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Q: How Can I Teach My Teen to Ask for Help and Persevere at School?

Asking for help is a learned skill. Teens with ADHD often don’t want to draw more attention or criticism to themselves, so they withdraw in the classroom and say everything is “boring.” This may just lead to more school failure, and a further withdrawal so it’s critical to teach your child how to persevere through non-preferred tasks and to ask for help. Here is how to get started.

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Q: “My son is in 8th grade and was diagnosed this year with ADHD inattentive type. He tunes out in class and refuses to participate, says it is because he finds the work boring and pointless. His Special Ed teacher, who he is in class with every day, used to try to ‘motivate’ him by offering special rewards (candy, special privileges, etc.) or by shaming him (e.g. telling him if he didn’t do his work, he’d email his mom or withhold privileges the rest of the class gets, etc.). Not surprisingly, none of this works. So they now just let him sit there and not participate. I think that his behavior comes from being bored, like he said, having no concept of how long or how difficult the assignment is, and being fed up with doing the same work and putting in what feels like so much effort, only to have it criticized. A lot is going on here. My question is this: What are some good techniques to teach teens with ADHD for self advocacy? I’d like my son to be able to communicate to his teachers that he is having problems completing an assignment. He has never, ever been the kind of kid to ask for help or talk to his teachers when he’s having problems. Any advice? Thanks!”

A: “I don’t think the bigger issue is your son’s difficulty with self-advocacy, I think it is his lack of resilience is getting through non-preferred tasks. Learning to tolerate boredom is a critical life skill that all kids need to learn, but particularly kids with ADHD. What you can do be helpful here is not let him avoid any tasks at home that are non-preferred because the way you develop the resiliency to get through non-preferred tasks is just learning that you can get through them. At school, it would be helpful for his teachers to be really encouraging when they see him struggling to produce work. They can point out that they’ve seen him successful before in similar circumstances because many kids with ADHD struggle to remember and recognize past successes. In regard to asking for help…”


Asking for Help with ADHD in Middle School: Next Steps

1. Read This: Teaching Grit to Teens with ADHD: How to Build Resiliency
2. Read This: Q: How Can I Encourage My Teen to Advocate for Himself?
3. Watch This: Boredom and the ADHD Brain

Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the facilitator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and YouTube channel.

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