How To Be School-Ready With ADHD

We do our best as parents and teachers to vigilantly support our students throughout their school years. The challenge is that by the time our kids reach high school, our well-intended support can backfire when our students do not learn skills for themselves. As well-meaning parents, we tend to shield our kids from experiencing failure because it’s painful to watch, as their self-esteem plunges. Our task is to figure out how to best to pass the baton to our kids when the ADHD brain may need more experiences than what is perceived as typical for learning to take place. 

ADHD & Challenges with Learning from Past Experiences ngry tired school girl with head in hands

Individuals with ADHD typically have challenges activating stored memories and applying them to current situations. They are challenged with sizing up situations, slowing down or speeding up their reactions as needed. They can have trouble modifying their actions to fit situations. That said, awareness, learning, and gaining traction with their experiences will happen with time and support.   

Depending on the circumstance, the ADHD brain may need many more experiences than what is perceived is typical for situational learning to take place. All too often, well-meaning parents shield their kids from experiencing failure because it’s painful to watch, as their kids’ self-esteem plunges. Furthermore, it’s tough to collaborate with a kid who doesn’t want to be different, or who has diffiiculty complying because of low self-confidence, negative feedback, social isolation and a host of other reasons.

As we prepare for the school year, here are four ways that parents can prepare their students and themselves to get and stay school-ready so they can support their student to learn skills for themselves on the ultimate road to independence. 

Get Buy-In Library Studying with High School Kids

Our job as parents is to get buy- in, which is not always easy. Try to scaffold your kids to help them organize their time and schedules by supporting them to set up weekly planning time. For your student who resists planning for homework they loathe, try getting buy-in by planning something important to them, such as team try-outs, or an activity they're looking forward to. 

Quick Tips: 

• Work together to set up a few agreed-upon study places for variety, taking advantage of the novelty the ADHD brain seeks

• Encourage your student to walk through the college campus to find useful study spots  

• If screen usage has relaxed over summer, now is the time for discussing and transitioning to school year screen limits

• The logical consequences for late night device usage can be instructive learning experiences for getting buy-in 

Set Up A Weekly Family Meeting Parents talk with Boy

When it feels like your student isn't listening, or needs to be reminded one hundred times, set up a weekly family meeting. Talk about rewards and consequences for following through (or not). Rewards and consequences need to be immediate. The ADHD brain needs to tie the positive behavior to the reward so the desired behavior will increase. Rewards such as controlled screen time and special time with Mom or Dad work well.

Quick Tips:

• Write down no more than three things you will focus on for the week. 

• Post agreed-on actions on a whiteboard for all to see.

• Verbally remind one time, and do not repeat to avoid nagging. 

• For other ways to remind, text a photo, for example, of a dirty dish that needs cleaning, or post a visual reminder, using humor to communicate.

Focus on the Process Team of Students Studying on a Bench in Library

As students get to high school and beyond, the stress of getting good grades, making the sports team, getting into the Honor Society, taking the SAT/ACT, and more “so I can get into a good college” is overwhelming. We need to help them see benchmarks of progress rather than a grade to measure results.  Did your student find a way to study the tough material by working with a study buddy? Did she make an appointment with her teacher to understand the content? We need to support our students through taking the steps to achieve what they are striving to accomplish. 

 Quick Tips:

• Ask your student, “what did you do differently? What made you successful with this?”  

• When things didn’t go so well, validate with empathy 

• Acknowledge any steps tried, even if he didn’t feel things worked out the way he wanted

Teach Self-Advocacy

One of the most important skills our kids can learn is how to advocate for themselves. This starts with letting them know that they have strengths, so they build the confidence to speak up for what they need. Our system fails our students by sending them messages that they have to excel at everything. Our kids are specialists; they passionately shine at one or two skills really well. When they become adults, they will be in more of a postition to utilize their gifts and talents. It’s our job to help them see what they’re capable of until they can see it for themselves. Kids with Thumbs Up Outside in a Row

 Quick Tips: 

• What is your student great at? Think outside the box of school and let her know it! 

• Tell your student about a situation in your day when you needed help and what you did to ask for it

• Help your student understand his accommodations or modifications and how they support his unique and wonderful brain. 

• Role play with your student on asking for his accommodations for an upcoming test.

• As soon as your student is ready (usually by some time in middle school) have him participate in his own school meetings to give him a voice to speak up for himself

• Support your college student to register with the disAbilities services office, make use of her accommodations, and understand the process to ask for what she needs

It's important for parents and students living with ADHD to put plans into place to prepare and transition for the upcoming school year. Keep in mind that awareness and learning takes time and making mistakes is part of the process. 

To sum up, four ways to get and stay school-ready are:

• Get Buy-in

• Set Up A Weekly Family Meeing

• Focus on the Process

• Teach Self-Advocacy


Experiment with one or all of these and let me know how it goes for you!




 PS. Need more support preparing for the upcoming school year, reducing stress and creating more peace in your family?

Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about a plan you can put into place now!


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