2-5 minute time frame to check work before handing in
  9. Have teacher pick big battles instead of nitpicking on smaller ones
  10. Provide a quiet unobtrusive fidget (small toy or stress ball for example)
  11. Use verbal signals to grab attention "Freeze" or "one, two, three, eyes on me"
  12. Illustrate vocabulary words and concepts with drawings or stick figures
  13. Keep the kids moving
  14. Allow child to run errands to keep them moving
  15. Use a standing desk or wiggle seat
  16. Use a weekly or daily homework reminder page where parents and teachers can communicate
  17. Give advanced notice of upcoming assignments
  18. Provide extra time on exams (often this means time in a half, i.e. if the test is 30 minutes long your child would have 45 minutes to finish)
  19. Take tests in a quiet room
  20. Allow extra time for written work
  21. Shorten written work or assignments for this child
  22. Use a visual map for written work
  23. Use a computer, oral report, or recorded report in lieu of writing
  24. Photocopy math pages so students do not have to recopy problems
  25. Keep sample math problems on the board
  26. Allow the use of a calculator for in class and for homework
  27. Give review summaries for math tests
  28. Email homework in to the teacher from home

These are just a few examples, If you do somethings that works well, ask the teachers to do it too. Work with the teachers to find the best methods to help you child. These may change over time. The teachers want your child to succeed just as much as you do.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2016 Kari Lane


Kari on March 03, 2020:

The child can be smart and have ADD or ADHD, they just have trouble concentrating or focusing.

Albania Morales on February 29, 2020:

If is possible that a Kid has been evaluated incorrectly on his IQ.?

Inez Oglesby on October 26, 2019:

What if the child smart