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Ask the Experts

How Can the Teacher Help My Child With ADHD?

By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist


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?


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.

Comments from readers

"my question is ,my son has adhd and is having a really hard time in school sitting,fighting with other kids etc. the problem is the teacher sends him to the principles office all the time.i understand he is getting sent there because of his behavior but i also think maybe the teacher just does not want to put up with him and just sends him do i go about trying to suggest something else.i already have had a parent conference with her,but nothing is working.please help !!!!"
"Hi there I have a 4yrd old son who I belive is ADHD i have taken him to the doctor's and one told me that it was my fault not the kids fault and maybe I should go to some parenting classes that was the last visit there. His current ped. says yes he his very high strung and it is a great possibility he has ADHD but... we cannot do any thing until the age7 when his brain is fully developed. Any advise would be greatly appreciated at this point I'm going bonkers and he's having a very hard time at daycare he has been taken out if the fours room and placed back into the trees rm because he cannot focus on the more stuctured enviorments. He is constantly getting wrote up."
"my daughter has adhd and i have informed the teachers and tryed to do all the things abouve but they dont seem to listen and she is now getting into trouble all of the time any advise ?"
"Very importan. Would like to know prevalence and incidence of the sindrome in the US. In Chile, my country, the diagnosis is, as I think aout of order. Nearly 33% of children 6 to 10 years old are medicated with Ritalin or directly with anfetamine"
"What if the teacher does not want to work with you?"
"this is great advice. what about when you have asked for accommodations for ADHD such as the daily report card and the school refuses to do anything? My child's grades have dropped every quarter and she is now getting detentions for forgetting to return homework and test papers, not tucking in her shirt and losing her ID badge."
"my school refuses to help with the candy situation...making me always the bad"
"What about a teacher that constantly gives my ADHD child candy? My child has an ISP that states that she can not have candy but the teacher still gives her candy. Then my child eats the candy and gets in trouble at the After School Program. What can I do? I have talked to the school repeatedly and they say they will not give her candy but then later they give her candy. HELP"
"my daughter has ADHD as well and takes Strettera. Her pediatrician says that ADHD kids often are more aggressive as well. This is definitly my daughter! It gets her into lots of trouble. She is constantly having conflicts at school with other children involving yelling, hitting and kicking. I am getting very worn out repeating the 'do not hurt others, tell on them instead of taking it into your own hands when someone mistreats you. She cant controll herself and acts out before thinking it that far ahead to tell the teacher. I dont like it to sound like an excuse telling people about her ADHD and frustration/acting out problems. My husband and I try and try to get her to do the right thing instead of getting so worked up so fast but I feel so worn out. She has seen a psychologist already. They say part of her impatients is her IQ level being so high.Any one have any suggestions other than therepy?"
"I really like the idea of the daily report cards and I already have them in place. My son is also going into 2nd grade and has been diagnoised for awhile now with ADHD, PDD-NOS and Anxiety disorder. The daily report card may be too much for the teacher to handle but in my case he has a Para that helps him out during the day. At the end of the day they sit down and talk about how he thought his days behavior was like. They also give him rewards when he has a really good day or if he has several good days he gets to pick something out of the prize box. Sometimes he gets a couple of hershey kisses too. My son does have preferrential seating and gets several breaks during the day to take a walk to the water fountain. "
"I don't like the idea of a report every day. It puts too much focus on such a negative thing. It didn't work for my son. The color or word secret signal sounds interesting though. My son wants to be like everybody else and not be singled out, any more than he already is. "
"I have a daughter with the same situation, and she is entering the second grade also, and was also just diagnosed with ADHD. She sees a therapist twice a month and that really helps us because we have a calendar that comes home, and I write in the calendar all the good days and all the bad days. And my daughter really strives to get the star on the calendar every day. But there are days when she has a not so good day, and when she sees her theropist, they talk about the bad days and what she can do next time to help her have a good day. And if she gets a star every day for a whole week I reward her with a fun activity on the weekend, something that she likes to do. I recomend a calendar for parents that have a child with ADHD, and mark all the good and bad days, because you see a pattern of the good and bad days, then you will see what it is that is making them have a bad day and you can help to prevent those days by cutting back on those thing that are making them have thos! e bad days (like soda, candy, or even carbs, because carbs turn into sugar. Kids with ADHD should stay away from that stuff. And if you have a child like mine that likes to munch then you really see what you need to do to prevent that erradic behavior.) Look into the theropy too, because it really does help, and its not a bad thing for them to talk to someone, that doesn't know them and wont get frustrated or exhausted with them like their parents and family that have to deal with the ratical behavior."