Teachers & SENCOs

Caring for students with ADHD

As a teacher or SENCO, you are not alone in your efforts to help students living with ADHD. It may help to partner with parents or caregivers from the start, because these partners can support your efforts.

Talking about ADHD helps to remove the stigma surrounding the condition. Talking openly with parents and school officials about ADHD shows there is nothing to hide and no reason to be afraid or ashamed. While a teacher can address this in the class environment, a SENCO can help find support across the whole school and bring all involved teachers, school personnel and parent on one table. This ensures that everyone who works and interacts with the child on a day to day basis will work in alignment.

Getting parents involved

Engaging in an open dialogue with parents about symptoms related to ADHD is the first step in helping a struggling student maximise his or her opportunities in the classroom. However, ADHD can be a sensitive subject to broach, and the best forum for discussion about ADHD symptoms is generally through a team of school professionals.

When you talk with the parents of a student that possibly has ADHD, consider some of the things they may be worried about:

  • How society or the school would label their child
  • Social isolation and rejection
  • Having their concerns dismissed by healthcare professionals or school personnel

One way to build a positive rapport with parents is to recognise their child’s strengths, interests, and positive characteristics. If you are asking parents to share your concerns, think of something good to share, listen carefully to what they have to say, and always end the conversation on a positive note.

Talking with the parents of other students in your class

If you have a student living with ADHD in your classroom, you may need to address the concerns of other students’ parents who may be unfamiliar with ADHD or who may associate it with a likelihood of violence or antisocial behaviour.  It is important the other students’ parents understand the condition, so their children will treat the child living with ADHD kindly and not act out of ignorance.

Talking with your class about ADHD

Healthcare professionals who have experience with ADHD advise teachers to tell the truth about the condition. If a child is receiving special treatment for ADHD, it may be better to talk with the class about why this is happening. As you know, children are very observant, and he or she will likely notice that something is going on anyway. Talking openly about ADHD may be better than keeping it a secret, because secrecy implies that there is something to hide. Of course, before doing this, you should get the permission of the parents and the child.

Understanding school policies about ADHD

Your school may have a policy for supporting children with special educational needs, including students living with ADHD. Educational provisions for students with ADHD vary from country to country, but may include a special education teacher or custom considerations related to homework or taking exams. Some schools may offer special classes or services for children living with ADHD. There may also be local, regional, or national education policies that are pertinent to students with ADHD.

Seeking support from other school personnel

Your school may have a special education professional who could assist you in finding the right resources to help a student living with ADHD.

Meeting the educational, behavioural, and social needs of a student living with ADHD at school requires coordination between you, the student’s parents, and other school personnel (and the treating clinician).

These are the people who may be on your team:

  • Other teachers involved in the student’s learning
  • SENCO’s
  • The school nurse or other qualified person who is in charge of dispensing medications
  • The school psychologist or counsellor
  • Speech therapists or other special education staff for students with ADHD who also have associated learning disabilities, such as dyslexia
  • School administrators

Seeking support from other teachers

Teaching a student living with ADHD requires flexibility and patience. It can be frustrating, exhausting, or even isolating for you. Given that ADHD or its symptoms are common in children, some of your colleagues are experiencing similar challenges in their own classrooms.

Sharing your problems with other teachers or colleagues may help keep you from feeling burned out from your efforts. In addition to having the opportunity to talk with someone who understands what you are going through, you may even pick up a few strategies that will help you manage your classroom more easily, such as a better understanding of the individual with ADHD, and praising positive actions or their achievements.