Back to School With ADHD

Summer is the time for kids to relax, sleep late, and have fun. No kid wants to trade vacation for the structure and routine of the school year.

Although kids with ADHD can have a hard time getting used to classrooms and homework again, you can take steps to make the transition easier for both of you.

Get Organized

Help your child stay on top of homework. Great tools for organizing include:

  • A calendar or daily planner
  • A dry-erase or bulletin board to post due dates and reminders
  • A desk organizer and storage bins for school supplies to keep his study space neat and free from distractions
  • Color-coded folders or a multi-pocket binder to keep assignments straight

Let him help make a shopping list for supplies for the coming year. Ask his school if you can get an extra set of textbooks to keep at home.

Plan Your Back-to-School Calendar

Write all of the activities your child has planned on one big calendar. Include things like after-school clubs, sports, music lessons, and regular play dates. Add special projects and tests as they come up. Leave room in each day for homework, plus some time to relax and have fun.

Let her help design the schedule, so she feels a sense of control and ownership. Go over the schedule each day until she understands the routine.

Ease Into the New Schedule

If your child slept late during summer vacation, start waking him up a little earlier each day. That way he won’t be groggy when school starts. Make bedtime a little earlier each night, too, so he gets enough sleep.

Start him back on any ADHD medicines if you took a break for the summer.

Post the Routine

Put a list of the daily morning activities on the fridge or somewhere your child will see it. Write down everything she needs to do before walking out the door, including:

  • Get dressed.
  • Make the bed.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Pack homework.
  • Take backpack, sneakers, jacket, and lunch.

Talk to the Teacher

Meet with your child's new teacher(s). Talk about classroom changes that helped him learn in the past. For example, kids with ADHD find it easier to focus when they sit in the front of the class, away from distractions like friends and windows.

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Ask for access to the schedule. You may want to get a second set of books to keep at home, too. Also, discuss varied teaching methods that can keep your child interested.

If you already have a 504 Plan or an individualized education program (IEP) set up, go over it with the new teacher.

  • A 504 plan guarantees that kids with special needs get accommodations in the classroom. What those are depend on the child.
  • An IEP covers more than a 504 plan, but it's also more complex. It might also mean your child won't be in a regular classroom.

Find out how much homework the teacher plans to assign each night. You may want to ask for extra help to make sure your child can finish all of his assignments, or for extra time on tests.

Figure out how you and the teacher will stay in touch during the school year.

Getting Started at a New School

Is your child starting middle or high school? Did you move over the summer? A big change like that can be hard for a child or teen with ADHD.

Make it easier by reaching out to the school before classes start. Help the new school match your child with the classes and teachers that fit his abilities and learning style.

Call the school and arrange to share report cards, test scores, and notes from last year. Meet with the guidance counselor and your child's teachers. You may need to update his 504 Plan or IEP, or make a new one.

Ask the guidance counselor to take you and your child on a tour of the new school. Meet with teachers, the principal, the nurse, and anyone else your child will see daily. Walk through the whole school day with your child so he knows where he needs to go and when.

Advance planning and practice, along with familiar routines at home, will help you both get used to this change.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on August 25, 2014

Sources

SOURCES:

Nemours Foundation: "ADHD."

"Start the School Year Right," Attention, CHADD, August 2008.

"Starting the School Year Right," Attention, CHADD, August 2006.

NIMH: "What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?"

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