Ask the Experts

Managing My Child’s School Behavior Problems

Your ADHD child is misbehaving in class. How can you tell when an IEP or 504 Plan becomes necessary? A legal expert weighs in on school behavior problems.

Q: My child has behavior problems in school. He always talks to another child while the teacher is talking and he gets out of his seat while kids are doing desk work. Can I work with the teacher to manage these behaviors, or should I request an IEP or a 504 Plan?

Work with your child’s teacher to monitor and manage these behaviors. For example, it would be helpful to know if these occur more often at a particular time of day, or if he is always talking to one student in particular. Talk with the teacher to develop strategies for managing these behaviors. Strategies may include giving your child legitimate reasons to leave his seat (handing out papers, taking a message to the school office) or giving him things to do while he is seated to help him “tune in” — squeezing a small ball or eraser in a way that won’t disturb other students.

Don’t stop there. Have your child evaluated to determine why these behaviors are occurring. Begin with a visit to your child’s pediatrician to rule out any medical problems. Check for classroom impediments. Sometimes not being able to see the board can lead to restless behavior. If your child’s behaviors are significantly affecting his learning, request that he be evaluated for an IEP. If his academics are strong, begin by requesting that he be evaluated for a 504 Plan, which is often easier to get than an IEP. Any evaluation should include an assessment of his behaviors.