How an ADHD School Can Aid Your Child's Academic Success

Meghan Mileham, Assistant Director of Admissions, and Nimra Siddiqui, Hayley Marketing

The right school can be instrumental to your child's academic success with ADHD. A specialized educational environment offers advantages typically not found in a traditional public or private school. For children with inattentive symptoms of ADHD, such as going off-task, having trouble remaining focused or having trouble finishing what they start, or those with hyperactivity symptoms such as trouble sitting still, fidgeting, tapping, or talkativeness, an ADHD school can ensure your child's academic success.


When Should the Search for an ADHD-Friendly School Begin?


It’s never too early to at least explore what options are available to you as far as ADHD-friendly schools. Make a list of private schools for ADHD to research, ask questions and schedule tours of your top choices. You can allow your child to try the local public school if you are in a good district with a program that will accommodate their needs. But even the best mainstream school is unlikely to have the holistic approach you’ll find in a specialized school. If you are equipped with your first-choice school, it’s easier to make the change if the time comes. Realistically, the earlier you get your child with ADHD into a school that knows how to help children thrive in an educational environment, the sooner they can feel like a success.  


How Does ADHD Affect School Performance?


ADHD primarily presents in two ways, hyperactive type and inattentive type. A student can be either type or a combination of the two. There is also a degree of severity regarding the impact ADHD has on their daily activities and executive function. Each type brings its own challenges to school performance.


Students with hyperactive type can have trouble even sitting still. They may not be in their seats when they should be. They often have difficulty waiting their turn and can blurt out answers. These symptoms have both a social and academic impact. If left undiagnosed, the student can be labeled with behavioral problems, making it less likely their learning will be properly addressed.


Those with inattentive type tend to fly under the radar. These symptoms can take longer to recognize and can go diagnosed. These students have trouble following complex directions. If the teacher writes an assignment on the board, they may not notice unless the teacher points it out (often more than once). If they write it down at all, it may be incorrect or incomplete. They might even misplace the notebook where they wrote it down! Students with inattentive ADHD are often told they have potential but need to “apply themselves.”  


ADHD has no impact on intelligence, but students can fall behind or become frustrated to struggle with tasks that come easily to their peers. It can have a negative impact on their self-esteem.


 Behavioral Issues Related to ADHD


Students with ADHD can be disruptive in a classroom setting. Younger students may be unable to remain in their seats; older students may be the class clown. In students of any age, teachers may see tapping of fingers or toes, fidgeting, and humming or singing. Students frequently talk to themselves, may disrupt other students, and can have so much trouble sitting still, that they appear to be vibrating! They are easily bored and can interrupt or distract other students and become generally disruptive to the classroom environment.


Can a Child with ADHD Do Well in School?


Students with ADHD can fall behind their classmates because their work is incomplete, incorrect, or just doesn’t get turned it. It’s not uncommon for these students to do well on tests but have a low overall average because of missed assignments. They can feel shame or embarrassment if they fall behind their classmates or struggle with tasks that should be simple. The right school, teachers and learning strategies can make all the difference to their self-esteem, motivation and academic success.


How a Specialized School for ADHD Can Help


A specialized school with a program for ADHD can help students because they have the resources, facilities and training to facilitate a successful learning environment. Small classroom sizes can help, as can a structured environment and educational plan. Sometimes all it takes to help students succeed is a positive attitude and help with transitions that are difficult for students to manage on their own. Other advantages a specialized school offers include:


Individualized Attention


As mentioned above, small class sizes can help facilitate the individualized attention that allows children with ADHD to thrive. Because there are so many symptoms, one-size-fits-all remedies are seldom successful. When teachers can look a student in the eye to ensure they are paying attention and engaged, it can make all the difference to their educational experience. Teachers should get to know each student to see what will help them succeed. They can offer one-on-one instruction when students are struggling. Instructors can experiment with different teaching methods and learning styles to create the ideal combination for each student. Keeping their attention may require switching it up periodically to keep them engaged.


Access to ADHD-Friendly Educators


Students with ADHD need teachers who are creative and flexible. This combination is tough to find in a traditional school environment where “teaching to the test” can be the norm. ADHD-friendly educators will recognize when a child is struggling with classwork, has difficulty staying focused or needs some variety.


Structured Classrooms with Limited Distractions


Structured doesn’t have to mean boring. Many teachers have success with a classroom environment with different learning stations. The stations can be arranged for different types of learning. For reading, a quiet corner is a must. Collaborative learning can be in another area. Switch stations frequently to prevent boredom.


Students with ADHD don't always want structure, but it's vital to their success. Young students will need external structure to succeed but laying the groundwork now can enable them to develop their own when they are older. Teachers should create a consistent schedule and communicate it to the student. Allow the child to participate in setting their schedule, but don't offer too many choices. Children with ADHD are easily overwhelmed by too many options.


Skills-Based Learning


Skills-based learning focuses on teaching the student skills they can use in various settings or meet different challenges. Much like a mathematical formula, it creates a framework for students to use. Children should write the process in a notebook they can refer to as needed rather than relying on memory. When they can refer to their notes, it gives them confidence that they can tackle the problem independently


How to Help Teens with ADHD at Home


Like any teenager, teens with ADHD want to be independent, but they need effective learning strategies if they are to succeed academically. ADHD in teenagers can be characterized by boredom, restlessness and irritability. They often need help managing their emotions or dealing with rejection. It’s not uncommon for them to feel real or perceived rejection harder than most and take longer to bounce back. This tendency is referred to rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD). It's common among other executive function disorders. It’s not an officially recognized condition because there are no diagnostic criteria, but the symptoms are common.


Help them break tasks into manageable parts. They are easily overwhelmed. Teach them to make lists and take one thing at a time (everyone loves checking items off their list!). Encourage them to take regular breaks, so they don’t burn out before they’ve accomplished their goals. Maintain a positive attitude to boost your teen’s self-esteem. Focus on what they do well and give them opportunities to feel successful, whether it’s in a sport, creative endeavor or volunteer work.


Provide Clear Instructions


Be specific and break assignments into manageable parts. Be clear and ensure they understand; having them repeat the instructions back to you can be helpful. Better yet, give them written instruction or have them write it down. Explain the reasoning for the rules and expectations that can help them accept restrictions or listen to your suggestions.


Value Their Strengths


Children with ADHD think a little differently. In the right time and place, it can be an advantage. They tend to be creative and think outside the box. Many well-known people with ADHD are living successful lives. Remind them that there’s nothing wrong with being different. Show them unconditional love and help them find areas where they can excel and feel accomplished. An ADHD high school might be just what they need.



Work Together


Work together as a team. This means that parents, educators, tutors, therapists, physicians, and others involved in the care of the adolescent should be on the same page regarding treatment plans, approaches, and goals. Sharing information with the others involved in your teenager's care is essential to ensure that he or she receives the necessary treatment and support. Treat your teen's teachers as allies, and work together for optimal outcomes at home and in the classroom.


Allow The Gow School To Make Learning Enjoyable for Your Child with ADHD


The Gow School levels the playing field for students with ADHD. Our unique approach helps students succeed in school and at home. We employ several strategies that synchronize with the child’s natural tendencies rather than fighting them, such as encouraging physical activity to burn off excess energy. Teaching with a project-based curriculum and providing safe objects to fidget with.  If you’re considering ADHD boarding schools in New York, Gow may be the perfect fit for your child.


Gow is a private special education school in NY that has been working with students with learning disabilities since 1926. The school offers educational strategies for students with ADHD, as well as students with dyslexia and related language-based learning disabilities and dyspraxia, CAPD (central auditory processing disorder), dyscalculiadysgraphia, and disorder of written expression. Students also come to Gow with and/or executive function difficulties.


Our special needs boarding school accommodates students from 6th through 12th grade. We have been trusted by parents and students from fifty states and 22 countries for nearly 100 years. Gow alumni include architects, artists, chefs, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers and even an Olympic athlete.


Learn about our approach to learning disabilities or request information.