Dear ADDitude: How Can I Tell My Child’s Teacher that She’s Making Him Hate School?
“My son’s teacher gives him so many time-outs — for fidgeting, invading others’ personal space, avoiding work — that I’m afraid he’s facing expulsion. Now my son says he doesn’t like school because his teacher shouts at him. How can I resolve this problem constructively with his teacher?”
No one likes to be berated. Imagine that your boss treated you this way; you wouldn’t want to go to work. If you have an IEP/504, write a letter to your school district’s 504 coordinator and ask for an emergency meeting. Outline steps that should be taken, such as giving movement breaks, using a fidget object, sitting near the teacher, to minimize distractions, and social skills training with a guidance counselor for help in understanding social cues and personal space.
If you don’t have an IEP/504, send a letter to the principal requesting an evaluation.
In the meantime, make an appointment with your son’s teacher. Explain, without being accusatory, how your son is feeling. Explain that his behaviors are manifestations of ADHD (you can bring in articles for documentation) and give strategies that work for you at home. If you don’t feel the teacher is receptive, talk to the principal about having your son’s classroom reassigned. Your son needs to know that you are on his side.
Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism
Tell the teacher, “These are awesome expectations for neurotypical students, but my son has a neurological disorder, ADHD, which directly impacts his ability to meet these expectations. Punishing him for behaviors to his disability violates his civil rights.” (assuming you’re in the US).
The school needs to implement accommodations to even the playing field for him in light of his disability. They also need to move him to a different teacher if this teacher is inflexible on the issue. My son has had two teachers like this in the past — both lead to extreme anxiety, worsening of ADHD all around, and even self-harm. It is extremely detrimental.
Posted by Penny
ADDitude community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism
A Reader Answers
I hear your story repeated time and time again from other parents. It is heartbreaking and honestly frustrating. As you mention, he is exhibiting behaviors that are “basic symptoms of ADHD.” He certainly is not alone given that statistically 11 percent 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:
• Bring in a few items that your son, and other kids, can fidget with. There is an article on my website (ptscoaching.com) 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.
Posted by Coach Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC,BCC
A Reader Answers
Could he switch classrooms to a different teacher?
Posted by hal6242
A Reader Answers
If you have not done so already, perhaps you could meet with his teacher and keep the focus on helping your son with his self-esteem. Any way the teacher can be creative in presenting material in another way may work better for your son. For instance, if he is more visual/tactile/experiential etc., could they tailor the assignments so that he could show his ideas and understanding in their very best light? You need the school on your side, so always be gracious and thankful that they’re willing to help assemble a team of allies for your son.
Posted by Rosemary
A Reader Answers
That was my worse nightmare, my son not liking school. I put him in charter school and he says he likes it a lot better. I’m not sure if all charter schools are the same, but here he has a teacher for every subject and he likes that because he gets to move around. Plus, besides academic classes, he gets to pick what he likes for his “discover class.” The school gives the students choices, and it just seems they have the kids move around more. He is in fifth grade.
He still has the same issues of not focusing, not being organized, not handing his homework — but at least he likes school!
If you can, look into it. Good luck!
Posted by MiAe