I recently saw a parent write on a discussion board that her 9 year old son who had been previously diagnosed with ADHD had become scared to go to school. He is repeated given time-outs and yelled at because he “doesn’t sit still, gets into other children’s space, doesn’t want to do his work, etc.” I hear similar stories from parents often and it is heartbreaking and honestly frustrating. As this mom mentioned, he is exhibiting behaviors that are “basic symptoms of ADHD.” He certainly is not alone given that statistically 11% of school age children have ADHD (Just How Common Is ADHD?). The number one most important thing a child in school needs is to feel safe and that they can trust the adult in the room. Otherwise no learning can take place and stress and anxiety develop. When I teach teachers I find that when I start from the place of explaining the basic science of ADHD and then create an experience of what it must be like to “be” that child, then they are receptive to the tools and strategies I have to offer. Here are a few concrete suggestions I made to her:
- Bring in a few items that your son, and other kids, can fidget with. There is an article on my website called “Can you Just Sit Still and Pay Attention” which explains that reason people with ADHD benefit from movement and how to teach a child the important difference between “fidgeting” and “playing”. See if perhaps the teacher would consider explaining to the class that some kids are better able to sit and listen when they quietly fidget and if that student wants they may have a fidget at their seat. It is important of course that your son, and ALL children, understand the reasoning so that they can transfer this concept when they are in other settings (church, synagogue, movies, etc.)
- See if the teacher would be open to allowing him to stand at the side or back of the room as long as he is attending. Again, first he must understand WHY he is given this option and NOT singled out since it should be a classroom norm for any child who benefits from movement. By the way – in my trainings I offer this option to teachers and many take me up on it!
- Help your child brainstorm with you at home about how he can feel more able to work in school and see if perhaps there are suggestions you and he can talk to the teacher about.
- If you are still not getting anywhere with the teacher, ask to meet with the “team” – the teacher, school psychologist, perhaps principal, and discuss that since the challenges your child is exhibiting are part of the ADHD, what can the school do to help support these challenges and teach the skills he needs. Timeouts and expulsion will not teach skills.