A Middle Years Guide for Students with ADHD
Parent advocacy and classroom cooperation don’t stop in middle school; they just get a lot more complicated. Take these four steps to help your child build productive relationships with all teachers, strengthen executive functions, prevent academic emergencies, and thrive in middle school.
You successfully navigated your child’s elementary school years, introducing her to her teachers and explaining how her attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) affects the way she learns, socializes, and behaves in the classroom.
Some teachers were terrific, while others could have been more understanding, but the important thing is that you got through it. Now your child is starting middle school, and instead of one teacher, she now works everyday with half a dozen educators — and each one of them has a hand in her future.
The idea of scheduling introductory meetings and check-ins when you’re dealing with that many teachers — and when those teachers see hundreds of students each day — can be daunting. Here are some tips to keep on top of the team of educators working with your middle school student:
1. Book a Meeting with the School Guidance Counselor
The school’s guidance counselor is in a unique position to share information about your child with his subject teachers, and to offer an informed forecast of potential problem areas ahead. Schedule a meeting now to discuss the following:
- How your child’s ADHD symptoms manifest
- Where he struggles in school
- What his strengths are
- The most effective teaching techniques and accommodations to date
2. Prioritize the Problem Areas
Tackle your child’s weakest subjects first. If your child struggles with math, prioritize establishing a relationship with the algebra teacher. Knowing your child’s greatest obstacles will let you focus on the areas where she is most likely to need extra help. Make sure to keep communications open with both your child and the school, so that if there are any surprises, like a sudden grade drop, you hear about them and are able to follow up.
3. Don’t Assume He Knows How to Organize and Plan
In elementary school, teachers guide and augment a child’s executive function, but once middle school hits, she’s expected to use her own organizational and planning skills. If your child’s executive functions are not fully developed, which is common among students with ADHD, it will feel like she’s hit a brick wall.
To accommodate visual-spatial challenges, begin the year by walking through the building with a map, figuring out where her classes and locker are and how long class transitions may take. From there, you can figure out which transitions allow enough time for a locker stop, and what she can take and leave during these stops. Knowing where things are and how long it takes to get from place to place will help your child get to class prepared and on time.
Volunteer Your Time and Expertise on ADHD
Join the PTA and get involved with their work. Many schools offer professional development for teachers, and as a member of the PTA you will be able to advocate for that training to include a session (or sessions) on strategies for teaching students with ADHD. The more your child’s teachers understand about ADHD, the more effective and empathetic their teaching will be.
This advice came from “Back-to-School Starts Now: Your Plan for Academic, Behavioral & Organizational Success/em>,” an ADDitude webinar lead by Chris Zeigler Dendy, M.S. in August 2018 that is now available for free replay.
Chris Zeigler Dendy, M.S., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.