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How to Help a Child with ADHD Succeed in School

ADHD Success in the Classroom

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is one of the most common childhood disorders. Kids with ADHD have difficulty controlling their impulses, staying organized, and paying attention. Children with ADHD often struggle with school. Fortunately, there are several ways you can help your child succeed in the classroom.

Signs of ADHD in Children

ADHD symptoms vary between individuals. The signs and symptoms of ADHD a child may include:
  • Often appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Interrupts others
  • Trouble waiting their turn
  • Difficulty sitting still or paying quietly
  • Frequently starts tasks or projects without completing them
  • Avoiding tasks that require “a sustained mental effort” [1]

For a child to receive an ADHD diagnosis, the symptoms must be present in multiple environments, for example, at school and at home. Symptoms must be present for a minimum of six months, and interfere with the child’s schoolwork and social life.[2] Only a qualified professional can diagnose ADHD. If you’re concerned your child has ADHD, speak with your pediatrician. He or she may refer you to a specialist.

What Can You Do to Help Your Child Succeed in the Classroom

ADHD often makes school challenging. Here’s how you can help your child succeed in the classroom.

Know Your Child’s Rights

One of the best ways to support your child in school is to be aware of your rights. The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require schools to make needed accommodations for students with disabilities, including ADHD. Your state may have similar laws.

Accommodations may include an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan. The IDEA lists 13 disabilities that require an IEP.[3] ADHD may qualify for an IEP under the “Other Health Impairments” category of the IDEA.[4]  Children with ADHD who do not qualify for an IEP may still be able to obtain a 504 plan.[5]

IEP vs. 504 Plan: What's the Difference?

The key differences between an IEP and a 504 plan include:[6] 

  • The definition of a disability is broader under Section 504 than under the IEP
  • With an IEP, the school must provide a written document outlining annual education goals for the student, how progress will be tracked, the types of services the child will receive, and what specific accommodations will be made. There are no set standards for a 504 plan. A 504 usually includes specific accommodations for the student, the names of the persons providing services, and the name of the person who will ensure compliance. However, a written document is not required.
  • An IEP must be reviewed at least once per year. Each state has its own rules about how often a 504 plan must be reviewed.
  • States receive additional funds for students who have IEPs. They do not receive extra funds for students with 504 plans.

Work With Your Child’s Teacher

Remember, you and your child’s teacher are on the same team. You both want your child to succeed in school. Your involvement and support can dramatically improve your child’s chance of success. 

  • Communicate early in the school year. If it’s possible, meet with the teacher before the year begins to discuss your child’s needs.
  • Work with the teacher to set specific goals, and make a plan together to help your child achieve them.
  • Share information. Let the teacher know what strategies work for your child at home.

Manage Homework

Many kids don’t enjoy doing their homework, but it’s especially trying for children with ADHD. These strategies may help.

  • Have your child do his homework at a consistent time every day.
  • Don’t allow your child to procrastinate. She will probably need your help to begin her assignment and see it through until it’s complete.
  • Allow your child to take frequent breaks. Set a timer and have him take a short break every ten to twenty minutes.
  • Set up a study area that is quiet and uncluttered. Background music may help your child focus, but otherwise, eliminate as many distractions as possible.
  • Make sure the finished homework is placed in your child’s book bag once it’s complete.

Encourage Health Habits

Building healthy habits can help your child manage ADHD symptoms. A healthy diet that’s low in sugar, regular physical activity, and adequate sleep can all help to reduce ADHD symptoms.


Parenting a child with ADHD is often challenging. Don’t forget to take care of your own needs, too. Make sure you also eat right and get enough exercise and sleep. Seek the support of your friends and family when you feel overwhelmed. If you take care of yourself while you follow the tips discussed in this article, your child will have a good chance of success in school.