Academic Planning for ADHD Starts Now

Winter may just be starting, but fall academic planning is only a few months away. Remember that grades are not the bottom line for academic planning. Some students get reasonable marks even while struggling significantly with ADHD, which can affect anything related to planning and organization. This includes writing, study habits, time management and far more. A strong school plan implements specific supports wherever we find ADHD, regardless of grades alone.

During school meetings, you can use the following checklist (a download is also available) to guide discussion about potential accommodations. Seek out both short-term solutions that adapt to your child's present skills and a long-term plan for independence. Include instruction for your child in both academic and organizational skills, or consider hiring a psychologist, coach, or tutor to help your child in these areas. Identify who will coordinate your child's plan at school, both as a resource for your child and as your own link for communication; often this will be a teacher, school psychologist, social worker, or guidance counselor.

Classroom accommodations

  • Preferential seating in the front of room, facing the teacher, and away from children who are particularly distracting

  • Minimization of distractions through a well-organized classroom, possibly with partitioned areas for independent work
  • Scheduled breaks and shorter periods of sustained effort
  • Prompting for transitions between activities
  • Written routines or visual schedules for nonreaders and supports with adherence to those routines
  • Frequent parent-teacher communication about schoolwork, along with an "early warning system" notifying you as soon as work is missed. If homework is missed or anything changes academically, it's easier to problem solve early.
  • Homework and organizational accommodations

    • Prompting your child to write down assignments, and not relying on online systems unless all teachers in the school are committed to using them daily

  • Plans for redirecting your child when off task
  • A daily organizational check-in for your child with a teacher or other staff member
  • Breaking up projects into daily portions and helping your child record the steps on a calendar, along with adult monitoring of progress for each step
  • Daily logistical support, such as how to get to classes without being late, managing books, and organizing a locker
  • Reminders to hand in homework and projects (or allowing them to be scanned and e-mailed directly to teachers)
  • Offering writing supports, such as outlines, and making them available whenever needed, across all subjects
  • Handwriting supports, such as allowing keyboarding, along with additional writing instruction
  • Supplying written notes for each class
  • Providing duplicate textbooks so one copy can be kept at home and the other at school
  • Modifying homework to ensure a reasonable workload per evening
  • Behavioral planning

    • Using reward-based behavioral plans, with positive feedback outweighing negative, and rewarding productive behaviors, such as self-checking schoolwork

  • Frequent communication with you regarding your child's behavior
  • Consistent routines in the classroom
  • Not utilizing punishments that involve loss of gym and recess time, since exercise often diminishes ADHD symptoms and kids with ADHD may need more breaks during the day
  • Testing modifications

    • Extending test time as needed. (Some children with ADHD rush regardless; extended time only helps those who work slowly.)

  • Testing away from distractions
  • Reading test instructions to your child
  • Providing writing supports
  • Checking for careless errors
  • Using alternate testing methods as needed (for example, oral versus written)

  • - Adapted from "Mindful Parenting for ADHD" released September 2015 by New Harbinger