Getting ADHD Kids Back to School
Expert strategies for preparing ADHD kids for a new school year.
How Does ADHD Affect the Brain?
Finding the cause of ADHD is important, but
so is understanding how the brain develops and behaves when a person has
"When it comes to brain structure ... we know that kids with ADHD may
experience slower development in parts of the brain that could be linked to the
disorder," says Mark Wolraich, MD, a professor of pediatrics who
specializes in ADHD at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Scientists at NIMH researched this possibility in 2002, looking at different
parts of the brain, such as those that help problem-solve, plan ahead, interact
with and understand others, and restrain impulses. They found that, in a group
of 152 children with ADHD, 3% to 4% had smaller brain volumes in key areas such
"The question now is, does this really correlate with the behavior we
see in ADHD, and if it does, can these kids catch up in terms of brain
development?" asks Wolraich.
"Over time, can their brains eventually regain some lost ground and
reach the same level as their peers who don't have ADHD? These are both
questions we are still hoping to answer."
Kids whose brains do "catch up" often outgrow their ADHD as well,
explains Wolraich. Or they learn to manage it well enough that it doesn't have
a negative impact on their health and well-being.
Back to School With ADHD
While researchers investigate what causes ADHD and the brain's impact on
behavior, families like the Whites deal with it on the frontline: at
One of their keys to success with the September transition is to never let
go of structure in the first place. All summer, Joshua and Elissa are enrolled
in day camp, which lets them have fun but also requires both to live by rules
Starting in mid-August, when White and her husband see school around the
corner and the hurdles ahead, they start to shift gears. First on their list is
to push bedtime back by a half-hour to around 8 p.m. for the two children, a
routine that helps them adjust to the demands of school.
Mid-August is also when camp ends, and White has a two-week window to help
the kids get ready for the classroom.
"Probably like most parents, I try to make it fun for them," she
says. "We buy school supplies, arrange our schedules, organize the house,
talk about our activities for the fall ... we try to keep it fun but with lots
of order in between."
Teachers and ADHD Kids
When the school bell rings, White and her family have learned how to make
things work. Both Joshua and Elissa were diagnosed at age 6, so they've become
more familiar with the ins and outs of living with ADHD. White and experts
alike agree the secret to success is a strong bridge between parents and