School Accommodations for children with ADHD

A question I am asked frequently is what can the school do to help my child with ADHD? Aside from medication, accommodations can be made to optimize the environment to help a child with ADHD focus and learn. Some of those accommodations will be outlined here.

Students with ADHD have difficulty with attention and self-control. And at school, that can look like inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and disorganization — all of which can get in the way of learning.

Classroom Environment:

  • Utilize flexible seating- wiggle chairs, standing desks, footrests, seat cushions, or resistance bands on chair legs.
  • Increase the space between desks or worktables.
  • Designate a quiet work space in the classroom.
  • Set up preferential seating close to the teacher and/or away from high-traffic areas.
  • Post a written or picture schedule for daily routines and rules. When possible, let the student know in advance about schedule changes. 

Increasing Organizational Skills:

  • Use an assignment planner or an electronic calendar.
  • Provide an extra set of books to keep at home.
  • Provide folders and baskets of supplies to keep desk organized.
  • Use color-coded materials for each subject.
  • Provide typed notes or an outline of the lesson to help with note taking.

Giving Instructions:

  • Give directions out loud and in writing or pictures. Have the student repeat them.
  • Provide a lesson outline that details instructions and assignments.
  • Keep instructions simple, clear, and concrete.
  • Use pictures and graphs to help create visual interest.
  • Provide a rubric that describes the elements of a successfully 
  • Help the student break up assignments into smaller, more manageable pieces. 

Completing Tests and Assignments:

  • Allow understanding to be demonstrated in different ways, like oral reports, posters, and video presentations.
  • Provide different ways to respond to test questions, like saying the answers or circling them.
  • Minimize the number of questions and problems per worksheet.
  • Schedule frequent short quizzes, rather than one long test at the end of each unit.
  • Give credit for work done instead of taking away points for late or partial assignments (with a plan for moving toward completing assignments).
  • Grade for content, not for neatness.
  • Give extra time and quieter space for work and tests.

Managing behavior:

  • Use a behavior plan with a reward system.
  • Use a non-verbal sign (like a sticky note on the desk or a hand on a shoulder) to get the student’s attention and indicate the need for things like taking a mindfulness break. 
  • Talk through behavior problems one-on-one.
  • Check in frequently to monitor the student’s “emotional temperature” or frustration level. 

When kids have ADHD, it’s important to talk with their teachers or school about how it affects them. This will let teachers find ways to help your child be successful in the classroom. Here are tips for talking to your child’s teachers about ADHD.

  1. Make an appointment.
    Instead of trying to catch teachers in the morning or after school, set up a 15- to 20-minute appointment. That’s enough time to talk without interruption.
  2. Fill in details about ADHD.
    Your child’s teachers may know something about ADHD, but they may not have enough good information on it. Ask teachers how familiar they are with ADHD, and whether they’ve taught kids with ADHD before. If their knowledge is limited, or if their examples don’t resemble your child, you can explain that ADHD is a condition that affects kids in different ways. For instance, not all kids with ADHD are hyperactive. Some kids may just struggle with inattention.
  3. Give specifics on how ADHD impacts your child.
    Since ADHD does look different for every child, let teachers know what they’re most likely to experience in class. Does your child tend to talk out of turn? Is your child hard to get back on track when their attention has wandered? Is your child very disorganized? If your child has a hard time controlling emotions, that’s important information, too.
  4. Talk about current accommodations.
    Don’t assume your child’s teachers know the details of your child’s IEP or 504 plan, if your child has one. Provide a copy and ask them to look over the accommodations. Also make it clear that you expect your child to meet school expectations, with that support.
  5.  Share strategies that have (and haven’t) worked for your child.
    If there are strategies or systems your child has used successfully with other teachers, share them. Maybe a daily schedule was helpful. Or maybe you give cues that help your child notice that it’s time to get back on task. Explain why the strategies were successful. Be sure to mention what hasn’t worked, too.
  6. Ask what teachers see and what they suggest.
    Teachers may suggest strategies that have worked well for other students. They might also have ideas on how to adapt techniques to fit your child’s needs or improve strategies that haven’t worked for your child in the past. Together, you can come up with a plan for trying informal strategies to help your child in the classroom.
  7. Ask what you can do.
    Asking how you can help shows that you want to work as a team to make sure everybody has a good year. It can make them feel supported and reassure them that you’re available for further communication. Teachers who feel supported may be more likely to reach out to you before a problem becomes large and unmanageable. Be sure to work out the best way to stay in touch. For example, do they prefer email, text, or phone conversations?

If you feel your child needs additional assistance to cope with their ADHD symptoms, contact us to discuss ways therapy can help. 

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