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Navigating ADHD in School: Strategies for Parents and Kids 

School can be an overwhelming place for kids of all ages and abilities. Add in an ADHD diagnosis, and the classroom environment can feel demanding, unpredictable and exhausting.  

For a child who struggles to sit still, control their impulses or focus on one task, or who finds it exhausting to force themselves to do those things, the traditional school setting can be gruelling – not only academically, but also socially. 

One in every 20 Australians has been diagnosed with ADHD. If your child is one of this growing number, you may be worried about how they will cope at school. But there are great ADHD strategies that you can use – and you can teach them to use – to support your child in the school environment. 

What is school like for our ADHD kids?  

School can feel really hard for some children with ADHD. Every child is different. Some may struggle with inattention and find it difficult to concentrate. Others may battle hyperactivity and find it hard to sit still, or struggle to control their impulses. 

Other ADHD symptoms that can affect school learning include: 

  • difficulty recalling information 
  • constant stimulation seeking  
  • acting before thinking 
  • losing belongings 
  • trouble following instructions 
  • difficulty changing tasks 
  • making careless mistakes 
  • talking relentlessly or interrupting.  

There are many others as well. 

Of course an ADHD diagnosis has no implication on the intelligence of your child. But sometimes, as a result of the inability to focus and concentrate, ADHD can lead to lower grades or in school behavioural problems.  

If your child is finding school hard, there are some ADHD strategies that may help. 

[H2]ADHD strategies to support your child at school 

[H3]Keep open communication with your child’s teacher 

Healthy communication between the school and yourself is important and will lead to a more harmonious school environment for your child. As every child with ADHD is unique, your child’s teacher may wish to hear of any techniques that work at home. They will likely also have some ADHD strategies to share with you.  

Consider using a parent-teacher diary for regular communication. 

Share your child’s interests 

Children with ADHD need to feel interested in a task. So another strategy is to communicate your child’s personal interests and hobbies to the teacher. When you are able to, encourage them to choose tasks that align with those interests.  

For example, if your child needs to find a poem to share with the class, and they love dragons or gaming, encourage them to look at poems that deal with those themes.  

Be a cheerleader 

Children with ADHD can often suffer from low self-esteem as a result of their challenges at school, with friends and with family members. Practice being your child’s biggest cheerleader. Find ways to celebrate their wins, big or small.  

For example, if your child remembers to bring their lunchbox home every day for a week, recognise that it’s a more difficult task for them then perhaps it would be for a child without ADHD, and celebrate that with them! 

Develop before-school and after-school routines  

Transitioning between tasks can be difficult for kids with ADHD. Developing a consistent routine in the mornings and afternoons may help. You could use visual or written cue cards to help prompt the next action and keep things on track. This will help your child to know what to expect. Getting enough quality sleep is also important, so a routine can help here too. 

Routines may also help you to maintain more calm in your family life as you struggle to get kids out the door each day. We know being a parent of a child with ADHD can be demanding – particularly if other siblings get upset by your child making them late.  

This is one way you could work towards creating a smoother morning for the whole family.  

[H3]Find time for one-on-one time 

Finding a bit of one-on-one time with your child doing an activity they love is a great way to support them. This can help to fill their bucket after a challenging day at school, and give them space to do something they love. 

It also gives you time to connect with them. And research shows that connection with parents is one of the best indicators of long term wellbeing for all children. 

Teach self-regulation techniques 

Self-calming techniques may can help them during the school day when things feel overwhelming. Show them how they can identify what’s going on in their own bodies, as well as some self-regulation techniques like breathing exercises, sensory observations or even just drinking a cold glass of water.  

[H3]Remind them of the school rules 

Too much information can be overwhelming for a child with ADHD. Write down clear, simple rules that are expected in the classroom and in the playground. Keep instructions brief. This may help them to remember what is expected.  

Practice social skills 

Making friends can also be hard for our ADHD kids. Impulsiveness and hyperactivity can lead to interrupting others and difficulty waiting for their turn. Inattentiveness may mean they forget what their friends have told them and can’t stick with a game that’s being played.  

Either of these scenarios can make it hard to make and keep friends. But you can practice ADHD strategies that can help. You might practise taking turns or pausing and listening when others speak. These things might seem intuitive to you, but may not be for your child. 

Pack a sensory tool, if necessary 

For a child who tends to squirm, wriggle and fidget, packing some sensory tools in their school bag might help them to sit still for longer during class. Keep their hands busy with a fidget spinner, squishy stress ball or sensory putty. This may put that restless energy at ease. Of course communicate your plan with their teacher first. 

[H3]Implement homework strategies 

Your child might need breaks during their homework. Setting a timer to alternate physical play with classwork could be helpful. Keep their workspace uncluttered and free from distractions. You can also allow them to work while standing up or moving for example, or while using a sensory tool.  

Need more help brainstorming ADHD strategies? 

The Young Minds website is packed with free online resources that can support you to support your child. If you would like to chat further about ADHD strategies, our team of clinicians can offer a wealth of knowledge.  

If you need additional help in person or online therapy may be able to assist you. Make an appointment request here. Or call us on: (07) 3857 0074.  

Author: Di O’Malley – Founder and Managing Director of Young Minds Health and Development Network, and Counselling Psychologist.