Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, autism, or another learning disability need support in all aspects of their lives, especially in the classroom. As a parent, you are the most important advocate for your child, but you’re not alone. Your child’s teachers and school administrators can provide valuable, much-needed support.
One often-cited 2003 study noted: “Teachers were the most likely to be the first to suggest the diagnosis of ADHD, followed by parents.” Symptoms include getting easily sidetracked, having trouble organizing tasks, and excessive fidgeting and talking. In a classroom of 25 children, 1 to 3 of them may have ADHD.
Teachers are in a unique position to make sure that your child succeeds in the classroom and beyond.
The Impact of Teachers in the Classroom
My son’s elementary school teachers were some of his strongest advocates. I will never forget Brian Marinelli, who taught my son Eric in fourth and fifth grade. At that time, Eric’s official diagnosis, like many children with his behaviors, was ADHD. He struggled with the noise and chaos of the playground, so Mr. Marinelli let him hang out in the classroom during lunch, snuggled in a giant bean bag chair with a book.
When the class put on a play, Mr. Marinelli made Eric the narrator, seating him on the opposite side of the stage from the other children. Eric relished the part — and was able to self-regulate when he was separated from his peers.
“Mr. Marinelli was always there for me,” Eric told me. “He always understood what I really needed. When things got tough, he always found an alternative activity for me that made sure I was still learning but allowed me safety and security to keep my emotions together.”
Studies Show the Success of School-Based Support
In numerous studies, school-based interventions have been shown to help students with ADHD succeed. A creative and compassionate teacher can use classroom management techniques to ensure that their students, and especially those with ADHD, feel safe and have opportunities to succeed. In fact, there are many creative strategies teachers utilize when instructing and working with children with disabilities.
- Posting classroom rules.
- Offering appropriate in-classroom accommodations, such as shortened assignments or note-taking help.
- Allowing students to have time for physical movement, including letting the student get a drink of water, erase the blackboard, or help with tasks or errands.
Teachers Leave a Lasting Impact
When my son, Eric, walked across the stage as a graduate of an International Baccalaureate high school in 2017, Mr. Marinelli was in the front row, cheering him on. Because one exceptional teacher believed in my son, Eric was able to succeed where almost everyone else thought he would fail. Now Eric is in his second year of college on a scholarship, studying social work because he wants to give back to the community — and he still credits Mr. Marinelli with his success.
Talking to your child’s teacher and school administrator regularly about in-classroom accommodations helps keep you informed. Plus, you may have some suggestions that the teacher hasn’t yet considered.
The bottom line: Teachers can be a strong advocate for your child. Sometimes all it takes is some extra attention and creative thinking on the part of your child’s teacher. Every child is unique, and children with ADHD or other learning disabilities are no exception. A teacher may be the person who makes a real difference in your child’s life, the way Mr. Marinelli changed my son’s life.
Liza Long is a writer, educator, mental health advocate, and mother of four children, one of whom has bipolar disorder. She is the author of the essay “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother," and her book The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness won a 2015 “Books for a Better Life” Award. Liza advocates for mental healthcare on a national level and regularly contributes to HuffPost and Psychology Today.
The opinions, representations, and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of One in Five Minds or Clarity Child Guidance Center. Any copyright remains with the author, and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. One in Five Minds and Clarity Child Guidance Center accepts no liability for any errors, omissions, or representations.