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Is school a nightmare for your ADHD kid? Here's what to do...

This blog post with a different title was originally published in

“I have 26 kids in my class and YOUR child dominates all of my #attention!”

I know I’m not the only parent who has heard this humiliating sentence from their child’s teacher. There we sit in that stomach-churning #PTA meeting hearing that our child is less, #disordered, needing fixing. That hurts! “Why can’t my child be like all the (#wellbehaved) kids”, we think.

Yes, our kids with #ADHD symptoms are way more demanding in the classroom. Can you blame them? Routines, monotony, and failure are their enemies. #SittingStill for a long time is almost as bad.

But our kids are #healthy, smart (often with above-average #IQs), and love to learn. They deserve a #goodEducation, and we deserve a #shameFree PTA meeting! We are not to blame for our child’s behavior but there is much we can do to advocate for him or her.

The key to success at school lies in building a solid relationship with our child’s teacher. Here are a few ways we can help the teacher help our magnificent child.

First, we will address our ADHD child’s never-ending sitting nightmare. Our kids are #curious and energetic, they don’t want to sit, they want to #explor

e. Imagine if our full-time job was to do something that felt like torture to us all-day-long. We would NEVER stand for it. So, shouldn’t we let our child move around a bit?

Here are a few ideas.

1. Put a small podium in the back of the classroom. Your child will get a choice, either she can sit at her desk, or get up quietly and walk to the podium and stand (dance?) for a while. This is a “#PrivilegeWithResponsibility” mediation. If she can move quietly and not disturb the class (her responsibility), she can get up in every lesson. If she is not responsible with her privilege, she loses it for the next lesson.

2. I do not like the “send the kid on an errand to get out his energy” tactic. Your child is in school to learn, not to be the #teachersAssistant. This feels to me like the teacher has no idea how to educate our child, so she sends him to be “useful” outside the classroom. Our child internalized this message and feels his place is outside the classroom as a non-learner. Since our child needs to move, it is much better to paint a large figure 8 on the floor of the classroom either at the side or back of the room and when any student needs to move, have them “walk the 8” while remaining with the rest of his class. At the beginning of the school year, many students will be excited about walking the 8, but soon enough, only the kids who need it will be getting up. This is another example of “privilege with responsibility”.

3. Another great way to get kids stimulated and moving in the classroom is by instructing them to stand up to ask or answer questions. Suddenly, our energetic kids have lots to say, they engage quickly and listen for the next opportunity to get up and shine.

Next, we will examine why it is so hard for our children to focus in class.

Kids with #ADHDsymptoms despise routines. Our children run on an #InstantGratification engine, they are looking for excitement. Alas, exciting moments are few and far between in most classrooms. Teachers are not trained to be one-person entertainment centers, nor should we expect them to be. What w

e can expect from the teacher is that she properly “invite” our child to participate.

How is this done?

The teacher must explore with the student WHY the subject she is teaching is so relevant to the student’s life. When our child understands why this topic is related to her personally, and how she will benefit from paying attention, the child will be motivated to learn. Beginning each lesson with the question “Why should YOU care about this subject?” is a solid start.

If the subject matter, or at least part of it, is not relevant to the child and her life, the teacher should not be teaching it! Every story in history or science has much to do with us. Math has everything to do with our lives when taught correctly. Inviting students to explore the challenges of growing up with siblings (bible stories), the feeling of being taken advantage of and wanting to fight back (The French revolution), imagining believing something exists even though you can’t see it with your eyes (studying the cell) gets them personally invested in the topic. Tell a story, and have them share an experience. They will want to know what happens next. Really talented teachers can ask a follow-up question that gets our kid's attention every time; “where else do we see this topic/ struggle/ understanding in other subjects you have learned”. Try it at home when doing homework with them.

There are so many other classroom suggestions to get our healthy kids to love school, but we will choose one last one for now… organization! That’s a big one. (For an in-depth analysis of this topic, check out chapter 9 in HyperHealing

Our child can and should learn to organize his pencil case, backpack, and books. It’s a process, it can not be done all at once. Let’s begin with the pencil case. We the parents must always have extra school supplies at home for the very frequent event of our child losing ALL his equipment (I still can’t figure out how they DO that!). Next, we will set up a weekly check-in chart for the pencil case. Have your child bring the pencil case home and either ask for new supplies or show you that he has everything. Requesting new supplies is responsible behavior and should be as rewarded as a fully loaded case. If you discover he is missing something that he didn’t ask for, he is not rewarded. Don’t forget to check weekly! Make a reminder for yourself. The beginning may be bumpy, but as he develops a habit, fewer and fewer

items will need to be replaced. Make sure not to criticize your child for missing items and give a huge compliment when he has been responsible by taking notice of what he needs to replace or having everything he needs.

Here is a way to help your child not lose books and notebooks; Place a plastic office box right next to his desk. Our kids lose things in transit. If all the books are kept right near his desk so he does not have to travel to a cubby or locker, he stands a fighting chance of not losing them.

Finally, we as parents must never internalize messages that our children are less. They are not! They are bright and capable, and in an environment that does not bring out the best in them. Of course, they must learn classroom skills, but when we get impatient or angry with them we cannot help them improve. They would do well if they could, they are not trying to fail. They are missing skills. You are your child’s only advocate. He or she needs you to find out what skills are missing, not to be humiliated that your child is not “normative”.

As a mom of many kids diagnosed with ADHD, I can tell you with full confidence that we have the best kids on earth, and with our kindness, patience, and curiosity, they will succeed like you never could have imagined possible.
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