How Parents Can Get Kids with ADHD Prepared to Start School

Going back to school is exciting for both the student and the parent!! However, it can also be nerve-wracking.

The challenges students face during their first day can be anywhere from making new friends, finding new classes, new locker combinations, new teachers….it’s all just new.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder” can add new, different challenges for both the student and their parents. ADHD can affect a student’s ability to focus, pay attention, listen, or put effort into schoolwork. ADHD also can make a student fidgety, restless, talk too much, or disrupt the class. Kids with ADHD might also have learning disabilities that cause them to have problems in school.

Most kids with ADHD start school before their ADHD is diagnosed. Teachers are sometimes the first to notice possible signs of ADHD. They may talk it over with the child’s parent. The parent can then have the child evaluated by a health care provider to see if it’s ADHD.

Signs of ADHD

A wide range of behaviors are associated with ADHD. Some of the more common ones include:

  • having trouble focusing or concentrating on tasks
  • being forgetful about completing tasks
  • being easily distracted
  • having difficulty sitting still
  • interrupting people while they’re talking

If you or your child has ADHD, you may have some or all of these symptoms. The symptoms you have depend on the type of ADHD you have.

Types of ADHD

To make ADHD diagnoses more consistent, the APA has grouped the condition into three categories, or types. These types are predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactivity-impulsive, and a combination of both.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, AHDH is a problem for 9% of American children, with boys being at a higher risk. So you aren’t alone. Setting your child up for success in the school year can be as easy as getting them in the right mindset before their first day!

Preparing For The First Day and Beyond

The very thing students are asked to do every day in the classroom is generally what students with ADHD find more difficult; these include sitting still, listening quietly, and concentrating. So working with your child on these can help them on their first day!

Here are a few ways you can get your child in the right mindset before the start of the school year!

  1. Talk about school expectations with them and practice them in your home. From sitting still during dinner to practicing raising your hand when they want to talk, discuss, show, and practice what they will be expected to do. When they misbehave, make sure you talk about how it could be handled in school. Be clear with them, so as not to confuse them, but also be gentle in the way you talk, so as not to scare them. This is more scary for them than it is for you. 
  2. Take a tour of the school!! A lot of schools let parents and students come before the first day to get the layout!! Even if it isn’t their first time in the school, it’s always nice to have a refresher! This will get them excited and calm those nerves a bit! 
  3. You and your child with the teachers and administrators. Let them know your concerns. Talk with them about any special ways your child learns, for example, children with ADHD find it easier to learn when they sit upfront. If that’s the case, bring that to the teachers’ attention! They are there to give your child the best education possible, so utilize them.
  4. Start waking them up early a week before school starts! Get them used to a good morning routine so their morning before school is happy AND healthy! It’s hard enough waking up at 7 am after a summer of sleeping in, so make sure you get them used to that. Healthy hygiene and a healthy breakfast can also boost their morale! 
  5. Help them stay organized! Buy a fun planner they will use! Keep homework binders, sticky note reminders, backpacks with organizing compartments, highlighters. Staying organized is harder for students with ADHD, so make it easy and fun for them. Practice more organization skills at home! Set up a specific time and place to get homework done, keep calendars that show school reminders like tests and field trips, etc. 
  6. And finally, stay positive. Kids can sense when you are stressed out. Talk about school in a positive way. When they’re sitting still, give them a small reward! What you give is what you’ll get, so give them positivity!! 

How can your Teacher help:

Teachers can help you find out if your child needs an IEP. An IEP (individual education program) is a written plan of goals for a student and things teachers will do to support the student’s progress. Your child’s teacher might suggest an evaluation to see if your child could benefit from an IEP. 

Teachers can talk with you about your child’s progress. Ask the teacher to let you know how your child is doing. Using a folder that goes back and forth between you and your child’s teacher is one way to share notes about progress.   

Teachers can focus on your child’s needs. Every student with ADHD is different. Some need help paying attention and managing distractions. Some need help staying organized. Others need help getting started with their work or finishing work they start. Some students with ADHD have trouble staying seated or working quietly. Ask the teacher how ADHD affects your child in the classroom and what you can do to help your child with schoolwork.

Teachers can help your child succeed. Depending on what a student needs, a teacher can do things like: 

  • Seat a student where there are fewer distractions.
  • Give instructions that are clear and brief.
  • Have simple classroom routines and rules.
  • Be warm, encouraging, and positive.
  • Praise efforts.
  • Help with organization.
  • Guide kids to slow down and take their time.
  • Give prompts to stay on task.
  • Give breaks to move around in the classroom.
  • Give extra time to complete work.
  • Teach students how to check their work and catch careless mistakes.

ADHD Treatments

In addition to — or instead of — medication, several remedies have been suggested to help improve ADHD symptoms.

For starters, following a healthy lifestyle may help you or your child manage ADHD symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) commends the following:

  • eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day
  • get plenty of sleep
  • limit daily screen time from phones, computers, and TV

Studies have also shown that yoga, and spending time outdoors can help calm overactive minds and may ease ADHD symptoms.

Mindfulness meditation is another option.  in adults and teens has shown meditation to have positive effects on attention and thought processes, as well as on anxiety and depression.

Avoiding certain allergens and food additives are also potential ways to help reduce ADHD symptoms.

The start of the school year doesn’t have to be stressful for you or your child with ADHD. With the right tools, you both can make it a breeze, the first day all the way to the end! Help them succeed the way you know they can!! If you or your child has ADHD, a consistent schedule with structure and regular expectations may be helpful. For adults, using lists, keeping a calendar, and setting reminders are good ways to help you get and stay organized. For children, it can be helpful to focus on writing down homework assignments and keeping everyday items, such as toys and backpacks, in assigned spots.

 And with that, happy first day of school, everyone!