A Child With ADHD Struggling In School In The UK

Is your child with ADHD struggling in school?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often misdiagnosed, with children mistakenly labeled as simply "naughty." However, ADHD is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that can significantly impact a child's school experience. For many children with ADHD struggling in school UK, the classroom can become a source of anxiety, frustration, and even mental health challenges.

"It's crucial for parents and teachers to understand that children with ADHD do not have learning difficulties, but rather difficulties learning. This distinction is key to providing the right support and helping these students thrive."

If your child with ADHD is struggling in school, this guide can help

Is your child with ADHD struggling in school? This guide is specifically designed to empower parents and guardians to effectively advocate for their child's needs within the education system. We understand that advocating for a child with ADHD can feel like an uphill battle. That's why we've drawn upon our extensive experience working with children with ADHD in the classroom, clinic, and through daily interactions with families to create this resource.

Inside, you'll discover valuable top tips and practical strategies, including criteria for requesting 'Reasonable Adjustments' from your child's school. These adjustments are proven to make a positive difference for children with ADHD, helping them to reach their full potential in school.

Helping Your Child with ADHD: Partnering with Teachers

School teachers play a crucial role in shaping children's futures. They face daily challenges and pressures, so how can we help them understand our child with ADHD who may be struggling in school? By advocating effectively, we increase the chances of teachers being able to meet everyone's needs.

To be effective advocates, it's important to approach the situation from a place of understanding, not just emotion. “Advocate from our head not our heart”. If our first interaction with the teacher is when our child is already in trouble, our emotions may hinder effective communication.

Help The Teacher Help You

Simple Top Tips to form a letter or an email for the teacher(s)

Let's proactively communicate with your child's school to ensure they understand and support your child's ADHD. Here are some key points to include in a letter or email to the teacher:

  • Disclose Your Child's ADHD Diagnosis: Inform the school about your child's ADHD diagnosis. This highlights the school's responsibility to provide appropriate support.
  • Highlight Your Child's Strengths: Share your child's strengths and areas where they excel. This can help the teacher tailor their approach and build on existing skills.
  • Acknowledge Challenges: Openly discuss the challenges your child faces due to ADHD, such as difficulties with focus, attention, impulsivity, or other relevant issues. This allows the school to consider reasonable adjustments to support your child's learning.
  • Identify Their "Island of Competence": Every child has a passion or area of strength. Identify your child's "island of competence" – it could be anything from football to baking to drawing. Sharing this with the teacher can help them create positive learning experiences.
  • Explain Coping Mechanisms: Describe any coping mechanisms your child has developed to manage their ADHD struggles. This valuable insight can help the teacher understand and support your child's efforts.

Billi was asking to go to the toilet about three times every lesson and was sent to the school nurse as a result.

There was a thought that she had a urinary infection. She didn’t. Each time she knew she had lost track of the lesson but suspected she was about to be asked a question, she left the room for the loo. In her mind it was far better than being ‘made to look an idiot’.

Similarly, Charlie was renowned for losing his temper in his maths class, he even threw a stool across the room once, which earned him a detention.

It ends up that he struggled with maths, he just couldn’t see the numbers. This frustrated him and put him under pressure, he couldn’t understand why the girl sitting next to him could do her 11 times table and he couldn’t.

As his frustration grew, so did his stress. The stress placed his brain, especially his executive functioning, under more pressure, and in the end, just like a kettle, he blew off steam in an inappropriate way. It’s predictably inevitable.

Understanding Your Child's Learning Style to Optimise Their Education

To help your child with ADHD succeed in school, it's crucial to understand their preferred learning style. Consider the following:

  • Social Learner or Independent Worker: Does your child thrive in a collaborative environment with peers, or do they prefer quiet solitude to focus on their work?
  • Lockdown Insights: Reflect on your child's experience during the COVID-19 lockdown. Did they excel with the freedom from peer pressure and distractions, or did they struggle with motivation and procrastination without direct guidance?

By understanding your child's learning style, you can advocate for an environment that best supports their needs. This could include:

  • For social learners: More group work, collaborative projects, and opportunities for interaction with peers.
  • For independent learners: Quiet work areas, individualised assignments, and the option to work independently during certain tasks.

Share your insights about your child's learning style with their teacher. This valuable information can help the teacher tailor their approach to maximise your child's engagement and success in school.

Crafting an Effective Letter to Your Child's School

Early in the school year, take a proactive approach by sending a well-crafted letter or email to your child's teacher(s). This is your opportunity to advocate for your child's success and ensure they receive the support they need. Remember, approach this communication from a place of understanding and collaboration, not just emotion.

