School / Learning Strategies

11 Things Teachers Need to Know About ADHD

By Eileen Bailey

The large majority of teachers, if not all, have had a child with ADHD in their classroom at some point. Most have knowledge of what ADHD is, how it impacts a child’s ability to learn and know and implement strategies to make classroom life better for these children. But, despite all the research and available information, there are still some teachers that don’t really understand ADHD. They aren’t aware of how to best manage their classroom to help those with ADHD learn. The following are some basic points about ADHD that teachers should and need to know.

1.   ADHD is a Real Disorder

After years of research and worldwide experts agreeing that ADHD is a real neurobiological disorder, there are still some who believe it is a made up diagnosis – an excuse for bad behavior. In 2002 an International Consensus Statement was issued, stating, “…the notion that ADHD does not exist is simply wrong. All the major medical associations and government health agencies recognize ADHD as a genuine disorder because the scientific evidence indicating it is so overwhelming.”

2.   ADHD Behaviors Are Not a Cause of Bad Parenting

When a child with ADHD acts up in class, doesn’t listen or doesn’t hand in homework, it is easy to blame the home life, after all, it is the parent’s responsibility to instill discipline and to follow up with homework assignments, right? But ADHD behaviors show up in many ways – hyperactivity often shows up as constant fidgeting, getting up and walking around the classroom; impulsivity shows up as blurting out answers in class, jumping ahead in line or disrupting the class; inattention frequently shows up as not paying attention, losing items (including homework papers) and the inability to focus on a topic for a prolonged length of time. These symptoms aren’t a result of bad parenting but are part of the disorder and must be treated as such for any improvements to take place.

 3.   Positive Reinforcement Works Much Better Than Negative Reinforcement!

Children with ADHD tend to respond to positive reinforcement to correct undesirable behaviors. When you, as a teacher, react in a negative way, these behaviors may worsen, not improve.

4.   Children with ADHD Do Not Want to be Singled Out

Children with ADHD usually feel like they don’t fit in with their classmates. They feel different and out of place. They usually don’t like it and, just like all children, want to fit in and be liked. They don’t want you to call attention to their ADHD or their weaknesses; it is humiliating. Instead of singling them out or making them feel bad about their inability to sit still or find their place in the book while reading, find constructive, positive ways to help them learn.

5.   Every Child with ADHD is Unique

Some teachers may believe that they know how to handle your child in class because they have had children with ADHD in their class before. But every child with ADHD is unique and symptoms don’t always appear the same. For example, one child may struggle with hyperactivity, always fidgeting and having a hard time sitting at their desk for more than a few minutes. Another may not have hyperactivity but may become easily distracted, finding it difficult to follow a lesson for more than a few minutes. Strategies to deal with one child won’t necessarily help another. Each child must be treated as an individual.

6.   When Something Goes Wrong, It Isn’t Always the Fault of the Child with ADHD!

When a ruckus erupts, it is easy to place the blame on the child with ADHD, after all, he is usually at the center of any confusion or disturbance! But, simple statistics tell you it can’t possibly always be his fault; there are other children in the class and they aren’t all perfect angels all the time. Instead of rushing to judgment, take the time to investigate situations to find out who should be reprimanded.

7.   Hands On, Kinestethic Activities and Approaches to Learning Work Best

Many children find lectures, worksheets and endless “desk” work boring, mundane or tedious. For children with ADHD, these tasks can be downright torturous. Most children, not just those with ADHD, learn better through interaction; lessons that evoke several or all of the senses tend to be remembered. Changing teaching strategies to incorporate more kinesthetic approaches to learning will help all your students.

8.   There Are Some Simple Ways to Make Your Classroom More “ADHD Friendly”

Keep your day structured and consistent, post daily rules, schedules and assignments on the board, allow for scheduled breaks regularly throughout the day. In addition, specific accommodations, such as seating at the front of the class or using secret signals to get a child back on track are helpful.

9.   Medication is Not a Cure for ADHD!

There are many medications that help to reduce symptoms of ADHD but the most effective treatment is a combination of medication and behavioral strategies. Just because a child is on medication doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do anything else.

