Executive Functions

Middle School Tumult: ADHD Strategies to Ease Your Child’s Transition

Simple strategies to help adolescents with ADHD — and their parents — navigate the new responsibilities and challenges of middle school.

The transition to middle school is a big adjustment for many adolescents with and without ADHD. Students who learned in one elementary school classroom with one teacher must adjust to switching settings and instructors several times each day. There are new faces, new rules, new routines, and new expectations.

Some middle school students with ADHD will benefit from assistance in understanding teachers’ directions and juggling multiple assignments. Here are ADHD-friendly strategies for parents:

Middle School Strategies: Planning Ahead

  • Request a meeting with your student’s teachers prior to the new school year and have your child accompany you. Your child may feel embarrassed to tag along, but it is important to stress that kicking off a successful year means meeting his teachers face to face.
  • At this pre-planning meeting, be positive about your child’s strengths. Have your student chime in with additions and clarifications. Inform each teacher about how your child responds best and where she may need assistance.
  • Get an idea about the types of assignments in the syllabus, how much time students get to complete them, how late work is penalized, and how the assignments are graded.
  • Ask how the teacher communicates homework assignments to students and parents—does she post on a website, for example?

[Free Download: Explaining ADHD to Teachers]

Middle School Strategies: Managing Assignments

  • Keep a visual calendar or chart at home, where you and your student note assignments and due dates.
  • Establish a system in which your child does homework for 15 minutes (depending on his attention span), then engages in a preferred activity (ideally not a video game) for five minutes, and then back to homework. When the homework load is heavy, have him do the easiest tasks first and praise him after each task.
  • Encourage your child to work ahead on longer-term assignments. Break them into small steps and set a deadline for each step. Show her how to do a portion of the assignment. Praise your child for working ahead of schedule.
  • If your child goes off task, don’t nag. Instead, say, “How can I help you?” or “It looks like you’re stuck on number 1. How about going on to number 2, and I will help you with number 1?”
  • Sometimes, finding a study buddy helps.

Overall, parents should be supportive and appreciate the changes that come with middle school. Use praise to reinforce good work habits and effort. Providing assurance along the way is critical for students’ success.

ADHD in Middle School: Next Steps

Beverly Holden Johns is an author and learning and behavior consultant. She has more than 30 years’ experience in public schools working with students with learning disabilities and emotional/behavioral disorders.

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