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Is Your Child Punished for ADHD Behavior at School?

My daughter, Natalie, recently faced the possibility of in-school suspension and losing recess because of her ADHD symptoms. How do you work with teachers and school administrators if your child is labeled the “behavior problem” student?

Sad ADHD child at school
Sad ADHD pupil being bullied by classmates at corridor in school

My daughter, Natalie, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities, came home from school a few weeks ago and said that she was in big trouble. She’d had her first ever major outburst at school. Her special education teacher had been gone that day, but she said another teacher told her that because of her behavior, she would probably have in-school suspension the next day.

Losing recess and getting in-school suspension (ISS) are the two most reviled consequences among parents of kids with ADHD because they are so obviously counterproductive. Taking recess away from a kid with ADHD is like forcing a kid to keep blowing more and more air into a balloon without popping it; it’s both illogical and unfair. In-school suspension is just a bigger balloon — you blow longer and harder, and you produce a bigger explosion. Unfortunately, they are still staple punishments for kids with ADHD at many, many schools. Was it finally my turn to face this ridiculous nightmare that had been faced by so many other kids’ parents?

I was pretty sure Natalie’s teacher wouldn’t really give her ISS. For one thing, although fairly serious, this really was her first big behavioral offense — ever — at school. Jumping straight to ISS seemed like a pretty drastic measure. For another, I trust her teacher’s judgment. She’s great with Natalie. I just couldn’t see it happening. But just in case, I walked Natalie in to school the next morning to clarify what had — and would — happen.

[Self-Test: Could My Child Have a Learning Disability?]

Natalie was crying and literally shaking all over when we sat down with Mrs. McCasland. No, she immediately assured us, ISS was not now, and would never be, part of any plan for Natalie. For some kids, yes. But not for Natalie. Phew, I thought. Dodged that bullet. And I was thankful, for the gazillionth time, that Natalie has always had such good, knowledgeable teachers. If only all our challenging children were so lucky.

Has your child been kept inside for recess or had ISS as a behavioral consequence at school? Does your child attend a school where those are seen as appropriate punishments for kids with ADHD? My plan, had Natalie’s teacher given her ISS, was to immediately take her out of school. What have you done — or would you do — in a similar situation?

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