10.   IEP’s Need to Be Followed

When these documents were created, the parents and educational professionals determined that a child needs and deserves certain accommodations within the classroom and the school to help him succeed. Even if you don’t agree with the accommodations listed, you still need to follow the document. This is a legal document and parents can take legal steps when it isn’t followed.

11.   Parents Need to be Kept Informed

Children with ADHD frequently don’t communicate with their parents about homework, tests or projects. This isn’t because they don’t care, it is usually because they have forgotten all about them. It is best to come up with a regular form of communication with parents. This can be a “parent blast” email each week to let everyone know about upcoming test dates, projects that are due, upcoming field trips or other important classroom information. Some parents will request daily or weekly “reports” on behavior, grades, etc. These parents would not have requested this information if they didn’t feel it would help them support their child in school. Try to accommodate any requests for parent-teacher communications. If no request was made but a child with ADHD is falling behind or not doing well in tests, reach out to the parents before the end of the marking period.


Back to School Tips for Children with ADHD: 7 Tips to Help Your Child Tackle ADHD

by Shane Perrault, Ph.D.

Julian was just like most other 14 year old boys — energetic, fun loving and sports-minded.

Summer was about to end, and the only thing on his mind was making the football team. He dreaded school, but was willing to do anything that would get him on the field again.

Calling the playJulian did not want to re-experience last year.  Athletically, he was on top of the world… starting in football, basketball, and baseball.  Academically, the world was on top of him…beleaguered with low grades, discipline problems, and missing homework assignments. Because of the latter, the school stopped him from stepping foot on the field of dreams and told him to study harder.

For Julian, it was the worst of both worlds.

Just when he thought things could not get any worse, they did. His parents enrolled him in a popular motivational tutoring program, which promised better study skills, better organizational skills and better grades. Although he didn’t like it, this was his ticket to the athletic field.

Yet after six long months, his grades still had not improved, and he was again unable to play sports. Discouraged and defeated, his confidence shrunk even further. Julian went from someone who made academic mistakes, to feeling like he was a mistake.

“Something has to give,” his parents told me during the intake meeting. “We are losing him. We have tried everything, and don’t have a clue on how to help our son.”

Upon completing an assessment, we realized Julian did not have a motivational, organizational, or a study problem.  Julian had ADHD, attention deficit hyperactive disorder. Following his diagnosis, we put together a treatment plan that addressed both his short-term and long-term needs.

To meet Julian’s short-term attention needs, a physician prescribed medications to help him focus. For his long-term attention needs, we placed him on “Play Attention TM,” a computer-based attention training system that has been educationally proven to help children develop ther ability to focus, and reduce impulsivity. We also included learning style training to help him harness his natural style of learning, and parent training to reinforce the behavioral changes we agreed upon. In all, Julian began to better understand how ADHD was impacting his life, learned how to better manage the challenges related to the disorder, and developed his ability to focus.

Twelve months later, Julian has taken control of his life and is off medications – and is doing well academically and athletically. This season his parents will proudly sit in the stands watching him play in his first high-school football game.

Here are a few steps I recommend you take to help your son or daughter tackle ADHD.

1.   Become Your Child’s “Parent Advocate.”

You must learn as much about ADHD as possible. Period!

It is critically important to understand the challenges your child may face and the resources available. Know the teachers, the treatment team, and the law. I recommend the following book to any would-be parent advocate, “Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book,” by Michelle Davis.

2.   Put an Interdisciplinary “Treatment Team” in Place.

Before school starts, connect with your psychologist, physician, nutritionist, neuro-psychologist, and/or coach to plan for the upcoming year. Have them evaluate your child’s learning style, neurological functioning, strengths and limitations. If possible, select teachers that play to your child’s strengths. Also, talk to your providers about proper nutrition and computer-based attention training programs.

While medications help manage the symptoms in the short-term, recognize that “pills don’t teach skills.” Sound nutrition, proven computer-based attention training programs, teaching children to maximize their learning style and building academic confidence permanently improves attention and teach skills necessary for success in the classroom and with friends.

