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How Schools Can Help

Once you've got a partnership with your child's teacher, and maybe the school psychologist or a counselor, work together to come up with a plan to help manage your child's behavior. Some parents keep these agreements loose. But more formal arrangements can be a good idea.

A 504 plan guarantees that kids with certain disabilities get "special accommodations" in the classroom to help them learn. The accommodations depend on the child. Even small changes can help a lot, Lougy says. A 504 plan might allow a fidgety kid to stand instead of sit at their desk, or give them extra time for schoolwork.

Some kids with ADHD get help from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under this federal law, your child has access to special education and an IEP, or individual education plan. An IEP covers more than a 504 plan, but it's also more complicated. It might also mean your child won't be in the regular classroom.

"I generally try to get a kid with ADHD onto a 504 plan first to see how that goes," says Brock. "If it doesn't work, then we consider an IEP."

Changing schools is an option, too. But Lougy only recommends that route if the child is having very serious problems with conduct, bullying, or safety. It can also be a good choice if your child has other problems besides ADHD, such as depression or anxiety.

A new school should be a last resort. It could make things worse. "Kids don't like to change schools," says Lougy. "It's hard on them emotionally and often academically."

Find the Compromise

ADHD behavior problems are usually a symptom, not a choice. So a good school behavior plan will never force your kid to be like everyone else. It's about compromise.

"Parents of kids with ADHD do need to support the school's rules," says Brock, "but the school needs to recognize that they should cut kids with ADHD some slack."

"Kids with ADHD are different," says Kristine J. Melloy, PhD, past president of the Council for Children with Behavior Disorders. "Don't try to make your kid into someone he's not. Appreciate who he is, and help his teachers appreciate him, too."