How to Increase Success at School for Children With ADHD

Ask for help

Ask your healthcare provider about appropriate professionals who can help you understand and work with the system. The school psychologist at your child’s school or a private psychologist may be a good place to start.

Become your child’s case manager

Write down and save all information about your child. This includes copies of evaluations, documents from school meetings, records of prior treatments and contact information. Having all this information in one place will help you, the school and other professionals to better understand your child’s needs.

Learn about your child’s educational rights

Two laws provide children with ADHD the right to some help in school. The names of these laws are:

Each state has an information center that can help you learn more about your child’s rights. Visit the Parents Center Network to find the center in your state.

Download the Educational Rights for the Child with ADHD to learn more about your child's educational rights – provided by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Be active in school team meetings

If your child needs help in school, it is likely that the school will set up a meeting to develop a plan for your child. The plan that is developed may be called an “Individualized Education Plan (IEP)” or a “504 service plan.” The goal of the meeting is to help the team understand your child’s strengths and weakness, discuss how ADHD affects him at school and to begin developing a school plan that will meet your child’s needs.

It is likely that the school principal, the principal’s assistant, a special educator, the child’s teacher, the guidance counselor, and/or the school psychologist will be at the meeting. You may request that other professionals working with your child also provide input. In addition, you might find it helpful to have another parent who has been at similar meetings, or a friend who knows your child, come with you to help you think about what is best for your child.

Become your child’s best advocate

You are a member of the team developing the IEP or “504 service plan” because you know your child best. Listen to what others suggest, but also let the team at the meeting know what you think will be most helpful to your child. 

Construct a daily report card

A daily report card is an important part of helping children with attention and/or behavior problems in school. It allows you to monitor your child’s behavior every day and helps motivate your child to change his behavior. It also promotes regular communication between teachers and parents.

Why use a daily report card?

These notes allow you to know when your child is doing well, not just when your child is doing poorly. It is very important that children get praise or other rewards when they do well. The notes take very little teacher time and reduce the need for phone calls home to parents.

Setting up a daily report card

Assistance from school counselors or school psychologists or other mental health providers may be useful when setting up a daily report card. Work with your child’s teacher to:

  1. Pick goal behaviors for your child. Start small with only two to three behaviors. Be sure to pick goals that you think your child can achieve.
  2. Speak about the behaviors in a positive way so that you are telling your child what he should be doing instead of what not to do. For example, it’s better to say “raise your hand when you want to speak” instead of saying “don’t call out in class.”
  3. Decide how to rate the behaviors. For example, behaviors may be rated on a 0-3 scale:
    • 0 = never
    • 1 = sometimes
    • 2 = most of the time
    • 3 = always
  4. Include the date, parent signature, parent and teacher comments, and total number of points on the note.
  5. Explain the daily report card to your child.
  6. Choose rewards for your child to earn at home based on his total number of points each day. These rewards encourage your child to work hard in school. Your child should help to choose which rewards he would like to earn. Decide how many total points your child needs to earn in school in order to earn a reward at home.
  7. Change the program and rewards as needed to keep you child interested.

Ideas for home rewards

  • Choosing a family activity (getting to play a favorite game with mom or dad)
  • Extra time to watch TV or play video games
  • Earning a special treat or small toy

Why isn’t the daily report card working?

  • Problem: The daily report card is not making it home.
    Solution: Make sure that your child has a special folder in which to carry the daily report card. At the end of the day, have the teacher remind your child to take home the daily report card. Give a reward for bringing home the daily report card.
  • Problem: My child’s behavior is not changing and he rarely earns rewards.
    Solution: These notes work best when a child is earning a reward at least three to four out of five days per week. If your child is not earning rewards this often, check on the following:
    • Does your child care about the reward? Make sure the reward is something your child really wants to earn. Also make sure your child is not getting the reward in other ways.
    • Are the goals appropriate? Make sure the goals are clear. They should not be too difficult. Your child needs to understand them. Change them if necessary to make it more likely that your child earns the rewards.
    • What is your child getting out of acting inappropriately? The reward for acting inappropriately may be better than the reward for acting right. Try to figure out what your child is getting out of the situation. Make sure your child is rewarded every time he meets the goal.
  • Problem: My child does not remember his goals.
    Solution: Ask the teacher to give the child reminders about the goals. Also, ask the teacher to praise your child right after good behavior.

Download these instructions and a sample card »