3.   Develop a Schedule, and Strive for Consistency and Structure.

Beginning a week or two before school starts, re-adjust bed and wake-up times. With young elementary school aged children, eliminate the fear of the unknown by introducing them to their new school, teacher and bus schedule before the first day. Children with ADHD function much better if they know what to expect. In addition, let your child get comfortable with the new supplies, organizational and/or attention training systems they will be using this year.

4.   Make Meaningful Behavioral Changes.

As you well know, children with ADHD are frequently impulsive and often seek immediate gratification. Accordingly, they tend to do best when given more immediate and frequent feedback and consequences. You might also consider using incentives before punishment, and striving for consistency. I also recommend the following book to any parent of a child with ADHD, “Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents,” by Russell A. Barkley, PhD.

Although it may be difficult at times, try not to personalize your child’s problems or disorder. Inattentive and impulsive behaviors are common symptoms of ADHD, which experts conservatively estimate affect between 5 to 7 percent of school age children.

5.   Be Positive!

Your child’s biggest liability may be their thoughts rather than their reality. Beliefs determine behaviors. If your child approaches the new school year with the fear that they are about to live out their worst nightmare, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be wise, be optimistic, and be loving. If you do not believe in them…why should they believe in themselves?

I know it can be frustrating, but let your child know that whatever the school year may hold, “we will get through it together no matter what.” Let them know that you are in their corner… fighting with them, cheering for them and proud of them. Also, discover and teach them about some of the many extremely successful adults with ADHD.

For a list of successful people with ADHD, you can go to the website for my book, The book is entitled Focus: Unlocking the Secret Entrepreneurial Powers of ADHD.

6.   Celebrate Every Success!

Our kids will hear plenty about their flaws and their failures… so make sure you celebrate their successes, even small ones.

7.   Last, But Not Least of All, Take Care of Yourself.

Contact CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD), and join a support group. Also, pursue a hobby or some other personal passion you may have dropped over the years.



12 Things High School Students with ADHD Want Teachers to Know

By Eileen Bailey

This list has been compiled by teens with ADHD. They have kindly shared what is important to them and what they find most frustrating in working with teachers and parents.
1.  I forget things, even important things. 

Just because I forget does not mean that it doesn’t matter. I am not trying to be a smart-alec or arrogant when I say “I forgot.” I really do forget.

2.  I am not stupid. 

I may sometimes lose my place during your class or take a few minutes to get my thoughts together before speaking, but I am not stupid. ADHD does not have anything to do with intellect.

3.  Please be patient if I ask the same question many times or ask too many questions. 

I am not trying to be arrogant, I am trying to understand. I am trying to comprehend and I am trying to remember what you have said.

4.  I really do want to do well. 

For many years, I have struggled with schoolwork. It is frustrating for me. I want to pass your class, I want to do my best, I want to feel good about the work I have done.

5.  I do complete my homework. 

I often lose papers, leave my homework at home or in my locker. Loose papers are the most difficult to keep track of, if it is possible to complete my homework in a notebook, I will be able to keep track of it better.

6.  ADHD is not an excuse, I should not use it as one, and neither should you. 

ADHD is a real disorder. It causes me to forget things, to be impulsive, to act without thinking, to lose track of my belongings, to be inattentive and sometimes it causes me to process information I little more slowly.

7.  I need help to succeed. 

This is sometimes very hard for me to accept. I do not like having to ask for help. Sometimes, asking for help makes me feel stupid. Please understand this and be patient.

8.  If you notice me acting in inappropriate ways, please talk with me in private. 

Please do not talk to me in front of the class. This is humiliating. Please do not insult me or call attention to my differences or weaknesses in front of other students.

9.  I don’t like having “special accommodations” in the classroom. 

Sometimes they are needed to help me succeed and do well. But that doesn’t mean that I like it. Please don’t call attention to any special treatment in front of other students. Please do not draw attention to my ADHD.

10. Detailed explanations of your expectations will help me. 

I work best when I know exactly what you expect from me. I will do best if your expectations are in writing so that I can refer back to them if needed. The more detailed your classroom and class work plan is, the better I will do.

