School Behavior

Q: “My Child Is Ostracized Because of His ADHD. Can We Repair His Reputation?”

Is your child feeling left out and ostracized at school because of their ADHD-related behaviors? Here, learn how tools like IEPs and FBAs can help address these behaviors, and how teachers can help improve a student’s reputation and bring him acceptance in the classroom.

"Bavaria, Germany, Europe"
"Bavaria, Germany, Europe"

Q: “My son has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and he is often excluded by his classmates at recess and in other social activities because of his behavior and outbursts. How can I get his teacher involved to help improve my child’s negative reputation at school?”

If your child has a negative reputation, then it sounds like this pattern of behavior and exclusion has been going on for some time. It’s troubling to hear you ask how to involve the teacher, because educators should already be part of a team effort to help any child with behavioral challenges.

How to Address Behavioral Challenges

Does your child have an IEP?

Many students with ADHD display symptomatic behaviors, like impulsivity or emotional unpredictability, which make it difficult for them to get along with other kids. If your child’s ADHD is getting in the way of his ability to socialize or learn with other kids, then he should have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to address this obstacle. If you do not have an IEP, you can request an evaluation from the administrator of special education in your child’s school.

Request a functional behavioral assessment (FBA).

A qualified behavior analyst — usually a professionally trained specialist with a master’s or a doctoral degree — should perform the FBA. Most schools have these specialists on staff. They evaluate, design, and implement individualized plans to help kids with behavior problems.

First, behavior analysts study what’s going on around a child when negative behavior is happening. They are skilled at understanding the purpose, frequency, and duration of the behavior — for example, does it show up in the classroom, the lunchroom, on the bus, or during transitions or unstructured times?

[Get This Free Download: The Daily Report Card for Better Classroom Behavior]

The specialists also analyze what teachers and classmates say and do before, during, and after the behavior occurs. Based on this information, the specialists generate a plan. Since teachers have the most contact with kids, they must participate in creating and implementing the plan.

This approach is very effective at modifying the behavior of children with ADHD in elementary, middle, and high school. When a child’s behaviors improve, their reputations can be re-built. The teacher can influence the reactions of other kids and help them become a positive force in the effort to turn around behavior as well.

How Teachers Can Help Students Who Feel Left Out

Implementing the FBA approach may take some time, but your child’s teacher can make changes in the interim to help your child. Share the following classroom strategies with the teacher to help foster peer acceptance and improve your child’s reputation:

1. Give the child tasks to do in the classroom that are helpful to the rest of the students, such as handing out supplies, passing back completed student assignments, and helping to prepare and serve snacks.

[Read: What Kids Need When Classmates Reject Them]

2. Put students into teams or small learning groups. Ask them to create a set of group behavior rules. To help with ideas, the teacher might suggest some ground rules for respectful listening and mindful sharing. Give students topics to discuss in the group, practicing the rules of respectful communications. At the end of the activity, ask the students to evaluate the effectiveness of the skills they just used. This activity reinforces positive interaction and decreases the opportunity for bullying or ridicule.

3. Find opportunities to showcase the student’s strengths, such as artistic or musical talent. Have the student document class activities. Making, editing, and showing a video is a good way for a student to earn the attention of other kids, but in a positive way. Let the student get the reputation as film producer, or the kid who does the “Joke of the Day” at the start of class — or any role that will help to replace the old, negative reputation.

4. If a “vulnerable” child is doing a presentation in class, invite “honored guests” like the principal, the lunch lady, a group of kids from another class, or a parent to come into class to watch. Sometimes, the presence of an audience helps insensitive kids re-think their behavior.

5. The teacher should also create a classroom environment based on mutual respect and kindness, modeling what that means, and acknowledging and rewarding “polite” behavior when it occurs. Many schools are implementing Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curricula, which are filled with strategies that can help teachers achieve this goal.

Feeling Left Out: Next Steps

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