What I Wish My Son’s Teachers Knew About Him & ADHD

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To all the teachers reading this…thank you for teaching our children. It is my hope that this post will offer insight into the world of a student diagnosed with Attention Deficit or ADHD.

carlton-his-beatsDear Teachers,

I wish you knew that my son doesn’t want to misbehave. What seems like misbehavior could be because he is overwhelmed, frustrated or embarrassed. If he is feeling any of these emotions, his brain responds by fighting, fleeing or freezing.  It’s a natural stress response. I wish you knew how stressful school is for my child.

I wish you knew that my son doesn’t mean to blurt out. The frontal lobe of his brain, which controls impulsive behavior is under developed compared to his peers.

I wish you knew he can’t transition from joking around to getting down to business like you or his classmates can. Transition is difficult. While you may have moved on to the lesson, his brain is still going 90 to nothing in joke mode.

I wish you knew that his making jokes or comments in class to gain attention is his way of trying desperately to fit in with his peers. He doesn’t get invited to friend’s homes, he doesn’t play on sports team with his classmates, and he doesn’t receive texts from others. He is probably seen as immature and annoying by many of his peers. No matter how confident he may appear, don’t be fooled. That is his natural defense mechanism kicking in to convince himself he is cool.

I wish you knew my son needs encouragement more than other students. He is so used to hearing, “Carlton, be quiet.”; “Carlton, you’re not trying hard enough.”; “Carlton, I need to sign your choice card.”, that the majority of the time he feels like a failure.

I wish you knew that when you acknowledge him doing something right, whether he shows it or not, it makes his day.

I wish you knew when he says, “I forgot”, 9 times out of 10, he really did forget. It isn’t an excuse for him. His brain just doesn’t hold on to things the way your other student’s brains do.

I wish you knew how difficult it is for him to walk into the classroom and get right to work. He has just come from chatting in the hallways with his friends after sitting still and trying to be quiet for 50 minutes. His brain is like, “No!! Not again! I’ve gotta do something fun!”

I wish you knew how long it takes my son to complete homework.  What might take a neuro-typical student 15 minutes to complete, can take my son an hour.  When the parents of an ADDer ask for a reduced homework load for their child, we aren’t trying to get them out of work.  We want them to know the material, but we want them to feel confident about their ability to complete the work instead of feeling like there is no way they will ever get it finished.

I wish you knew that large tasks or projects completely overwhelm him.  The more you can break down projects into small tasks with due dates, the more successful he will be.

I wish you knew that my son is a poor self observer.  Many times he has no idea that he is coming across as dis-respectful or that he is acting or saying something inappropriate.  Ask him questions that help him learn to self observe, but please do it in private.

I wish you knew that he doesn’t read social cues very well and therefore comes across as selfish or indifferent.  The more people I have serving as his “social coach” in a loving and respectful manner, the more likely he is to develop these skills.

I wish you knew that my son doesn’t do well with unstructured class time the way other students will.  If you will have unstructured time, call him to you before class starts and just let him know he will have “quiet study time,” for example, towards the end of class.

I wish you knew that his having ADHD doesn’t embarrass him.  He knows it is part of what makes him who he is and we choose to highlight the strengths that come with this diagnosis.  He also knows that ADHD is not an excuse, it is an explanation.

I wish you knew that getting his full attention, even by saying his name, before you start giving instructions, can make the difference between him hearing all or part of what you say.

I wish you knew that as a parent of an ADDer, frequent communication is important, and I know you are going the extra mile for my child when you do this.  If he has a problem in class that day, let me know.  If you’ve assigned a project, let me know.  Any and all communication is appreciated.  I really do want to partner with you for my child’s success.

I wish you knew, that he will go through cycles of doing well and then cycles of not doing well.  He may turn in his homework for two weeks in a row, and then have a week where he struggles.  Motivation tends to wax and wane for ADDers.

I wish you knew how difficult it is for his brain to focus, especially if he finds the subject boring.  You see, the ADHD brain is actually under stimulated, meaning it requires more stimulation than your neuro-typical students.

I wish you knew that when he is drawing in class, it doesn’t mean it isn’t listening.  Moving actually helps his brain stay focused.

I wish you would be more open to offering him different ways to show you he knows the material.  He often has a hard time putting his knowledge into words, but can express it well in a drawing.

I wish you knew how sensitive my son is.  I know that one day he can be a delight to have in class and the next day a complete disruption.  The more even keeled you can be with him, the better.  When you are frustrated and disappointed with him, he will sense it quite strongly.  He doesn’t want to disappoint you and when he does, he takes it hard and his inner voice tells him he is a failure and not good enough.

I wish you knew his brain can’t filter out everything he sees and hears and quickly determine what is important and what is not important.  Everything he sees and hears is of equal importance to his brain.  I would encourage you to visit Understood.org  and watch a video called “Through Your Child’s Eyes.”  You can customize what the student struggles with and then experience what the classroom setting is like for them.  You will be blown away by what ADHD students live with everyday.  Another great example of what it’s like to be inside the ADHD mind can be found here.

In closing, I wish you knew how truly grateful I am that you teach my son.  The job you have been given is not an easy one, nor is it for the weak of heart.  If anyone understands how hard it is, I do.  Your compassion and understanding towards my child will be something I will never forget and neither will my son.



1 Comment

  1. Peggy X. Forest

    Oh, thank you so so much for this informative article, I just emailed it to the child study team at his school. Thank you…Thank you.


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