11. Learning about ADHD is one of the best ways to help me. 

Read about ADHD, how to teach children with ADHD and talk with parents and other teachers to learn as much as you can. Understanding and learning about ADHD will help me to do better in your class.

12. Although I have ADHD, I am not ADHD. 

I am a person; I have feelings, hopes and expectations. I have needs. I want to be liked and accepted. I want to feel good about myself. All of this is important to me.


ADHD and School – Helping Children with ADHD Succeed at School

School creates multiple challenges for kids with ADHD, but with patience and an effective plan, your child can thrive in the classroom. As a parent, you can work with your child and his or her teacher to implement practical strategies for learning both inside and out of the classroom. With consistent support, these strategies can help your child meet learning challenges—and experience success at school.

Setting Up Your Child for School Success

The classroom environment can be a challenging place for a child with ADHD. The very tasks these students find the most difficult—sitting still, listening quietly, concentrating—are the ones they are required to do all day long. Perhaps most frustrating of all is that most these children want to be able to learn and behave like their unaffected peers. Neurological deficits, not unwillingness, keep kids with attention deficit disorder from learning in traditional ways.

As a parent, you can help your child cope with these deficits and meet the challenges school creates. You can provide the most effective support: equipping your child with learning strategies for the classroom and communicating with teachers about how your child learns best. With support at home and teaching strategies at work in the classroom, there is no reason why kids with ADHD can’t flourish in school.

ADHD and School: Tips for Supporting Teachers

Remember that your child’s teacher has a full plate: in addition to managing a group of children with distinct personalities and learning styles, he or she can also expect to have at least one student with ADHD. Teachers can do their best to help your child with attention deficit disorder learn effectively, but parental involvement can dramatically improve your child’s education. You have the power to optimize your child’s chances for success by supporting the work done in the classroom. If you can work with and support your child’s teacher, you can directly affect the experience of your child with ADHD in the classroom.

There are a number of ways you can work with teachers to keep your child on track at school. Together you can help your child with ADHD learn to find his or her feet in the classroom and work effectively through the challenges of the school day.

ADHD School Support Strategy 1:  Communicate with School and Teachers

As a parent, you are your child’s advocate. For your child to succeed in the classroom, it is vital that you communicate his or her needs to the adults at school. It is equally important for you to listen to what the teachers and other school officials have to say.

You can make communication with your child’s school constructive and productive. Try to keep in mind that your mutual purpose is finding out how to best help your child succeed in school. Whether you talk over the phone, email, or meet in person, make an effort to be calm, specific, and above all positive—a good attitude can go a long way in communication with school.

  • Plan ahead. You can arrange to speak with school officials or teachers before the school year even begins. If the year has started, plan to speak with a teacher or counselor on at least a monthly basis.
  • Make meetings happen. Agree on a time that works for both you and your child’s teacher and stick to it. Avoid cancelling. If it is convenient, meet in your child’s classroom so you can get a sense of your child’s physical learning environment.
  • Create goals together. Discuss your hopes for your child’s school success. Together, write down specific and realistic goals and talk about how they can be reached.
  • Listen carefully. Like you, your child’s teacher wants to see your child succeed at school. Listen to what he or she has to say—even if it is sometimes hard to hear. Avoid interrupting. Understanding your child’s challenges in school is the key to finding solutions that work.
  • Share information. You know your child’s history, and your child’s teacher sees him or her every day: together you have a lot of information that can lead to better understanding of your child’s hardships. Share your observations freely, and encourage your child’s teachers to do the same.
  • Ask the hard questions and give a complete picture. Communication can only work effectively if it is honest. Be sure to list any medications your child takes and explain any other treatments. Share with your child’s teacher what tactics work well—and which don’t—for your child at home. Ask if your child is having any problems in school, including on the playground. Find out if your child can get any special services to help with learning.

ADHD School Support Strategy 2: Develop and Use a Behavior Plan

Children with ADHD are capable of appropriate classroom behavior, but they need structure and clear expectations in order to keep their symptoms in check. As a parent, you can help by developing a behavior plan for your child—and sticking to it. Whatever type of behavior plan you put in place, create it in close collaboration with your child’s teacher and your child.

