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Dear ADDitude: What New Behavioral Strategies Can We Try?

“The behavior chart my 12-year-old uses at school never makes it home, so we’re lacking consistency in routines, rewards, and discipline. How can we better structure her day to prevent the behavior problems she’s having?”

ADDitude Answers

It’s great that you are working to provide consistency between school and home. However, if your routine at home is based on behavior at school, you are missing important information each day. Maybe your child’s teacher can send you an e-mail with the information from the behavior chart at the end of the day, or make sure it is placed in your child’s backpack before she goes home. Talk with the teacher and work together to find a solution. If you have an IEP/504, you can include specific communication methods as an accommodation. Once you start receiving such information on a regular basis, you are apt to find a way to reward her or institute consequences immediately.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

My son is also in 7th grade and really struggling. His teachers don’t have a clue either, despite my constant attempts to educate them.

Request a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) and a resulting Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). The FBA will be a meeting facilitated by a Behavior Specialist and all teachers should be in attendance. The specialist will walk them through the behaviors and figuring out triggers and perceived benefits of each and then creating strategies to manage and change the behaviors. Those strategies go into a BIP that can be referenced in the IEP.

This should be an enlightening process for the teachers (those that are open minded, anyway). My son had an FBA in 4th grade when he had a teacher so heinous that he had an aggressive meltdown after several months of never being able to meet her rigid expectations – only meltdown he’s ever had in school.

I just requested that we do a new FBA and BIP for him to address some avoidance, anxiety, stuck thoughts (he has autism as well), and significant executive functioning deficits. I’m hoping it will get his teachers on board finally. My son has a high IQ, so they all think he’s perfectly “capable” if he only cared about succeeding. Argh!!!

Here are some more strategies for ADHD and middle school:
Middle School Momentum
Middle School Survival Guide
Keep It Together In Middle School
Middle School Worries Mastered

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

The school needs to provide supports for the teacher too – maybe she needs additional developmental training. Not all children learn the same way. Maybe there isn’t enough structure or routine in the classroom. The principal should observe the class, or a few periods at a time, to ensure stability in the classroom. As you know, there are many components and moving parts. Hopefully things can come together for you and for your child.

You didn’t mention anything about medication or therapy, but that could be something to explore too.

Best of luck! We have a 7-year-old boy and went through these problems in kindergarten. We are in a better place (for now). Things can change in a heartbeat though.

Posted by Mooch

[Free Download: A Sample Accommodations Request Letter]

A Reader Answers

Are the behaviors only at school? Behavior modification won’t be helpful unless you can also figure out what is triggering the behaviors and work on that. I would suggest reading The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. Even if her behaviors are explosive, it goes in-depth about how the school needs to resolve what issues are causing the behaviors and it gives very clear strategies for how they can go about doing that.

Posted by SBW1220

A Reader Answers

My son is also in 7th grade, and it is proving to be a very difficult year. He is extremely intelligent – as most ADHD children/adults are – but school is challenging. Because he has a high level of intelligence, his teachers often think he is making choices when he does not complete work. Last year his teacher said those exact words, “He is choosing not to do the work.” I was dumbfounded. How could somebody be a teacher and not have a clue what ADHD is and how it affects a child?

Anyway, if my son feels misunderstood, he will act out more and start refusing to do work, which just validates (for the teacher anyway) that he is making a choice. He is in inclusion classes. I try to speak openly with his teachers and give my expectations in a very matter-of-fact tone. When they say he is acting out, I say things like, “Yes, this is common if he feels like he is not being understood. What can we do together to help him feel understood?” I stress that negative feedback just leads to a downward spiral. He is very sensitive, as most ADHD children are. He feels like he lets people down all the time, so we need to make sure he knows the teachers understand. I stress that only positive reinforcement should be used and that any negative feedback should be given privately, out of earshot from the other children so he does not feel singled out. My son is super sensitive, and that makes him feel different.

A behavior chart for a 7th grader may be counter productive, in my opinion. It makes her feel different at a time when fitting in is so important. Communicate via email. If writing down homework assignments is a problem, have the teacher send them electronically so there is a backup. If finishing assignments is difficult, talk to the teachers and tell them you will let them know when she needs more time to complete something. We included my son for part of the meetings so he would feel like he was understood and that people were listening to him. We did this on the advice of his psychologist, and his psychologist came to the meeting so he felt secure. Because he was in the meeting, he also agreed to what he would do differently and had some choices. He felt a little more in control of his own destiny – instead of everybody always telling him what was best for him. Because he had a part in developing the modifications and voicing what he thought would help, he was more motivated to make it work. He was able to express his feelings and feel like he was being heard.

[How to Solve 8 Common Behavior Problems in the Classroom]

Also, be sure your daughter is being stimulated enough and has a seat front and center to the point of instruction. The teacher should be watching for signs her mind has wandered and have an agreed upon method of bringing her focus back. If she excels in some areas, be sure she is being stimulated enough. If she is advanced, she should be in advanced/honors classes with appropriate supports. Be sure they are not selling her short because of other difficulties. She is entitled to an appropriate education regardless of disability problems. Also, be sure to stress that it is not a behavior problem, it is a disability problem – there is a big difference. For us, a big part of it is feeling understood. It’s still not great for my son, but it’s much better now.

If she has trouble on paper, ask the teacher to give her chances to “shine” verbally. My son is good at asking/answering in-depth questions in class but has great difficulty expressing anything on paper. I know I am jumping all over, but I hope some of it helped you and your daughter. Good luck.

Posted by Peacfldove

A Reader Answers

Our 12-year old granddaughter is fortunate to be in a school district that is responsive to collaborative input from her parents. Early on, we agreed that 504 Plan statements must be task-based and actionable. We used the SMART system to develop her 504 Plan so that both our granddaughter and her teachers know what’s expected.

S: Specific
M: Measurable
A: Attainable
R: Relevant
T: Timely

Examples include: “M will meet with counselor once a week to check in and receive support for frustration”; “Class teacher will check that M. has a checklist on her desk to make sure she brings all necessary items home for completion of homework”; etc.

In every case, parents should make sure that accommodations fit their child’s needs, and regularly monitor that the accommodations are being provided.

Posted by Big Red

[The Best Seat in the House for ADHD Students]