Back to School

Reading, Writing, & ADHD

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is estimated to affect 8 to 10% of school-aged children. With the new school year in full swing, children with ADHD and their parents may find it difficult to readjust and cope with the schedule and routine. The organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) provides suggestions on ways to plan for a successful, organized, and happy school year.

Step One: Orienting Teachers

According to Michelle Davis, Executive Director at LearningRx, communication with your child’s teacher is vital. “They’re going to be able to know exactly what behaviors your child exhibits and exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are,” she says.

If your child has ADHD, working closely with their teacher is the first step to success. Make sure their teacher is aware of the diagnosis, the medications being taken, and any new developments. Discuss classroom accommodations that have worked in the past and rewards and discipline strategies that have helped. Also, create an open line of communication, and set a time to meet regularly. According to CHADD, “teachers can be the best allies in achieving and determining effectiveness.”

Expert Tip

Davis suggests making sure children with attention struggles have plenty of high-protein snacks throughout the school day to diminish hunger and keep energy levels up. Be sure to avoid any sugary snacks especially, as they can spike energy in the short term, and then lead to a crash.

graphic illustration of child struggling to concentrate in class

Step Two: Prepare the Child

Because children with ADHD process the world differently than their peers, it’s important to introduce them to a new environment before the first day of class. Take them to tour their school, meet their teachers, and locate their locker and pick-up spot. Becoming familiar with their new environment and routine will help diminish anxiety. CHADD recommends talking openly with your child about their learning and behavior differences – this can help them to be more responsible. After school, Davis suggests making sure they get into a routine of doing homework and completing the most difficult task first. “Take lots of breaks with homework. You can do that at home, but it’s harder at school,” she says. If you believe your child may have weak attention skills that are holding him or her back, Davis suggests a cognitive skills assessment test to see where strengths and weakness may be.

Step Three: Prepare the Family

Because children with ADHD often lack internal organizational structures, it’s important for the family to help with organization. Designate a place for everything such as backpacks, homework, and pencils. Davis recommends creating charts, calendars, and lists which can all help the child and the family feel more organized and less overwhelmed.

“It’s really important that you’re praising every good thing that they do, or every stride that they make,” Davis says. “A chart system where they’re awarded for good behavior really reinforces it.” Setting out clothes the night before can help cut back time in the morning, and making sure alarm clocks work well (plan for plenty of time to complete morning routines), can have your whole family on the right track this school year.


Types of Attention Struggles

Michelle Davis, executive director of Learning Rx outlines the top three attention struggles she sees in children with ADHD.

  • Sustained Attention: Child has difficulty keeping their attention focused for a period of time
  • Collective Attention: Child cannot keep focus when presented with distraction.
  • Divided Attention: Child cannot focus on multiple things at once, such as taking notes while a teacher lectures.

According to Davis, it’s important for parents, with the help of the child’s teacher, to pinpoint which type (or types) of attention struggle their child has, and then work to train it.

Picture of Michelle Davis

Michelle Davis

Executive Director, Learning RX

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