ASK THE EXPERTS

How Can the Teacher Help My Child With ADHD?

By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist

Question:

My second-grader has recently been diagnosed with ADHD and medication has been recommended. What are some ways I can assist the teacher to understand what he needs in the classroom and how to best work with him?

Answer:

It's great that you are thinking about how your son's teacher can best work with him in school. The effective treatment of ADHD requires collaboration among parents, teachers and doctors. Medication is an important component of this treatment, but behavioral interventions at home and school are equally important.

There are a number of suggestions you can make to the teacher that will help your son succeed in the classroom. Before doing so, however, it is important to develop a partnership with your son's teacher by sharing your son's diagnosis with her and telling her that you appreciate her willingness to work with you. Once you have developed this partnership, you can offer the teacher information about ADHD and make suggestions about how she can help your son. Since teachers have limited time, it is often helpful to schedule a meeting instead of trying to catch them before or after school.

There are a number of specific ways the teacher can help:

  • Seat him near the front of the class
  • Use attention-getting devices like secret signals or color codes to redirect him when he loses focus
  • Post daily rules, schedules and assignments
  • Reward appropriate behavior
  • Provide regularly scheduled breaks

In addition, it may be helpful to use a daily report card that identifies three to five skills for your son to work on (e.g., staying in his seat, raising hand before calling out an answer, etc.) and ask the teacher to indicate how your child did on each skill each day. Your son can bring the report card home each day so you can see how he is doing and you can then reward him appropriately. For more information about how to use a daily report card and collaborate with your son's teacher, I highly recommend reading Making the System Work for Your Child with ADHD by Peter S. Jensen, MD.

Dr. Lisa Hunter is an assistant professor in the department of child psychiatry at Columbia University and the director of school-based mental health programs at Columbia University's Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of school-based mental health and prevention programs. In addition she is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment for children and adolescents.

 

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.