ADHD & School

When we talk about ADHD among children and adolescents in the UK, a study showed that 10,284 new cases were diagnosed between 2004 and 2013, with the highest incidence among children between 7 and 9 years old, most commonly observed during primary school. 1

As school is the place where symptoms are most commonly seen, it is essential to know how to recognise ADHD symptoms and behaviour traits. School can be really challenging for children with ADHD, and they can find some tasks difficult, such as sitting still, listening and following instructions, and concentrating. A school setting requires all of these mentioned tasks all day long, and this is why children with ADHD can struggle at school, not because they are not willing to complete these tasks but because their brains often do not let them.

It is essential to highlight that this does not mean children with ADHD can’t succeed at school, they absolutely can, but there are many strategies that school staff and parents can take to help them succeed in the classroom.

The student with ADHD can:

  • Be distractible
  • Present incomplete/sloppy works or forgets homework
  • Have difficulty following instructions
  • often rock on their chair
  • often lose materials
  • show reckless/ act without thinking
  • make inappropriate comments
  • often be a victim of bullying
  • often interrupt during classes

Students with severe ADHD can also have low self-esteem, underachieve at school, develop emotional and social problems, and be at risk of school exclusion. Therefore, providing a diagnosis will help the child and their families to take the correct actions to improve their daily struggles.

Some things that we can do to help our children with their learning development, whether it is at school or at home:

-Understand how they feel

-Establish structure (regular routine and rituals)

-Create a quiet place

-Explain rules and responsibilities

-Reward schemes

First of all, teachers and parents need to understand how the child might feel and how they see the world surrounding them. They might have different thoughts simultaneously and be confused, so having an adult who understands this is a big deal for them. By understanding the needs of students with ADHD, we can provide different methods to improve their learning.

It is helpful to have a structure so that the child knows what to expect and what exactly they are expected to do, making them feel safe and secure. That is to say, following a routine and setting a time and place for their tasks (for example: having their meals, doing homework, playing, going to sleep), and to avoid confusion, don’t give them more than one task at a time. Moreover, having a quiet and private place at home can also help them feel they have their own space.

When explaining tasks to them, try to keep all instructions short and straightforward and keep eye contact as possible. When you approach them, speak clearly and concisely, and try to give instructions in a “step-by-step” way, making it easier for them to remember their responsibilities. Suppose the young person is having behaviour issues. In that case, teachers can also sit down with them at school, explain a list of rules and responsibilities, and explain what is not acceptable in this environment.

Finally, but not least, parents and teachers can work with a reward scheme, making a chart, for example, with points awarded for good behaviours, so that they can visualise their success. Making sure the child gets to know when they have done well will boost their confidence.

Here are some valuable resources:

Books for parents/carers

-Step-by-step Help for Children with ADHD. A self-help manual for parents by David Daley, Cathy Laver-Bradbury, Anne Weeks, E Sonuga-Barke, and Margaret Thompson

-Understanding ADHD. A parent’s Guide to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children by Dr Christopher Green and Dr Kit Chee.

Support Groups

-ADHD Foundation


  1. Source: Hire AJ, Ashcroft DM, Springate DA, et al. ADHD in the United Kingdom: Regional and Socioeconomic Variations in Incidence Rates Amongst Children and Adolescents (2004-2013). J Atten Disord 2018;22:134–42. doi:10.1177/1087054715613441