ADHD and Education

ADHD and Education Together

Dear parents and educators, We are excited to share some helpful tips on how to support students with ADHD in school. This article, authored by Rabbi Shmuel Reich AAPC, an ADHD life coach, explores effective strategies for parents and educators to prevent any challenges and ensure a successful learning journey for these students. From preparing the child to actively participating in lessons, this piece offers valuable guidance. Keep an eye out for more useful insights from our resource center!

A Successful Return to School with ADHD

A week or so ago, I watched summer camps come to a close. At that time, a troubling realization struck me: kids whom I only know from camp – who are highly successful in an environment in which the day primarily revolves around sports, music, and other fun activities – are frequently the very same kids who feel constricted in a classroom during the school year. It was upsetting to think of how kids whom I have only seen in a successful capacity may be struggling during the year with challenges that I know all too well as an ADHD coach and a rebbi.

So, in the spirit of continuing the trend of their success that had gained so much momentum over the summer, here are some preemptive tips to prepare for a successful school year, navigating the challenges presented by having ADHD in a classroom:

TIP #1- Choose an Appropriate Seat:

A classroom can present some natural distractions for those who tend to have trouble staying focused. One common example is a window facing a busy city street, or lively schoolyard. Another is friends with whom one likes to converse. A third one is actually one’s own thoughts.

A solution to this issue can be to choose a seat that accommodates these concerns: it is far from a window and close friends with whom one may want to talk, and close enough to the teacher/rebbi that eye contact can be made. This can help a student avoid becoming distracted extensively by their thoughts.

Sitting near friends with whom one is unlikely to converse during class, on the other hand, can be helpful. They can assist if one loses track of the thread of a lesson or the place in a book, sefer, or worksheet being done in class.

One additional point is that some students may feel unpleasantly crowded without sitting near a window. A possible solution for this could be to sit near a window that faces a quieter area such as a wooded area or yard that is not used for play, or to find a location that is far enough from the window that it is not distracting, but close enough that one doesn’t feel overly enclosed. (That balance can only exist in a room with a suitable layout.)

TIP#2-Lesson Prep:

The ADHD brain struggles to pay attention to that which it does not find interesting. A class about a new subject in which the student does not have a particular interest can easily be included in this category. A way to address this can be to ask for information regarding the content of a lesson before a class. This way, the material – even if not interesting per se – will be presented in a context of familiarity. It can then be much easier to follow.

There is an important fringe benefit to the student asking the teacher for this directly. Many individuals with ADHD will need further accommodations at school in the future, and even at work when they are adults. Having had the practice of advocating for one’s self in their youth will make it easier when they are older.

TIP #3-Planned Breaks:

Sitting in class for a long time can be very difficult for students who have ADHD. A common occurrence in high school involves students taking a break when they have sat for as long as they can. What then is likely to happen is that they don’t quite return.

One reason for this is that after the ADHD brain has been forced to something difficult it then feels drained. It needs a long break. Additionally, many people with ADHD struggle to recognize the passage of time accurately. They think that their half hour break was five or ten minutes long.

A solution to this challenge requires identifying the correct time to take a break, as well as the most effective way to take the break.

The best time to take a break is not once one has pushed themselves to or beyond their limits. At this point they will need a much longer break, and will feel guilty and frustrated about it. Rather, the best time to take a break is a few minutes before one has reached their capacity for sitting in class. This will vary greatly from individual to individual.

The most effective way to take a break involves two important considerations:  content and length. The content of the break should include something that is good for the brain. A walk, especially outdoors and enjoying nature (which is unfortunately not always feasible) listening to music or a guided meditation, or eating a healthy snack which contains protein are all good options. An important detail is that the break should be spent doing something that comes to a natural end. This can be accomplished by making a plan to walk a specific route that ends back where the student is supposed to be, or by listening to one or two songs.

Coordinating this plan with a teacher or rebbi is also an opportunity to practice self-advocacy. 

TIP#4- The Right Planner:

Keeping track of assignments, due dates, and tests can be a challenge for those with ADHD. This is a link to my blog about choosing the right planner: 

An additional option is having a friend with whom one checks in daily to receive updates about what homework there is and when it is due. A key to making this option work is for it to be a consistent routine in some way. Doing it at the same time every day, as well as asking the same person is one good way to do it. Another is to ask a friend at the same time daily, but having a rotation of friends whom one asks. This still has the benefit of routine, while avoid the uncomfortable feeling that one is nagging. If doing this, it is important to have a process through which one decides which friend to ask. Otherwise, the process of choosing becomes a reason to procrastinate.

Wishing everyone success in the new school year!