A Letter to Teachers of Students with ADD/ ADHD.

Multiethnic Arms Raised Holding ADHD

Recently, I penned a blog about tips for parents of children with learning disabilities and how to help with homework.  Now as a part two, I am writing an additional article to address the needs of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD if hyperactivity is part of the diagnosis.

This is a topic I know I know a lot about!  Not only am I a full fledged member of the adult ADHD “team”.  Some people may consider this a “disability”… I consider it a gift… Most days.

Related: What is Attention Deficit Disorder in Children and Adults?

As I child I  always knew that I had more energy and impulse “issues” than most.  Although not a horrible child I could stir more than my share of trouble in a very short amount of time.

In retrospect,  I wish I could have given a “How to teach a child with ADHD letter” to all of my teachers.  If I could turn back time, the letter below is what I would have sent to each of my teachers prior to my arrival in their classroom.   If his letter resonates with one of your family members or someone you know – feel free to personalize it and send it to a teacher.   And, for those of you with ADD/ ADHD who may have some other suggestions  – please feel free to include them in the comment section below.

Dear Teachers,

Despite my cute red and curly hair and wide smile I may be one of the toughest challenges you will face all year.  You see, I am a ball of energy and exude enthusiasm, but don’t be fooled, as I have Attention Deficit Disorder.  (Note: back in the “day” when I was in elementary school they didn’t really have an official diagnosis.)

Here are some suggestions that may help me to learn and make this school year more enjoyable for both of us! (And, the rest of the students, too!)

1-  I can sustain attention to task as along as you are not boring me.  I become bored very easily.  You don’t need to repeat the same information to me again and again.  Just give me a chance to write it down and hear it once, maybe twice.  

2- Give me breaks to walk around.  I will squirm and create quite a stir in my seat if I don’t get a break every 30 minutes or so.  The exception will be when there is high stimulus changing material – such as a movie or computer time.

3- Give me a nutritious snack mid- morning.  If I am hungry then I am not learning.  i also am not paying attention.  And, this would be true of all the students.  Even crackers with cheese will help sustain my attending.

4. If I am doodling or coloring a picture during lecture time know that this is a good thing.  Doodling and coloring help me to listen and pay attention.  

5. Give me other things to occupy my time.  Modeling clay is good to occupy my hands.  If not, I may end up making balls out of bits of paper. 

6. I need organization.  Color pens and markers for me to color code my work. File folders to separate the subject matter.  All of these techniques are better than no organization at all. If you doubt that I don’t need help with organization check my backpack and desk.  I am liable to lost assignments, notes from home and my lunch money.

7.  I like to show my creative side.  So, let me do work that is multi-modal.   Let me use art and music to learn other subjects such as creating jingles to memorize math facts or social studies information. 

8.  Make me accountable for my actions.  Just because I have ADHD doesn’t mean that I don’t have to take responsibility for my behaviors.  I need to follow rules.  I need to be kind and not bully.  I need to complete my assignments. I don’t get a “pass” because I have ADHD.  Remember I am not disabled – just a different kind of learner.

9.  I can get a lot done in a short amount of time.  That is because if given tools to succeed I can do so efficiently and without much problem.  

10.  Homework is just another opportunity to be bored.  If I feel bored I am more liable to get in trouble.  So, give me meaningful tasks to complete and not work that is redundant.  Homework is redundant.  Let me do reading or creative projects, not busy work.

11. Make sure that my parents know what I am doing and not doing during the school day.  Make my parents and the parents of my peers part  of the process of our learning. (For the record both my parents were truly engaged in my education – so this is more of  a reminder for others.)  Invite mentors and retirees in to the classroom to help.  

Related: The value of grandparents in the classroom by Grandparents.com

12. I like to chat.  I am social.  If you want me to reduce my talking make sure that you follow suggestion #2 – trust me that my taking a break will make both of our lives easier.  If you want, give the whole class a break to stretch -then I won’t feel singled out.  I promise that one short break and we will all be less chatty and social.

13. Give me a job to do when I take a break.  Make me a classroom helper.  

Read related blog of a teacher who “got me” – Thank you, Miss Huntley!

14. Remember that ADD/ ADHD is often associated with learning disabilities.  

Read more about learning disabilities here.

Thank you for reading my letter and I am hoping this will be the start of a very exciting, educational and positive school year!

~Louise

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