Back to School Basics for Students with ADHD

New school years offer new beginnings. A chance to learn and grow. But for many children, the first few days or weeks bring change, causing worry and stress.

Change is hard for many people, but it can be even more difficult for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The change in schedules and tasks and the attention needed throughout a school day can be especially challenging. But with some planning, this school year can be a success.

What Is ADHD?

Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention. They may have high levels of action (hyperactivity) and acting before thinking (impulsivity). Or they may have all three issues. For children with ADHD, these behaviors happen more often than for others their age.

Many children with ADHD thrive with treatment. Behavior therapy can help children learn positive actions and limit problem behaviors. Medication therapy can help children handle symptoms and control some of the behavioral problems.

Success Starts at Home

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leaving site icon says parent involvement is vital to ADHD treatment. Children are often not mature enough to change their own behavior. Your child relies on you to reinforce helpful actions. Here are some ways to help your child have a successful school year.

Have a Morning Routine
Try to follow the same schedule each day. Mornings can be especially challenging. So set a morning routine and stick with it. Keep all school-related items in a specific place. This takes the guess work out of finding them in the morning rush.

Visual prompts can be helpful, so make a list or chart of tasks needed to get ready for school. Your child can then check them off as they go. Another option is to use a timer for specific tasks, which helps them know when to move on to the next task.

Set Up Simple Organizational Systems for Schoolwork
If your child has trouble keeping track of schoolwork, there are ways to help them stay organized. Set up a system that is easy enough for your child to do at school and home. Try a pocket folder with one side for completed work and one for unfinished work. Use different colored folders for each type of work or subject.

Create a System for Getting Homework Done
Plan a set time for homework. It is best if this is within an hour of your child getting home. Try to keep this routine as consistent as possible. Find a place that is free from distractions. Start by reviewing assignments with them. Then talk about what next steps they need to take. Timers can also be used to keep kids on track. Build in short movement breaks after each 20 minutes of work.

Visit the Doctor

If your child is on medication, consider scheduling an appointment with your child’s doctor before the school year starts. Medicines may need to be changed as your child gets older or as school becomes more challenging.

A visit before the school year gives the doctor time to make any needed changes. Be sure to go to recommended follow-up visits and share any feedback from teachers. This will help make sure your child is on the best medication plan.

Learn What School Resources Are Available

If your student with ADHD is struggling in school with behaviors and/or academics, they may be eligible for an Individualized Education Program or 504 planleaving site icon 

If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, take some time to review it. Know the specific components of your plan. Talk to your child’s teachers to make sure they are aware of the plan details. You can also share any feedback from the challenges or successes your child had last year. Keep open communication with the teachers. Share any concerns you may have about your child’s progress throughout the year.

Visit Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder leaving site icon for more information and advice for parents with children who have ADHD. The group also offers resources for adults with ADHD.

Help the school year go smoothly with planning and open communication. Making a plan and having clear communication with your child and their teachers and doctors can help set your child up for a good year.

Sources: Your Most Important Back-to-School List: 10 Conversations Every Parent Should Have, leaving site icon ADDitudemag.com, 2024; What Is an IEP? Everything You Need to Know About IDEA, IEPs, and 504 Plansleaving site icon ADDitudemag.com, 2024; When Your ADHD Medication Stops Working, leaving site icon PsychCentral, 2022; Parent Training in Behavior Management for ADHD, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2024; School Mornings Without the Stress, leaving site icon Child Mind Institute, 2023