ADD/ADHD Mental Health and School

Parents of children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, are faced with unique challenges. These challenges often impact their child’s experience in school and their ability to learn effectively. Hyperactivity, impulsiveness or an inability to pay attention to are all issues that create obstacles for the student, their teachers, and even their fellow classmates. Fortunately, educators, some of whom may have studied social work, are better able to work with the parents of children who have mental health issues such as ADHD and can create helpful learning strategies. These strategies, along with the attention and the support of parents at home, can greatly help students succeed in school.


Tips to Work Successfully With Teachers

Regardless of how great of a strategy a teacher devises on paper, it has little effect if the child’s parents aren’t receptive or cooperative in doing their part. The teacher’s role ends in the classroom, and even then, their time is divided among the students in their care. There are several ways that parents can successfully work with teachers in getting and keeping their children on the right path and helping them work through any challenges.

Become Your Child’s Advocate

Communication between parents and the school is crucial to the success of the child. For that reason, parents should engage the school in routine conversations about successes, setbacks, and any concerns that the school may be having in their day-to-day dealings with the child. This includes behavioral problems in the classroom and on the playground. As an advocate for their child, parents must also discuss their concerns and needs with the teacher or administration at the school. These discussions should be done with a calm if not positive attitude that’s firm on issues that are of concern. To ensure that parents and teachers are effectively communicating:

  • Pre-arrange monthly meetings and adhere to those dates as faithfully as possible.
  • Teachers and parents should meet at the outset of the school year to discuss their goals for the child and make reaching these shared goals a part of their strategy.
  • During conversations, both parties should share information regarding issues the other may not be aware of. This is important because parents do not see what transpires with their child when they are in school, nor are teachers aware of any issues the child may be having when at home. This sharing of information can create a clearer picture that may explain any current problems.
  • Schools should be provided with a list of medications and informed of any changes that may alter the child’s behavior.

Create a Behavior Plan

It’s important that kids with ADHD have structure and balance. When teachers are able to create an environment that establishes these elements, their students with ADHD can better adjust to a classroom environment. Teachers and parents working together can do this by developing a behavior plan that includes positive reinforcement and specific goals for the child or teen. A reward system that’s based on the level of accomplishment should be included as a part of this plan, as kids with ADHD often respond to positive reinforcement.


Managing Symptoms at School

Managing the symptoms of ADHD is possible, but it’s important to start by recognizing the specific symptoms that a child is struggling with. Only then can parents and teachers determine which approach is best to manage them.

Manage Distractions

Noises are a common distraction for many students who have ADHD. These distractions can prevent them from giving their full attention to the teacher, homework, or a topic that’s being studied. Steps to combat this type of distraction include moving the student away from a window or location where other activity is happening or might take place. Because kids with ADHD often do not do well when sitting still or in one location for long periods, teachers can incorporate movement into their class time by allowing students to periodically switch seats. Teachers should also break large assignments into smaller ones that allow students to stop and take breaks. They should also write important information on a whiteboard or some other location where it can easily be seen and referenced at a later time.

Manage Impulsive Behavior

In a school setting, impulsivity is arguably one of the more problematic symptoms of ADHD. Because of the way that impulse control issues can impact the classroom, teachers must firmly manage these symptoms. Approaches may include posting the day’s class schedule and marking off activities as they are completed. While posting the schedule, teachers should also post the written behavior plan so that it’s easily visible to the student to serve as a reminder. There should also be immediate consequences for behavior issues. Teachers should explain how the student misbehaved right before they are disciplined. Alternately, good behavior should be praised in an open and verbal manner.

Manage Fidgeting and Hyperactive Behavior

Fidgeting, which can include twisting, jumping, kicking, or other movements, can make it difficult for students in the classroom to learn and for teachers to teach effectively. Methods of controlling this symptom include giving tasks to ADHD students so that they can move about the room and ensuring that there are plenty of activities during the day that allows them to get out of their seats, such as P.E. and recess. Kids with ADHD should also participate in sports whenever possible. In the classroom, kids can be given items to squeeze or fiddle with, such as stress balls.

Difficulty Following Directions

Students with ADHD generally have difficulty following or understanding directions. This can negatively impact their ability to learn and do well on assignments. Teachers can help resolve this problem by shortening directions so that the student is told what to do one step at a time. When writing down the instructions, teachers should aim to make them bold and eye-catching.


Learning Should Be Fun

Fun lessons are a perfect way to engage students who have attention difficulties. In the process of making lessons more entertaining, teachers are also appealing to their ADHD students, as they often learn best when they are able to touch or otherwise engage in an activity. The best types of activities for a specific student would depend on what type of learner the student is. There are generally three types of learners: auditory, visual, and tactile. Students who learn best through listening and sound are auditory learners. Visual learners use sight, such as reading or drawing, to learn, while those who learn through hands-on activity are tactile learners.


One of the ways that teachers can make math interesting is by using games to illustrate mathematical concepts and problems. The type of game depends on the age of the student and the level of math that’s being done. Both teacher illustrations and drawings from students can be incorporated as well.


Teachers and parents can make reading fun for kids with ADHD by setting aside a special reading time, particularly when reading with parents. Engaging kids with what’s happening in the story can also help: Either parents or teachers can do this by asking kids questions about what might happen next or why things may have happened the way that they did in the story. Turning stories into plays that kids can act out is especially appealing to kids who have difficulty staying still.


Helping Kids With Homework

Homework provides a valuable opportunity for parents to become involved in their child’s or teen’s education. Kids with ADHD may thrive under their parent’s supervision and support. Additionally, because homework is done in the home, it is in a location where kids with ADHD most often feel comfortable.

Be Organized and Use Time More Wisely

With the right supplies, parents can teach their kids how to keep work organized by using color-coded folders or tabs, by using checklists to mark off completed assignments, and by storing completed homework safely in its own folder where it can easily be found. Whenever possible, parents should keep a spare set of supplies and even textbooks at home in case their child misplaces or forgets theirs at school.

To help avoid resistance to doing homework in a timely manner, parents should set a specific time aside for homework. During that time, kids should be situated in a room that is distraction-free, which includes the removal of cell phones and even pets. The time should be broken up into sessions of 10 to 20 minutes. During the breaks, kids should be encouraged to get up and move around before returning to their work.

Healthy Habits

Establishing healthy habits will also help children with their homework by improving concentration. Habits such as getting enough sleep and avoiding junk foods may also help to reduce or manage the symptoms of ADHD in some children. In addition to keeping a regular sleep schedule and eating nutritious foods, kids should also be encouraged to exercise daily, which can help with brain growth. Parent of children with ADHD must also be role models for their children by maintaining healthy habits.




Suggested Readings

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University of Nevada, Reno Online Master of Social Work