Children are often hyper and distracted by nature, especially school-age children. However, there is a difference between children with ADHD and a normally hyper or distracted child. Knowing what the differences are and understanding how to deal with it is just half the battle. ADHD in school-age children can cause issues, particularly if you do not communicate well enough with your child’s teacher.
Fortunately, it is possible to work with your child’s teacher to ensure your child stays on point with healthy learning behaviors. When parents and teachers work together, it can provide the best outcome for learning, particularly when dealing with a child that has ADHD. Through communication, teachers can work with your child and find ways to ease the symptoms of ADHD in the classroom. But how, exactly, do you communicate with your child’s teachers?
Introduce Your Child
The best way to communicate with a teacher about ADHD in school-age children is to introduce your child. Before the school year starts or at the very first of the school year, provide the teacher with a letter. The letter should introduce your child and explain things in a positive way. In your opening paragraph, explain that your child is bright and willing to learn, but has ADHD, which causes learning deficits.
By opening up this way, it allows the teacher to prepare for ways to assist your child. Of course, you shouldn’t stop there. You should also introduce your child’s strengths, interests, and skills. Knowing what captivates your child and where his or her strength lies will help the teacher create an education plan best suited for your child’s needs. For instance, if your child is hands-on and creative, the teacher can take an active and creative teaching approach.
Make sure you also introduce the challenges your child has. For instance, does your child struggle to get started on school work? Does he or she start but then become easily distracted? Does your child forget to turn in assignments? List out every challenge you think might hinder your child’s learning ability during school hours.
Afterward, list the different ways that you combat some of those challenges. As an example, if your child struggles to stay on task because he or she is easily distracted, do you use gentle encouragement to get them back on track? If so, suggest gentle reminders to the teacher. The teacher can use a light tap on the shoulder to remind your child to continue on with school work. A light tap is a reminder without distracting the other children in the class.
Make sure you provide your contact information for the teacher so the two of you can discuss your child’s progress through the year. The more willing you are to work with the teacher and maintain communication, the better the result will be for your child. Communication between parents and teachers is important for every child, especially when dealing with ADHD in school-age children.
Let Your Child Do the Talking
Now that you have formally introduced your child to the teacher, let your child do the talking. Give your child the chance to provide input on what helps him or her avoid certain distractions. For instance, does your child find it easier to work alone, in a group, or with a tutor? What conditions work best? Sitting or standing at their desk, in an area that is quiet and free of distractions, or perhaps sitting on the floor?
By allowing your child to express what helps him or her, it allows you and the teacher to communicate different ways to improve learning. The teacher can work with what makes your child most comfortable to ensure a healthy learning environment. Of course, those measures of comfort must be within reason. Some teacher will place rubber bands around the front legs of a desk to children can bounce their feet on the rubber bands to ease distractions.
Go Over the Symptoms
Although many teachers are familiar with the symptoms that revolve around ADHD in school-age children, it is important to remember that they are not mental health professionals. They are not therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists. They are teachers. Therefore, you should be willing to discuss the symptoms of ADHD with your child’s teacher.
Children will often display obvious behaviors, which commonly includes:
- Inability to sit still
- Frequent fidgeting
- Excessive talking
- Running, climbing, and jumping when they are not supposed to be
- Constant need to move around
- Inability to control actions and certain behaviors
- Inability to wait his or her turn
- Frequently blurts out answers or interrupts conversations
- Talks back
- Seems to lose the ability to pay attention
- Seems unable to follow through on tasks
- Often forgets things (turning in assignments, etc.)
- Loses things often
Of course, ADHD in school-age children is far more problematic than that. There are many other symptoms that often are not as obvious. It is important that you discuss those not-so-obvious symptoms with your child’s teacher. Hidden symptoms can include:
- Insufficient amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain (causes reduced brain activity)
- Weak ability to recall things from memory
- Difficulty starting on tasks
- Difficulty controlling emotions
- Trouble with problem-solving
- Unable to accurately judge the passing of time (often loses track of time)
- Long-term memory issues (often forgets things)
- Hard time planning for the future
- Sleep disturbances
- Trouble falling asleep
- Trouble waking up
- Irritability caused by sleep issues
- Memory issues caused by sleep issues
- Delayed brain maturation (3-year delay)
- Seems less mature than children his or her age
- Seems less responsible than children his or her age
- Inability to learn from a reward/punishment system like other children
- Repeat misbehaviors
- Seems difficult to discipline
- Appears unable to follow the rules
- Has trouble managing his or her own behavior
- Acts or behaves without thinking
- Does not respond well to long-term rewards
- Must receive instant gratification
- Suffers from co-existing conditions (anxiety, depression, bipolar, Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder)
- Learning issues (difficulty writing, slow math calculations, unable to memorize, difficulty retrieving information, poor listening and reading comprehension, difficulty describing things in words, poor handwriting)
- Loses temper quickly
- Emotionally reactive
- May display signs of self-centeredness
Make sure you discuss all of these symptoms with your child’s teacher. Understanding ADHD in school-age children means understanding their behaviors, thought, actions, and reactions. If you approach the issue from a place of understanding, it will be easier to deal with it.
If your child has ADHD, the best way to approach the issue is to set up a therapy appointment. A therapist can talk to your child about his or her strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, a therapist can recommend various exercises and approaches you and teachers can take to solve problem areas. Therapy appointments can be good for both you and your child, so make sure you both are as open and honest with the therapist as possible.
Monica Ramunda is a cognitive behavioral therapist with offices located in Louisville and Denver, Colorado for in-office visits. With a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and more than 16 years experience in therapy and counseling, Monica works as both a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT) with adults and children respectively. Much of Monica’s success is based on her eclectic orientation and drawing on a wide range of different approaches and techniques all while remaining strongly grounded in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT).