Doctor of psychiatry PeterVentre knows that, with the school year getting under way yet again, parents everywhere are about to turn their attention to making sure that their children do well academically. However, for parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, this time presents an extra degree of stress and difficulty.
“ADHD is characterized by impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and a reduced ability to focus on any one thing for very long,” explains Dr. Ventre. “As such, children suffering from the disorder tend to have a harder time in their school lives. The grades and test scores they exhibit are often lower when compared to other students, and they require more use of special education services.”
However, adds Dr. Peter Ventre, just because success in school is more difficult for students with ADHD, it does not mean that it is impossible to achieve. “ADHD students are more easily distracted, exhibit poorer time management skills, and are easily disorganized,” Dr. Ventre reports. “But while these are all handicaps to academic success, they are not insurmountable, and neither are they exclusive to students with ADHD. Just like any other student looking to boost their school performance, students with ADHD can take certain steps to reign in their inattention and boost their levels of organization.”
“The important thing to remember,” says Dr. Peter Ventre, “is that children with ADHD are not simply lazy. Achieving success is not a matter of trying harder. It’s a matter of circumventing the unique roadblocks that their minds present to them. Once they learn how to navigate these obstacles, however, they can find the same degree of academic strength as any other student.”
To help bypass these obstacles, Dr. Ventre recommends the following strategies. While much of the following advice is helpful for any parent trying to increase their children’s school performance, parents of ADHD children especially can make use of these tips to see a drastic improvement in their students’ performance.
Dr. Peter Ventre Offers Tips on Improving School Performance in ADHD Students
The hyperactivity involved with ADHD is an excess of energy, and like any other source of energy, it can be expended through common, unobtrusive fidgeting techniques. For example, giving children with ADHD a stress ball that they can squeeze throughout the day is a quick and easy way to help them concentrate by giving their hyperactivity an outlet. This and other items can be easily kept at the student’s desk without creating a disturbance.
Structure Their Day
“Children with ADHD have been shown to function better when they are put on a clearly understood schedule,” explains Dr. Peter Ventre. “Try breaking your student’s daily routine down into time periods such as school time, chore time, play time, and so on. Put this schedule somewhere where the child can see it, and don’t change it without letting them know in advance.”
Set Clear Rules
A clear set of rules also helps ADHD children stay better organized and better behaved. “Make sure your child understands what is expected of them and what the consequences for breaking a rule are,” advises Dr. Peter Ventre. “When they follow the rules, give them a reward. This can be a new toy for exceptionally good behavior, or it can be as simple as letting them pick dinner one night.”
Help Get Them Organized
Keeping up with the theme of structure, parents can take steps to minimize the risk of distraction for their children both at school and at home. “Steps such as keeping a homework assignment folder at home and giving them color-coded notebooks for different subjects at school can dramatically improve an ADHD child’s organization,” says Dr. Peter Ventre. “Also make sure that they have a place at home with little or no distraction at which they can do their homework. Breaking their assignments down into smaller, manageable tasks can also help them stay focused.”
Opt for Compassion over Criticism
“If a child with ADHD fails a test or forgets an assignment, it’s hardly ever intentional,” remarks Dr. Peter Ventre. “As such, negative consequences for failure are less productive than positive rewards for achievement. Offer constructive feedback when a mistake happens and specific praise when their behavior is good.”
Stay in Close Contact with Teachers
Parents can only do so much for their child when they are away at school. This is why it is important for parents to work with their children’s school staff to best meet the child’s needs. “Make sure that the child’s teachers know about the ADHD diagnosis,” says Dr. Peter Ventre, “and talk with school counselors about the best approach to support. This may include special tutoring, assigning a mentor, etc.”
Get Them Effective Treatment
ADHD is still a clinical mental disorder, and as such requires proper treatment, which may include medication or behavioral therapy. ”Treatment is necessary to help them keep the playing field level with their peers.”