Ask the Experts

Q: “I’m Worried My Child Will Start Skipping School”

By the time a child with ADHD reaches middle school, he is likely worn down by a pattern of challenges, failures, and punishments. If you’re worried that your child will start skipping school to stop this cycle, read this advice to get to the root of the problem.

Q: “My grandson is smart and knows a lot in everyday conversations, but most of his executive functions are poor. He also hates school and anything to do with it. He is in 8th grade and I worry that one day he will just refuse to go. Please give us some advice to help him get through school with some kind of caring.” – Aussie1

Hi Aussie1:

I applaud you for reaching out for assistance, which alone shows you are helping your grandson get through school with a lot of caring! I truly commend you for understanding his feelings and not trying to negate them. As I am sure you are aware, middle school is tough enough! Now throw in weak executive functions, an ADHD diagnosis, numerous classes to manage, social interactions… it’s understandable why he is struggling — and why you fear he may start skipping school.

When I sit in an IEP or 504 meeting for my clients, I tell the professionals around the table to suck in their stomachs. Then hold that for 8 hours. That’s how your grandson feels.

You said your grandson’s executive functions are poor. How does that manifest at school and at home? Is he disorganized? Does he always feel behind? Is he having a hard time focusing in class? Can he complete assignments in a timely manner? Does he understand what is being asked of him?

Since I don’t know why he hates school, I need to ask… do you know why? Before we can put the proper supports or strategies in place, you need to get to the root of the issues.

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A few things to consider:

1. Have you spoken to your grandson’s teachers? His guidance counselor? Or have they discussed any issues with you? What are they seeing? I would advise you to get a better read on what is happening in the classroom. On our Order Out Of Chaos website, we have a list of specific questions to ask your child’s teacher that will help you gain much-needed insight. Just click here to download:

Set up an appointment with either your grandson’s guidance counselor or his individual teachers. Even better? Email them the list of questions prior to your meeting so they can gather whatever information they need to be prepared. It will make for a more effective and focused meeting.

2. Does your grandson have a 504 Plan? If so, are the accommodations appropriate? Are they being followed? If not, it seems that your grandson would benefit from the support and scaffolding one provides. With a 504 Plan, he may receive accommodations such as reduced homework, extended test-taking time, intensive tutoring, or a study-skills class that focuses on organization and time-management skills.

3. Have you spoken to your grandson? Is he able to communicate to you what he is feeling? If “I hate school” is all the information you are receiving, try using scales of measure (“on a scale of one to ten…”). For kids his age, I find that scales provide greater insight than do open-ended questions.

Since I’m not sure if you are your grandson’s guardian, I will offer this one other piece of advice: Though offering a day off from school might seem tempting (we all need a “mental health day” from time to time), it can also make the problem bigger. The one thing anxiety loves is avoidance.

Good luck!

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ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!