Here's a breakdown of what to include in your letter:

  1. Confirm the Diagnosis: Clearly state that your child has been diagnosed with ADHD. This informs the school of their legal responsibility to provide appropriate support and accommodations.
  2. Showcase Strengths: Highlight your child's unique strengths and areas of interest. This helps the teacher tailor their approach and leverage your child's abilities.
  3. Acknowledge Challenges: Openly discuss the specific challenges your child faces due to ADHD, such as difficulties with focus, attention, impulsivity, or organisation. This allows the school to consider reasonable adjustments to support your child's learning.
  4. Identify the "Island of Competence": Share your child's passion or area of strength. This "island of competence" can be anything they excel at or enjoy, whether it's a sport, a hobby, or a particular subject. This knowledge can help the teacher create engaging learning experiences.
  5. Explain Coping Mechanisms: Detail any strategies or coping mechanisms your child has developed to manage their ADHD symptoms. This valuable information can help the teacher understand and support your child's efforts.
  6. Describe Learning Style: Explain whether your child thrives in a social, collaborative environment or prefers independent, quiet work. This insight can guide the teacher in creating an optimal learning environment for your child.
  7. ...and remember to send this letter ‘from your head not your heart’ and do this as early as you can in the school year

By providing this comprehensive information early in the school year, you're setting the stage for a positive and supportive educational experience for your child with ADHD.

Writing Letter

Reasonable Adjustments for Students with ADHD: A Guide for Schools

Simple adjustments can make a significant difference for children with ADHD in the classroom. It's important to focus on what works for each individual child, even if it means trying new approaches.

The typical school environment, with its many distractions and opportunities for the mind to wander, can be challenging for students with ADHD. This can lead to anxiety, decreased self-esteem, and difficulty reaching their full potential.

The following adjustments are based on professional, medical considerations specifically tailored to the needs of children with ADHD. We encourage you to implement these adjustments to support your students' success.

Reasonable Adjustments for Exams: Supporting Students with ADHD

To ensure students with ADHD can perform to their full potential during exams, specific adjustments are crucial. These recommendations are based on the unique needs of children with ADHD and can create a fairer testing environment.

  1. Separate Exam Room: Provide a separate, quiet exam room to minimise distractions and maximise focus.
  2. Ensure Attentiveness: Give instructions when the student is actively listening, even if they don't make eye contact. Repeat and reinforce instructions as needed, as maintaining focus can be a challenge.
  3. Additional Time: Allow extra time for exams. This is essential for students with ADHD who often struggle with time management and processing speed. A target of 25% additional time is a good starting point.
  4. Time Management Tools: Offer regular time updates or provide a specialised ADHD-friendly clock that visually displays remaining time.
  5. Optimal Exam Timing: Schedule exams during the time of day when the student's medication is most effective, typically not first or last thing in the day. If unsure about medication efficacy, consult with the student's family or their healthcare provider.
  6. Proximity to Teacher: Seat the student at the front of the class or exam room, closest to the teacher. If another student must be present, choose one who is quiet and focused to minimise distractions.
  7. Mindfulness of Wandering Attention: The supervising teacher should be prepared to gently redirect the student back to the task if their attention wanders, using a positive and supportive approach.

Creating an ADHD-Friendly Classroom: Practical Adjustments for Teachers

Small changes to the classroom environment and teaching approach can significantly benefit students with ADHD. These adjustments can help improve focus, reduce anxiety, and foster a positive learning experience:

  1. Regular Redirection: Gently and frequently guide the student back on track if their attention wanders. Use positive reinforcement and avoid singling out or embarrassing the student.
  2. Minimise Distractions: Choose a seat for the student away from windows, doors, high-traffic areas, and visual distractions.
  3. Visual Aids and Organisation: Use a visual timetable and colour-coded books/materials to enhance organisation and reduce the risk of lost items.
  4. Extra Time for Tasks: Allow additional time for classwork and assignments. Students with ADHD may need more time to process information and complete tasks due to difficulties with focus and attention.
  5. Confirm Understanding: Instead of asking "Do you know what to do?", ask questions that gauge the student's understanding of the task or instructions.
  6. Frequent Breaks: Offer regular short breaks for movement and refocusing. These breaks can help reduce fatigue and improve concentration.
  7. Transition Support: Provide assistance during transitions between lessons or activities. This could involve a designated mentor or colour-coded routes to help the student navigate the school.
  8. Positive Reinforcement: Focus on celebrating successes and framing challenges as opportunities for growth. Remember, children with ADHD are often trying their best, and their struggles are often a result of their neurodevelopmental differences.
  9. Secret Signal for Overwhelm: Establish a discreet signal, such as a colour-coded card, that the student can use to communicate when they feel overwhelmed or need a break.

Empower Your Child with ADHD: Take Action Today

Understanding your child's ADHD and advocating for their needs in school is a crucial step towards their success.

If you're ready to provide the best possible support for your child, we invite you to:

  • Share This Guide: Spread the word to other parents and educators who can benefit from these insights and strategies.
  • Sign Up to Begin Your Child's ADHD Diagnosis Journey with Us Today: If your child is struggling with ADHD, our experienced team can provide personalised assessments, treatment plans, and ongoing support. We're here to help your child thrive in school and beyond.
    Get started now >

Remember, you're not alone in this journey. With the right knowledge, tools, and support, your child with ADHD can achieve their full potential.

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