Dealing with an Out-of-Line Teacher


"My ADHD child’s third-grade teacher makes him sit alone during lunch, at a desk about 15 feet away from the rest of his classmates. And, when he’s in class, she has him sit at a 'desk for children with behavior problems.' These punishments seem, to my gut, very wrong. What do you think?"


Sometimes a child with or without attention deficit disorder (ADHD) needs to be removed from the group to cool off; a brief timeout immediately following misbehavior is an acceptable consequence.

Teachers may also need to seat students strategically, to increase their productivity during certain assignments or at certain times of the day. That’s a learning-style accommodation.

But being deliberately set apart from his classmates during lunch and in the classroom is inappropriate, and would damage any child’s self-esteem. A teacher who understood ADHD would not address misbehaviors in such a public and humiliating manner. I am saddened to hear that your son is being treated this way because of his disorder. Your mother’s “gut” is right.

I recommend requesting a meeting with your son’s teacher and administrator. Make it clear that you do not want your son to be isolated from his peers in this way. If your son has not yet been evaluated by the school district, request an evaluation to see if he qualifies for an IEP or 504 Plan. I would also speak with the principal and ask that, in fourth grade, your son be placed with a teacher who has a positive mindset toward supporting children with ADHD.

Sandra Rief, M.A., is an educational consultant, speaker, and author of a number of books for parents and teachers on how to help students with ADHD succeed in school. Some of her books include How to Reach & Teach Children with ADD/ADHD, The ADD/ADHD Checklist, and The ADHD Book of Lists. She has trained thousands of educators through her workshops/seminars nationally and internationally on effective strategies and interventions for students with learning, attention, and behavioral challenges. A former award-winning special education teacher, from San Diego, California, Sandra is an instructor of continuing education online/distance learning courses for teachers on ADHD and Learning Disabilities through California State University, East Bayand Seattle Pacific University.
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