How to Help Your Child Succeed in School

Children with ADHD often find it difficult to pay attention in class, focus on their work and hand their assignments in on time.  Eileen Bailey shares step-by-step guidelines to help your child thrive in an academic environment.

By Eileen Bailey

Your child is not doing so well in school.  The teacher has been sending home notes about behavior: your child is being disruptive, seems easily distracted, and is failing to hand in homework assignments.  Compared to nieces and nephews the same age, your child is immature.  After searching the internet and reading about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), your child fits the criteria listed.  What should you do now?

Talk to Your Child’s Teacher

Set up an appointment to speak with your child’s teacher in person.  Find out as much detail as you can about behaviors during class time.  Ask for examples of the behaviors that are disrupting the class and find out what steps they may have taken to correct the problem.  Discuss ways that you and the teacher can work together to help your child.

  • Set up a system to help you keep informed of homework and find out what assignments are missing.
  • Ask for advance notice on upcoming tests and projects, possibly by email or through notes home so that you can help prepare your child.
  • Ask if there are areas in which your child seems to be struggling the most.  Maybe there is additional work you could bring home to help keep your child up to date.


Use this time to develop a positive relationship with your child’s teacher; after all, your child is with the teacher all day.  Keeping the conference on task and discussing specific strategies will let the teacher know you are there to work together and develop success in school for your child.  With them on your side, your student has a better chance of progress in academic areas.

At the end of the meeting, request a follow up meeting for one month later to discuss improvement and review your overall strategy.

Set Up a Meeting With the Guidance Counselor

At this meeting you want to discuss some of your findings from your meeting with the teacher.  You can request the teacher to be present to further expound on some of the problematic areas. 

If you have any concerns regarding possible learning disabilities, talk with the Guidance Counselor regarding specific testing.   This request should be put into writing. 

The Guidance Counselor may have some suggestions for additional accommodations to help your child get on track in school. 

Research Attention Deficit Disorder

Read as much information as possible on ADHD and make a list of symptoms.  Keep track of which symptoms you feel your child is exhibiting and write down examples.  Symptoms of ADHD show up differently in children and while some children may be overly impulsive, others may have more difficulty with inattention, while other children may have trouble sitting still. 

Use the information you receive from the teacher as well as from observing your child at home to list different examples in different settings. 

Make an Appointment With Your Physician

Your family physician or pediatrician would be the best place to start.  Make an appointment and discuss what you have learned from the teacher as well as what you have observed.  Explain the reasons that you feel your child may have Attention Deficit Disorder. 

There is no definitive test for ADHD.  ADHD is diagnosed through questionnaires completed by parents, caregivers and teachers.  In addition to the questionnaires, your doctor should conduct a physical to exclude any physical causes of the behavior.   There are some medical conditions that can mimic symptoms of ADHD.  Your doctor will be able to rule these out with a thorough physical.  Making sure you receive a correct diagnosis is the first step toward proper treatment. 

Some pediatricians and family physicians feel comfortable in their knowledge of ADHD to monitor treatment.  You can also request a referral to a child psychologist that specializes in ADHD. 

Treatment

Become familiar with the modes of treatment available for ADHD.  Traditional treatment includes a combination of medication and behavior modification.  Most of the medications are stimulants, although there is one non-stimulant medication that has been approved for ADHD.  Medications come in various strengths.  Some are short acting (usually 4-6 hours), while other medications are available in all day doses.  Based on your child, their symptoms and your family life, you and your doctor should be able to determine which medication is best.  Sometimes, finding the right medication and dosage is a matter of trial and error. 

Behavior modification programs can be set up by you and can include such things as behavioral charts, motivational games and reward and consequences.  Your doctor, a child psychologist or a counselor can help you to set up programs based on your child’s needs if you need assistance with this. 

Create an ADHD Success Environment

Although medication and behavior modification work well together, there are some additional ways you can help your child.   Taking a proactive approach will help to eliminate problems before they come up.  Sometimes it is difficult for a child with ADHD to link the consequences with the action.  Making sure to write down what will happen when a child misbehaves will help them to remember, to know what to expect and will help you in handling situations calmly, rather than emotionally.  Keep your rules simple and try to make feedback immediate.

Find ways to reorganize your home.  Use clear over the door shoe holders and hang them on the inside of their room door.  This helps to keep some of the clutter off the floor and helps your children become more self sufficient when cleaning up their room.  They are able to easily pick up items and place them in the shoe holder, making a more presentable room and they can easily see what is inside each section. 

Create a homework box with all the supplies your child may need to complete their homework.  The box should contain pencils, pens, rulers, paper, stapler, glue and anything else that they commonly use.  This box will eliminate the need for them to get up several times during homework time. 

Finding solutions like these will help you to spend more time enjoying your child and less time feeling frustrated.  When you objectively look for problems and come up with solutions, rather than yelling or disciplining, your child will feel that you are working with them, rather than against them.

Sources:

Strock, Margaret. "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder." 16 Oct 2006. National Institute of Mental Health. <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/adhd.cfm>.


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