ADHD Myths & Facts

9 Things I Wish the World Knew About My Students’ ADHD

During ADHD Awareness Month, we asked ADDitude readers to share with us the (sometimes exhausting, sometimes inspiring) truths about attention deficit disorder that they most wish the neurotypical world would understand and respect. Nearly 450 readers responded; here are some of the most poignant from educators, some of whom also have ADHD and/or children with ADHD themselves.

Students Raising Hands
Pupils raising their hands during class at the elementary school

1. Not Every Student Can Learn While Sitting Still

“No two children experience and learn the same way. Not every child can sit ‘crisscross applesauce’ on the carpet and follow along. Before we can teach a child, we must learn about them. Each child is different and unique and should be treated as such.”

“When I was in high school, I sat in front of a student who cracked and popped her gum all through class every day. I couldn’t focus on what the teacher was saying because this ‘background’ sound was all I could hear. In order to study, I had to have absolute quiet. In contrast, I have known others who could not function in silence, and needed background noise to help them focus. As a teacher, I think it’s crucial for children’s learning styles and environmental needs to be taken into account.”

“Everyone’s ‘normal’ is different. Some students need space, sound, and movement. Think of everything a baby learns in the first few years of life — they are not sitting still in a chair!

2. Students Thrive When Success is Defined Just for Them

“I wish the world knew the damage done to non-neurotypical students through the way that we try to box children into ‘acceptable’ behaviors that conflict with their nature. Rather than using the same cookie-cutter process to measure all students, I would like to see more personalized plans that help each kid learn while developing their individual talents and interests.”

3. ADHD Minds Are Trailblazing Minds

“My ADHD allows me to see all my students’ needs at any given time in any area of the classroom. I can focus like a laser. The world only sees this as a ‘disability’ because the farmers are trying to make us fit into their world, but I am descendent of hunters who have roamed the earth for millennia. That is not a world in which we fit. We must continue to be the trailblazers we are; be true to ourselves and be proud!”

[5 Mindfulness Exercises for Students with ADHD]

4. ADHD Is a Complex, Multi-Faceted Diagnosis That Deserves Your Time

“ADHD is referenced so cavalierly in education that it is not given the seriousness it warrants. The more I learn about ADHD, the more I see that it comes in so many varieties. I’m a teacher who was diagnosed just 6 months ago. There’s just so much wrapped up in these four little letters that is life altering. If only I had known earlier what I know now, I would have been able to help my students that much more.”

5. It Takes a Village to Manage ADHD

“I wish that people would understand that ADHD can be managed by the student, teachers, and parents if they all work together with flexibility, patience, and humor. I usually give middle schoolers who are fidgety (not always diagnosed) chances to run and refocus. For example, helping to pass out class materials gives them a chance to move around without disrupting the class.”

6. Rushing to Judgment Does a Disservice to Students with ADHD

“As an early childhood educator and former special education teacher, I wish more people knew that ADHD isn’t just ‘being fidgety’ and just being fidgety doesn’t mean you have ADHD. So many people are quick to diagnose or label themselves or others (especially young kids), and it genuinely hurts those who do have ADHD because it just contributes to this misunderstanding and makes it harder for them to be taken seriously.”

7. Teachers Need Better Training About Inattentive ADHD

“It is very important for our educators to be informed about all types of ADHD symptoms. It is not always just the bouncy boy disrupting the class who has ADHD — it can impact be the quiet people-pleaser daydreaming in the corner. It is so important to observe this behavior in early childhood so it doesn’t spiral in to anxiety, a mood disorder, or other problems.”

[Free Expert Resource for Teachers of Students with ADHD]

“I wish I knew how to best help students with inattentive ADHD. I feel like my toolbox for helping those with hyperactivity as their main symptom is quite extensive, but the distracted (but not disruptive) students are easier to miss.”

8. A Focus on Executive Function Helps All Students

“One of the simplest ways we can help individuals with ADHD to succeed at school is to focus on improving executive functioning. Everyone uses executive functions every day, but we could all do to better understand how our brains work and to learn about tools and strategies to improve our habits and behaviors.”

9. Children with ADHD Need Thoughtful Treatment, Not Lectures

“I wish that people would understand that ADHD is a real medical condition that impacts children academically and socially. It may require the use of medication, along with therapy and parent education, to determine effective learning strategies. As an educator, I see too many of my students who have the diagnosis but lack sufficient treatment. They develop low confidence and behavior issues because they are constantly being fussed at, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. ADDitude magazine has such good information, I advise all the teachers and parents I know to look at the website to help them understand this misunderstood condition.”

[Free Resource for Teachers: Your Guide To ADHD-Friendly Assignments]