8 Tips to Pick a School for Your Child With ADHD
Patricia Quinn, MD
From kindergarten through to grade 12, the average U.S. student spends 2,340 days in school. For a child with ADHD, that's a lot of time with teachers; as a result his educational experience can be positive or negative, depending on the school he attends.
As parents, picking the right school for your child with ADHD can be a major factor in his long-term success. Looking for the following eight things will help you choose a school that provides a positive learning environment for your child, and help you work with the school that may be your only option.
1. Their Approach to Learning
One of the first things you should do when choosing a school for your child with ADHD is to talk with its leaders and educators -- the principal, vice-principal, and the teachers -- to better understand how they approach the learning process.
"Get an idea of who they are and what their learning philosophy is," says Terry Dickson, MD, director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan, and an ADHD coach.
Specifically, find out how they approach kids with ADHD.
"What do they offer?" Dickson says. "How do they position these kids for success and help them thrive? Is there flexibility in the learning program to adjust to a student's needs? How do they model good behavior? These are some of the questions you should be asking."
2. Structure, Structure, Structure
When it comes to kids with ADHD, structure in school is a really good thing, notes Patricia Collins, PhD, director of the Psychoeducational Clinic at North Carolina State University.
Schools that are suited to a child with ADHD focus on structure and consistency as core foundations for learning, with clear timelines, processes, and expectations, and they take a step-by-step approach to learning and homework.
3. Accessible Role Models
Teachers can be excellent role models for all kids, but this is especially true for kids with ADHD, notes Dickson, who is a parent to two children with ADHD.
A teacher who is impatient and judgmental will make most kids resist learning, but those children might get by. For a child with ADHD, it could derail his entire school year.
A school that encourages a values-based learning process and prides itself on teachers who are excellent role models will most likely be a better fit if your child has ADHD. You'll want your child to be taught by people who are firm but offer integrity and who create a safe and comfortable learning environment.
4. Hands-On Learning
Children with ADHD do much better using a hands-on approach to learning, Collins says.
To ask a child with ADHD to sit and listen for hours will probably not work. So instead, look for a school in which kids are actively engaged in learning by experience.