Back-to-School Tips for Children and Teens with ADHD

Father Helping Son With Homework Using Digital TabletA new school year is fast approaching. For many parents of children and teens with attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), the previous school year and any difficulties associated with it might seem like a distant memory. Unfortunately, such difficulties don’t always resolve themselves from one school year to the next.

As your child or teen prepares to head back to school, it can be helpful to evaluate how the previous school year went and to be proactive in making adjustments so that more success is experienced this time around. In looking back, ask yourself some questions. Were you/your child/teen satisfied with his or her grades in each course? Do you/your child/teen feel that he or she could have done better? What percentage of homework did your child/teen forget to hand in? How did he or she do on exams in specific classes? How did he or she perform on projects? Did he or she put in enough time to study? Was there enough time in the schedule to complete tasks? Was your child/teen happy overall?

After you and your child or teen think about the answers to these questions (and perhaps others you thought about on your own), the next step is to figure out where you want to improve—and how.

Here are some suggestions for addressing some of the questions above as well as general academic issues that are commonly experienced by young people with ADHD:

  • Get your child or teen a tutor to help with subjects that have proven to be difficult.
  • If your child/teen has an individualized education program (IEP), 504 Plan, or otherwise receives services through school, review those services and see what was helpful last year, what was not, and if additional services may be beneficial. Then, consider setting up a meeting with your child’s school to discuss desired adjustments.
  • If your child/teen struggles significantly academically and he or she has never been formally evaluated for ADHD, learning disabilities, or other related issues, consider having him or her evaluated to figure out the source of the struggles.
  • Consider setting up a meeting with your child’s new teacher, counselor, etc., to discuss concerns from the previous year and how to prevent them from recurring.
  • Have your child/teen work with an organizational tutor, ADHD coach, or therapist on time management, organizational, and/or study skills.
  • Help your child/teen set up binders, folders, and a solid organizational system before school starts back up.
  • Help develop a good place to complete homework, such as at a desk, a quiet area, or other feasible location.
  • Determine a method for checking homework completion that your child or teen is comfortable with, such as emailing you assignments each day and then again when he or she has finished; writing them on a whiteboard and crossing them off when they are complete; or even sitting down with you each day to talk about what was assigned and completed.
  • Increase use of modern study aids such as talk-to-text software, audio books, etc.
  • Determine an appropriate method to contact teachers when needed.
  • Help your child/teen feel confident in his or her academic skills by reviewing key concepts (math facts, etc.) daily or as needed.

Being proactive prior to the school year beginning is a great way to make sure that your child or teen improves academically. Social and emotional issues can impede academic functioning as well, so it is also important to ensure that your child or teen is doing well socially, isn’t experiencing (or is effectively managing) anxiety, depression, or related issues, and that other issues that might contribute to difficulties at school are addressed.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey A. Heller, PsyD, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Rae

    Rae

    August 11th, 2015 at 11:26 AM

    A great system of organisation is key to success- whether you have ADHD or not!

  • marcia

    marcia

    August 12th, 2015 at 10:30 AM

    I did not have to go through any of this with my own children, but I would think that talking with the child’s teacher or teachers form the very beginning could help all of you to work out a strategy that is going to allow your child to have the most success that he or she can possibly have in the classroom. This could be things that they can do at school or it could be things that they do at home, but I always think the enlisting the help of the teacher and making sure that they are an advocate for the student and an ally versus an adversary will help make everyone a whole lot happier this school year.

  • Anthony

    Anthony

    August 12th, 2015 at 4:17 PM

    It can help a lot when you help them get organized and then model to them through your own tasks and behavior how this can work to help you too.

  • Tobias

    Tobias

    August 13th, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    prayer, lots and lots of prayer

  • Ms K

    Ms K

    August 14th, 2015 at 7:38 AM

    I have found that many students relate better to someone who has gone through the same things so it isn’t a bad idea to talk to teachers and for younger students help set them up some times with peers who have gotten this nailed down or even older kids who could serve not only as a mentor but perhaps a tutor as well. You know how it can be with children, sometimes they just respond so much better to someone who is not the parent or even the teacher. You have to find that little breakthrough that will finally allow those lightbulbs to go off in there in a positive way.

  • Bella

    Bella

    August 16th, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    I was reading something just this morning about how other cultures deal with this type of thing so differently, that they address the underlying issues instead of looking for medication to treat it. Some validity in that?

  • Izzy

    Izzy

    August 17th, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    I think that with teens you will find that you have a very special opportunity to work with them to give them some great work skills that they can use in many different forums as they proceed in their educational careers. This is not a time to be squandered.

  • Joseph

    Joseph

    August 18th, 2015 at 4:34 PM

    Think of how many tools and resources are actually available to use today that kids even ten years ago did not have to take advantage of. I think that even just having better access to these things as well as easier methods for staying in touch with both parents and teachers could ease some of the burden.

  • Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    August 26th, 2015 at 7:44 AM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions.

  • Kelly M

    Kelly M

    September 14th, 2015 at 9:51 PM

    Really nice article Carey. Working for a school of ADHD children, I have experienced that they tend to act in ways that are stubborn and non-compliant. ADHD kids may lose their temper, arguing with adults and refusing to obey rules. They may deliberately annoy people, blame others for their mistakes, be resentful, spiteful, or even vengeful. A good support from parents and teachers helps them in improving self confidence. I believe that behavioral therapy works much better than medication, especially for ADHD kids.

    Kelly M
    Retired Special Education Teacher
    Winston Preparatory School

  • henry

    henry

    September 14th, 2015 at 11:38 PM

    You know how it can be with children, sometimes they just respond so much better to someone who is not the parent or even the teacher. You have to find that little breakthrough that will finally allow those lightbulbs to go off in there in a positive way.

  • Judy

    Judy

    April 6th, 2016 at 11:44 AM

    I thought that your tip to have my child evaluated to find out the source of his struggles could be really helpful. After he was diagnosed with ADHD, I’ve been trying to find ways to help him be more successful in school. Knowing the source of his academic struggles could help me know how he needs to address them so that he can do better with his studies.

  • Braden B

    Braden B

    February 28th, 2017 at 6:20 AM

    My son has ADHD, and I understand his pain because I struggled with it a lot when I was his age as well. It makes sense that I would want to try out an individualized education for him! I’ll see if I can find a school that specializes in helping kids with ADHD.

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