Help Kids Get Their Middle School Mojo

The transition to middle school can be tough enough without having to also juggle ADHD. Learn how to teach your child to make to-do lists, be courteous in conversation and manage medication to help make her experience fun.

Red lockers with combination locks on them in middle school of ADHD student
Red lockers with combination locks on them in middle school of ADHD student

Middle school can be challenging for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) children, what with tougher classes, social pressures and having to make new friends, locker combinations, books, assignments, and schedules to keep track of, and other new demands and responsibilities. How can a child survive? These ADHD middle school strategies will help.

Help Students with ADHD or LD Succeed Academically

Make sure that accommodations continue to be followed. Middle-schoolers continue to benefit from the kind of structure and guidance that helped when they were younger. Schedule a meeting with the special-ed teachers and chairman to make sure that classroom accommodations are still being carried out. If you have new ideas for accommodations, discuss them now.

Also, consider drawing up a contract with your child, based on what has worked well in the past. You might want to work on school-related behaviors that need improvement, and offer new rewards for success.

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Be alert to learning disabilities. Learning disabilities (LD) sometimes go undetected until middle school or later, especially in bright kids. Look for warning signs: reluctance to read and write, poor reading comprehension, trouble with abstract concepts, and poor essay-writing skills. If you suspect LD, request a formal evaluation from your child’s school now.

Bypass bad handwriting. Many kids with ADHD have poor handwriting due to problems with fine motor coordination. This can cause them to do poorly on tests and homework assignments. Using a portable computer with a built-in keyboard, like AlphaSmart, to write reports and take notes lets children work around this.

Show Children with ADHD How to Make Friends

Teach conversation courtesy. Use dinnertime to continue to practice conversation — how to listen to what others are saying and how to politely join the group.

Help your child relate to other people. Without meaning to, middle-schoolers do or say things that are hurtful or thoughtless, such as going through a friend’s backpack. Keep working on helping your child imagine how his friend might feel about the intrusion, and how to respond if he gets angry.

Explain expressions. A child with ADD/ADHD or a language-based learning difficulty is often overly literal — a child told that someone is “pulling his leg” may be perplexed. Helping your child understand figures of speech will make talks less awkward.

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Teach Students with ADHD How to Stay Organized

Make sure assignments come home. Help your child line up someone in each class who can be contacted to explain homework assignments. If your child has trouble copying assignments, have her read them into a cassette recorder.

Avoid locker litter. Work with your child to decide what he needs in his locker — and get rid of unnecessary items. Make the space more efficient with additional shelves, hooks for a gym bag, and a hanging organizer.

Master list-making. Encourage your child to keep a “to-do” list, even if she is tired of it by now. Show her how to prioritize by dividing the items into Important (do it now!) and Less Important (do it any time).

Post sticky notes, with reminders, on mirrors, doors, and elsewhere. Keep cheerleading for your child while reminding him of his responsibilities. Encourage your child to post reminders to himself.

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Manage Your Middle Schooler’s Medication

Have your child share responsibility for his taking medication. You put it out at breakfast; it’s his responsibility to take it. Remind him if he forgets.

Empathize with your child. Many middle-schoolers are embarrassed about taking meds, especially if they have to visit the school nurse to get a daily dose. Ask your child’s doctor about medications that last through the day.