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A photo shows a young person with her head resting on her hand, elbow on the table and a workbook and school supplies nearby.

Supporting children with ADHD: Q&A

Following the popularity of our webinar on supporting children with ADHD in school, we spoke further with Geraldine Mynors who shares some top tips for parents and carers about talking to school and the importance of  a ‘needs not labels’ approach to support.  

When Geraldine’s now-adult son was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 7, she became acutely aware of the importance of parents having the opportunity to meet with and learn from each other about how to parent in challenging circumstances. Originally from London, when she moved to Glasgow in 2014 she established a group for parents, alongside other mums. The group now has membership of more than 500 families.  

Geraldine has experience of working in various roles in the NHS. She has retrained as a CBT therapist and now works with adults with ADHD who are struggling with their mental health.  

What are some of the key issues raised in your support group relating to children and young people with ADHD and education?  

We hear that although it has improved over the past decade, awareness of ADHD amongst teachers is still not as good as it could be and teachers are overstretched in their roles. This means that children with ADHD often don’t get that bit of additional support and understanding which could make all the difference to them in school.   

We also know that some children with ADHD end up being excluded from school, either formally or, worryingly, informally. They may be put on reduced timetables, excluded from school trips, have to sit separately from the rest of their class and so on. This puts enormous strain on parents who are asked to remove their child and has a big impact on a child’s self esteem and learning.  

How does ADHD typically affect children and young people’s education and/or their behaviour in the classroom?  

ADHD has three core symptoms, and all of them impact on education.  

First, inattention means that children with ADHD find it difficult to focus, concentrate and retain information. They may not be able to follow a string of instructions, and once they’ve forgotten what they are supposed to be doing it’s easy for them to drift into other thoughts and activities. Children with ADHD can be distracted by small sights and sounds that others wouldn’t notice – for example the movement of other pupils around them or something outside the window. As a result, they might miss some vital information, or something they need to know for later.

Second, impulsiveness means that children with ADHD often act without thinking through the consequences. They may blurt things out in the classroom without putting their hand up or make daft comments which get them into trouble. They can also be very easy for other children to ‘wind up’.

Finally, some, though not all, children with ADHD are hyperactive. They have an impulsive drive to move about. For younger children this may be more obvious than teenagers. Most kids with ADHD will find that they need sensory stimulation in the form of movement, touch, sound, etc to be able to concentrate on what they are doing.  This applies even to young people with ADD who are not overtly ‘hyperactive’.  

The impact of all of is twofold. Kids with ADHD often underperform at school quite drastically compared to what would be expected based on their intelligence.They themselves will be aware of this, often feeling that they’ve let themselves down. They tend to also be told off and disciplined quite a bit.  Both of these things can have a significant impact on a childs’ self-confidence and motivation to succeed at school.  

We know parents or carers might be nervous or anxious about speaking to their child’s teacher about support in school. What advice do you have for them?  

One thing I always say is to get in early and chat to your child’s class teacher or guidance teacher at the start of the year, BEFORE any major problems arise.  That way you can build a relationship and discuss key information about your child’s needs while everyone is calm.    

Second, when talking to teachers, do go in with respect. I always try to think, ‘how would I manage if I had a class of 25-30 kids, all with different needs?’  Teachers do a hard job. They make mistakes. But by and large they are doing their best. If you show you are there to collaborate and work together, you are more likely to get a positive response.  

Third, do your research on what might help your child. Many teachers have had very little training about ADHD. We have a one page guide for teachers on our website with links to other sites which you can print out and take along to any meeting – not to teach teachers how to teach but to nudge them towards specialist resources.  

Families may be worried about requesting support without a formal diagnosis. How do you support these families within your group, and what would you say to others in this position?  

The policy of the Scottish government and the educational psychology profession is to offer support based on need not labels. In other words, it shouldn’t matter whether your child has a formal diagnosis or no to access support they need in the classroom.  

Since the pandemic, we have very long waiting lists for ADHD assessments – up to 3 years in parts of Scotland – so it’s vital that schools put things in place as soon as ADHD is suspected and not wait for a definitive diagnosis. We’ve been allowing parents to join our group as soon as their child is on the waiting list.   

Finally, are there any key resources you would recommend for further reading?

For families, I would recommend checking out some of the resources highlighted in our ADHD friendly schools blog. These include some things that might be helpful to discuss with your child’s teacher and also advice for older children who might be at exam-sitting age.

For teachers, The ADHD Foundation booklet ‘Teaching and managing students with ADHD’ is a particularly useful resource with lots of helpful links. Education consultant, Fintan O’Regan, also has a number of interesting books such as ‘Successfully Managing ADHD’ as well as a series of podcasts and (paid for) events. (Visit his website here) .

Geraldine Mynors is Chair of the ADHD Parent Support West Glasgow.  

More information

Geraldine joined us for our ADHD and support in school: your child’s rights webinar, held in January 2024. View the recording of our event here

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