Kids with attention deficit disorder respond best to specific goals and daily positive reinforcement—as well as worthwhile rewards. Yes, you may have to hang a carrot on a stick to get your child to behave better in class. Create a plan that incorporates small rewards for small victories and larger rewards for bigger accomplishments.

ADHD and School: Tips for Managing Symptoms

ADHD impacts each child’s brain differently, so each case can look quite different in the classroom. Children with ADHD exhibit a range of symptoms: some seem to bounce off the walls, some daydream constantly, and others just can’t seem to follow the rules.

As a parent, you can help your child with ADHD reduce any or all of these types of behaviors. It is important to understand how attention deficit disorder affects different children’s behavior so that you can choose the appropriate strategies for tackling the problem. There are a variety of fairly straightforward approaches you and your child’s teacher can take to best manage the symptoms of ADHD—and put your child on the road to school success.


Students with ADHD may be so easily distracted by noises, passersby, or their own thoughts that they often miss vital classroom information. These children have trouble staying focused on tasks that require sustained mental effort. They may seem to be listening to you, but something gets in the way of their ability to retain the information.

Helping kids who distract easily involves physical placement, increased movement, and breaking long work into shorter chunks.

  • Seat the child with ADHD away from doors and windows. Put pets in another room or a corner while the student is working.
  • Alternate seated activities with those that allow the child to move his or her body around the room. Whenever possible, incorporate physical movement into lessons.
  • Write important information down where the child can easily read and reference it. Remind the student where the information can be found.
  • Divide big assignments into smaller ones, and allow children frequent breaks.


Kids with attention deficit disorder may struggle with controlling their impulses, so they often speak out of turn. In the classroom or home, they call out or comment while others are speaking. Their outbursts may come across as aggressive or even rude, creating social problems as well. The self-esteem of children with ADHD is often quite fragile, so pointing this issue out in class or in front of family members doesn’t help the problem—and may even make matters worse.

Reducing the interruptions of children with ADHD should be done carefully so that the child’s self-esteem is maintained, especially in front of others. Develop a “secret language” with the child with ADHD. You can use discreet gestures or words you have previously agreed upon to let the child know they are interrupting. Praise the child for interruption-free conversations.


Children with ADHD may act before thinking, creating difficult social situations in addition to problems in the classroom. Kids who have trouble with impulse control may come off as aggressive or unruly. This is perhaps the most disruptive symptom of ADHD, particularly at school.

Methods for managing impulsivity include behavior plans, immediate discipline for infractions, and ways to give children with ADHD a sense of control over their day.

  • Make sure a written behavior plan is near the student. You can even tape it to the wall or the child’s desk.
  • Give consequences immediately following misbehavior. Be specific in your explanation, making sure the child knows how they misbehaved.
  • Recognize good behavior out loud. Be specific in your praise, making sure the child knows what they did right.
  • Write the schedule for the day on the board or on a piece of paper and cross off each item as it is completed. Children with impulse problems may gain a sense of control and feel calmer when they know what to expect.
Fidgeting and Hyperactivity:

ADHD causes many students to be in constant physical motion. It may seem like a struggle for these children to stay in their seats. Kids with ADHD may jump, kick, twist, fidget and otherwise move in ways that make them difficult to teach.

Strategies for combating hyperactivity consist of creative ways to allow the child with ADHD to move in appropriate ways at appropriate times. Releasing energy this way may make it easier for the child to keep his or her body calmer during work time.

  • Ask children with ADHD to run an errand or do a task for you, even if it just means walking across the room to sharpen pencils or put dishes away.
  • Encourage the child to play a sport—or at least run around before and after school.
  • Provide a stress ball, small toy, or other object for the child to squeeze or play with discreetly at his or her seat.
  • Limit screen time in favor of time for movement.
  • Make sure a child with ADHD never misses recess or P.E.
Trouble Following Directions:

Difficulty following directions is a hallmark problem for many children with ADHD. These kids may look like they understand and might even write down directions, but then aren’t able to do what has been asked. Sometimes these students miss steps and turn in incomplete work, or misunderstand an assignment altogether and wind up doing something else entirely.

