7 Things Teachers Can do to Make School Better for Students with ADHD

Teachers, I know you have it hard.  I promise if you learn more about kids with ADHD and how to manage us better, then your life – and for sure, our lives – will be better.

Did you know that kids with ADHD have the highest drop out rate on the planet? I think our experience with other students and staff at schools can make a huge difference in keeping us at school.  The thing is, what works for other kids can really negatively impact the experience of a student who has ADHD.

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Here are 7 Tips for teachers to Make School Better for Kids with ADHD, and the impact that some of these things have had on my life. Hang on to this as a resource to share with teachers of students with ADHD.


1 – Please forgive students with ADHD who forget things, even if it happens every day

large“My grade 7 teacher repeatedly berated me for forgetting my pencils, pens and paper. Every day I would forget at least one thing and it was like she couldn’t wait to catch me to give me her “I told you so” lecture.” ~ Jeff

2- Help ensure students with ADHD get their breaks (lunch and recess) even if they haven’t completed their work

thumbnail“I couldn’t wait to have Mr. R.  He was suppose to be the best teacher in the school.  Too bad he thought that taking away my lunch, recess and having me sit out in Phys-Ed was a productive way to get me to get my work done.  Teachers need to know that kids with ADHD need to be able to take breaks and to run and play more than most kids.”  ~ Jeff

3 – Let your students with ADHD out of class when the bell rings even though they were disruptive in class

thumbnail-1“Kids with ADHD struggle to make friends. After a long exhausting day of trying harder than anyone else in the class, we look forward to a few moments of being “normal” and hanging out with our friends.   When you keep us in, you keep us away from being able to grow good relationships.   Say this happens week after week, year after year?  Then guess what.. we will never again have a chance to learn how to make friends. If we’re disruptive in class, let’s work out a plan together on how we can deal with it.” ~ Jeff

(Psst. Get your own free download of the behaviour plan that I’ve used successfully at my school by clicking here!)

4 – If you’re concerned, please check only in private if your ADHD student has “taken their pill today”

thumbnail-2“You wouldn’t ask a kid with diabetes if they had taken their insulin today in front of others so why do teachers feel it’s ok to ask kids with ADHD.  Maybe I’m just honestly having fun and being goofy like a real kid, then you come along and embarrass me.  Ask me in private if you are concerned that I can’t do my work and you want to help me.” ~ Jeff

5 – Be understanding and flexible if our work is not getting  done. Maybe there’s something going on there or maybe we just can’t do it.

thumbnail-3“There is this thing called “Executive Function” and most kids with ADHD struggle with it.  It makes things like organization, prioritization and procrastination an issue. Often — like for me — there are other things going on like brain/hand issues that make it physically impossible to write or to focus on writing.  If a child with ADHD is consistently not doing their work, then look for a way around it . I did ZERO written work from kindergarten to grade 7, which was when I finally got my diagnosis and medication.  Every single year, every single teacher was mad at me for not doing my  work.  But it turns out I have a written output disorder — a medical disorder with low muscle tone which means it’s physically very difficult for me to write.” ~ Jeff

6 – Please don’t punish the entire class for something the ADHD student did (or didn’t do)

thumbnail-4“If I have done something wrong please don’t punish the other kids in my class. I’m already humiliated enough.  I already feel bad.  If you punish them, then again I will never have any friends.  Please know that I come to class every day and soldier up to do my best.  Most days my brain lets me down in one way or another.   I’m trying harder than anyone, please be kind and don’t make me look bad, I do that well enough all by myself.” ~ Jeff

7 – Never publicly shame kids with ADHD for behaving like a derp. Find out what they need and figure out how to work together.

thumbnail-5“Shaming a kid who has ADHD for messing something up is the worst.  I know I have ADHD and am going to mess up at least once every single day on something.  You get to go home and get a break from me; I get to go home WITH being me. Please stop yelling at me in front of others, please stop lecturing me on the same thing every single day, please stop bullying me.  I have enough shame, and it’s for doing things that I can’t help doing.  I’m working on it so please work on it with me.

Instead of telling and yelling please ASK me what I need. Ask me how you can help.  Work with me and my parents to come up with a behaviour plan we can all live with.  At 15, I still have nightmares about shaming remarks from my grade 4 teacher.  I have to remind myself that I don’t hate him because he probably still doesn’t realize how much he has hurt me and how much that hurt impacts my mind.” ~ Jeff

Hey teachers of students with ADHD!  Thanks for caring enough to read all the way through.  I know I’m just 15 but I really want to make things better for kids with ADHD and for you too. We both spend a lot of time at school so this is important….now,  maybe we can talk about it in the comments, or over social media?

~ Jeff 😀


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