empowering teachers and supporting students with ADHD
empowering teachers and supporting students with ADHD

Back to School Part 4: Empowering teachers

As you gear up for the start of term, it's essential to remember that your partnership with your child's teachers can significantly improve their learning experience. 

Need to know: Strategies for teachers to support ADHD students

During the school year, your child spends a large portion of their waking hours being taught, guided, and disciplined by someone other than you. Most kids adapt to teaching styles, classrooms, and other students, but if you have a neurodivergent child you know that they need accommodations and adjustments to succeed.

Although we are our children’s strongest advocates, we also have to consider that an educator has on average 28 other children to teach and support. In addition to a large workload, there is often a knowledge gap – most teachers haven’t had formal education on teaching kids with ADHD.

The Supporting Students with ADHD booklet has been written to address this knowledge gap, providing time-poor teachers with important insights into what ADHD is, what it looks like in the classroom, and tools that not only support neurodivergent students but also benefit the whole classroom.

ADHD parent-teacher collaboration

As you gear up for the start of term, it’s essential to remember that your partnership with your child’s teachers can significantly improve their learning experience. 

Empowering educators with information about ADHD and insights into your child’s strengths and support needs at the start of a new school year can inform: 

  • Relationship building – teachers know that building trust and rapport with a child is at the foundation of future learning. Students who feel safe and comfortable with their teacher are more likely to want to learn.

  • Design of lessons – although the curriculum supplied by the education department is clear and structured, teachers can have creative licence on how they deliver the content, adapting it to get the best out of their student cohort.

  • Structure of day – especially in early grades, movement breaks are important for kids to release energy. Knowing that some kids need more movement than others can help the teacher structure the school day.

  • Sensory support tools – some schools have the budget to purchase sensory or fidget tools but in some cases, teachers buy these items themselves. 

  • Classroom setup – teachers can design different components of a classroom to get the best out of their students. Everything from sitting arrangements, visuals of routines, clocks, etc, are influenced by the needs of the children in a class.

  • Motivation and discipline – schools typically have a “whole of school” approach to rewards and punishments. Great teachers, with the right information from parents, can adapt strategies to motivate individual students, help them regulate, and when necessary discipline them.

At the heart of it, this booklet is meant to be more than just a teacher resource – it’s also a bridge between home and school, fostering collaboration and common understanding between teachers and parents.

Strategies for students with ADHD

Assessments and reports – is your child seeing a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, or psychologist? Request an updated report that can be used by the teacher to support your child in the classroom. If you are worried that your child has an undiagnosed/untreated neurological or learning difference, organise assessment appointments now to avoid long wait times. Record your observations and concerns in the Keywell app to easily and accurately answer the when/where/how long questions asked in appointments. In the meantime, keep the teacher updated in case they can make temporary accommodations.

Observe and update – kids change quickly and so do their skills and needs for support. Use the About Me template to collate information about: 

  • Your child’s strengths – knowing what your child is good at can assist the teacher in formulating strategies to get the best out of them.

  • What your child enjoys – interests and passions are a great tool for teachers to motivate students, especially during tasks that are perceived as boring.

  • What your child needs extra help with – kids with ADHD often struggle with executive functions and highlighting the specific activities that your child struggles with, allows teachers to plan.

  • How the teacher can help your child succeed – an occupational or educational therapist can provide you with scaffolding strategies tailored to your child. If you don’t have access to these professionals, take inspiration from the sample About Me template as it covers common issues and solutions.

  • Individual support strategies – include triggers and identify specific situations that require understanding and an individualised approach to keep your child calm and engaged

  • Adjustments and accommodations – explain your child’s difficulties in detail and the adjustments and accommodations proposed to ameliorate or overcome them.

  • Movement and sensory regulation tools – list the items that help your child to regulate their hyperactivity, focus, and emotions. Depending on your school and budget available, you may have to purchase some of these items yourself.

  • Assistive technology and organisational tools – kids with ADHD can benefit immensely from using tools to support their working memory and processing speed. If your child also has a learning disability like dysgraphia or dyslexia, some of these become crucial supports in their learning.

  • Additional information – this is a good place to explain important historical events, list regular appointments, provide further information/summary of professional recommendations, etc. 

Meet with the teacher – meeting with your child’s classroom teacher ensures that the Supporting Students with ADHD booklet is read and the About Me section is used, fostering a collaborative approach. There might be many reasons why an educator can’t implement everything proposed in your document, but they may have alternatives that have a similar effect. Flexibility and working together will guarantee the best outcome for your child.

Regular check-ins – you don’t necessarily need formal meetings, casual chats over email or during drop-off are just as valuable to discuss issues that need to be resolved quickly.

Bedtime chats – asking your child “How was school?” straight after they walk into the door will usually get you nothing more than a one-word answer. Bedtime often provides a better setting for these conversations, take those moments when everyone is calm and relaxed to find out how your child feels about school. 

Download the Supporting Students with ADHD booklet and the sample About Me template to learn even more strategies for ADHD students.

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