Helping children with ADHD follow directions means taking measures to break down and reinforce the steps involved in your instructions, and redirecting when necessary. Try being extremely brief when giving directions, allowing the child to do one step and then come back to find out what they should do next. If the child gets off track, give a calm reminder, redirecting in a calm but firm voice. Whenever possible, write directions down in a bold marker or in colored chalk on a blackboard.

ADHD and School: Tips for Making Learning Fun

One positive way to keep your child’s attention focused on learning is to make the process fun. Using physical motion in a lesson, connecting dry facts to interesting trivia, or inventing silly songs that make details easier to remember can help your child enjoy learning and even reduce the symptoms of ADHD.

Helping Children with ADHD Enjoy Math:

Children who have attention deficit disorder tend to be “concrete” thinkers. They often like to hold, touch, or take part in an experience in order to learn something new. By using games and objects to demonstrate mathematical concepts, you can show your child that math can be meaningful—and fun.

  • Play games. Use memory cards, dice, or dominoes to make numbers fun. Or simply use your fingers and toes, tucking them in or wiggling them when you add or subtract.
  • Draw pictures. Especially for word problems, illustrations can help kids better understand mathematical concepts. If the word problem says there are twelve cars, help your child draw them from steering wheel to trunk.
  • Invent silly acronyms. In order to remember order of operations, for example, make up a song or phrase that uses the first letter of each operation in the correct order.
Helping Children with ADHD Enjoy Reading:

There are many ways to make reading exciting, even if the skill itself tends to be a struggle for children with ADHD. Keep in mind that reading at its most basic level made up of stories and interesting information—things that all children enjoy.

  • Read to children. Read with children. Make reading cozy, quality time with you.
  • Make predictions or “bets.” Constantly ask the child what they think might happen next. Model prediction: “The girl in the story seems pretty brave—I bet she’s going to try to save her family.”
  • Act out the story. Let the child choose his or her character and assign you one, too. Use funny voices and costumes to bring it to life.

It’s tough to enjoy learning when there is something undiagnosed standing in the way. In addition to ADHD, children may also be affected by learning disabilities. These issues make even the most exciting lessons extremely difficult for students. Like children with attention deficit disorder, children with learning disabilities can succeed in the classroom, and there are many ways you can help.

ADHD and School: Tips for Mastering Homework

Sure, kids may universally dread it—but for a parent of a child with ADHD, homework is a golden opportunity. Academic work done outside the classroom provides you as the parent with a chance to directly support your child. It’s a time you can help your child succeed at school where you both feel most comfortable: your own living room.

With your support, kids with ADHD can use homework time not only for math problems or writing essays, but also for practicing the organizational and study skills they need to thrive in the classroom.

Helping a Child With ADHD Get Organized:

With organization, it can help to get a fresh start. Even if it’s not the start of the academic year, go shopping with your child and pick out school supplies that include folders, a three-ring binder, and color-coded dividers. Help the child file his or her papers into this new system.

  • Establish a homework folder for finished homework.
  • Check and help the child organize his or her belongings on a daily basis, including his or her backpack, folders, and even pockets.
  • If possible, keep an extra set of textbooks and other materials at home.
  • Help the child learn to make and use checklists, crossing items off as they are accomplished.
  • Help organize loose papers by color coding folders and showing the child how to hole-punch and file appropriately.
Helping a Child with ADHD get Homework Done and Turned in on Time:

Understanding concepts and getting organized are two steps in the right direction, but homework also has to get done in a single evening—and turned in on time. Help a child with ADHD to the finish line with strategies that provide consistent structure.

  • Pick a specific time and place for homework that is as free as possible of clutter, pets, and television.
  • Allow the child breaks as often as every ten to twenty minutes.
  • Teach a better understanding of the passage of time: use an analog clock and timers to monitor homework efficiency.
  • Set up a homework procedure at school: establish a place where the student can easily find his or her finished homework and pick an appropriate and consistent time to hand in work to the teacher.

Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. and Melinda Smith, M.A. Last updated: November 2012.