8 Tips to Pick a School for Your Child With ADHD

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Patricia Quinn, MD


From kindergarten through to grade 12, the average U.S. student spends 2,340 days in school. For a child with ADHD, that’s a lot of time with teachers; as a result his educational experience can be positive or negative, depending on the school he attends.

As parents, picking the right school for your child with ADHD can be a major factor in his long-term success. Looking for the following eight things will help you choose a school that provides a positive learning environment for your child, and help you work with the school that may be your only option.

1. Their Approach to Learning

One of the first things you should do when choosing a school for your child with ADHD is to talk with its leaders and educators — the principal, vice-principal, and the teachers — to better understand how they approach the learning process.

“Get an idea of who they are and what their learning philosophy is,” says Terry Dickson, MD, director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan, and an ADHD coach.

Specifically, find out how they approach kids with ADHD.

“What do they offer?” Dickson says. “How do they position these kids for success and help them thrive? Is there flexibility in the learning program to adjust to a student’s needs? How do they model good behavior? These are some of the questions you should be asking.”

2. Structure, Structure, Structure

When it comes to kids with ADHD, structure in school is a really good thing, notes Patricia Collins, PhD, director of the Psychoeducational Clinic at North Carolina State University.

Schools that are suited to a child with ADHD focus on structure and consistency as core foundations for learning, with clear timelines, processes, and expectations, and they take a step-by-step approach to learning and homework.

3. Accessible Role Models

Teachers can be excellent role models for all kids, but this is especially true for kids with ADHD, notes Dickson, who is a parent to two children with ADHD.

A teacher who is impatient and judgmental will make most kids resist learning, but those children might get by. For a child with ADHD, it could derail his entire school year.

A school that encourages a values-based learning process and prides itself on teachers who are excellent role models will most likely be a better fit if your child has ADHD. You’ll want your child to be taught by people who are firm but offer integrity and who create a safe and comfortable learning environment.

4. Hands-On Learning

Children with ADHD do much better using a hands-on approach to learning, Collins says. 

To ask a child with ADHD to sit and listen for hours will probably not work. So instead, look for a school in which kids are actively engaged in learning by experience.

5. Support Throughout the Staff

Find a school that offers excellent educators and also has a strong support network of guidance counselors, school psychologists, and special education teachers, Collins suggests. 

A well-rounded team of experts will help ensure your child with ADHD is getting all the support he needs to be successful in the learning environment.

6. Good Parent-Teacher Communication

The school-student dynamic is critical to a child’s success, but so is the school-parent interaction, Dickson says. 

The best schools for kids with ADHD are ones that encourage and maintain an open dialogue between parents, teachers, and administrators, so everyone is on the same page as to what’s working well and where there are opportunities for improvement.

7. Favorable Student-Teacher Ratio

The average student-to-teacher ratio in the U.S. public school system is 15.4 students to each full-time teacher. 

When you’re looking for a school for your child with ADHD, ideally, you want this ratio to be better than average, Collins says. 

The smaller the ratio, the more hands-on learning and attention your child will get. That extra time will hopefully translate into a better education. 

 8. Be an Advocate

For many parents, picking a school for their child with ADHD isn’t an option. Regardless of whether you have the opportunity to choose, both Collins and Dickson agree that the best thing you can do for your child is to be his advocate.

Be sure that you are on the same team as the teachers and administrators at your child’s school. Work together, stay productive, maintain an open dialogue, and use all of the school’s resources available to help your child have a positive educational experience.


heartWhat the ADHD Experts Say about Coaching for ADHD

We recommend that you hire an ADD coach to assist you in the process. Get yourself a coach to help you stay on track- Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. Authors of You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!
Coaching, it turns out, is one of the most powerful and effective ways for people with ADHD to achieve success.- Thom Hartmann. Writer of 7 books on ADHD who has ADHD.
Coaching is the single most effective tool in ADD self-management.- Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. Author of several books on ADHD who has ADHD
Coaching intervention can make a real difference in how people with AD/HD negotiate their own particular deficits and cope with life on a daily basis- ADDA - Attention Deficit Disorder Association

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