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Understanding ADHD in school

The signs of ADHD in school

ADHD can create unique challenges within the school environment. Sometimes, these challenges might be mistaken for a lack of interest or defiance. Recognising the signs of ADHD in a school context is essential to provide the right support. Here are common behaviours associated with ADHD that might not always be well understood: - **Difficulty Following Instructions**: Some individuals with ADHD struggle to listen and follow instructions during lessons. - **Restlessness and Boredom**: Students with ADHD might exhibit signs of restlessness by fidgeting, daydreaming, or doodling in class. - **Disorganization**: ADHD can lead to disorganization, with books scattered, bags in disarray, and missed deadlines. - **Time Management Hurdles**: Poor time management often results in arriving late and difficulty meeting deadlines. - **Impulsivity and Disruption**: ADHD can manifest as impulsivity, leading to interruptions, talking out of turn, or distracting classmates. - **Anxiety and Overachieving**: Some students with ADHD may experience anxiety and compensate by striving for excellence, even though they face challenges.

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The hidden struggle of those with ADHD

Another aspect of ADHD, less commonly known, involves students who may appear anxious and rule-abiding. They put immense effort into conforming to expectations. Their fast thought processes make it tough to control their responses, causing anxiety about unintentional rule-breaking. They work tirelessly to fit in, often leading to exhaustion, with symptoms mostly emerging at home. These individuals can also experience ADHD meltdowns, similar to sensory overload in autistic individuals. Their behaviours may include: - **Arriving Excessively Early**: Due to a fear of being late. - **Anxiety-Related Symptoms**: Often alongside an anxiety diagnosis. - **Difficulty Focusing in Class**: Despite performing well on independent assignments at home. - **Occasional Misbehaviour**: Resulting in confusion among teachers and feelings of shame in the student. - **Volunteering for Tasks**: To have legitimate movement during class. - **Appearing as a Model Student at School**: While excessively worrying about low grades and how they're perceived by school staff at home. These symptoms may not be easily noticeable to others, which can make self-advocacy and diagnosis challenging. It's important to understand that ADHD can present differently in each person, emphasizing the need for teachers and parents to be attuned to various signs. Students with inattentive or combination-type ADHD might display symptoms related to anxiety as they work hard to cope with their challenges.

For individuals struggling with potential ADHD symptoms, seeking a professional assessment, ideally from a psychiatrist, is crucial for an accurate diagnosis. This is especially important to distinguish ADHD from other conditions and ensure they receive the right treatment and support.


To assist in the diagnostic process, it can be helpful to compile a list of symptoms aligned with ADHD diagnostic criteria. For a comprehensive list of ADHD symptoms and further information, you can access our resource here.

Supporting ADHD Students in School: Effective Strategies

When it comes to aiding ADHD students in a school environment, understanding the behaviours associated with ADHD is key. It's important to recognize that these behaviours are not a constant display of poor conduct but rather a call for specific types of support. Here are some strategies to provide support: 1. **Use Alarms and Reminders**: Allow students to set alarms and reminders on their phones or watches to assist with time management throughout the school day. 2. **Music as a Concentration Aid**: Permit students to listen to music during lessons if it helps them concentrate and block out external distractions. 3. **Movement Breaks**: Encourage students to run errands to offices and other classes. This provides them with movement breaks during lessons without drawing attention from their peers. 4. **Fidget Toys**: Provide fidget toys like Blue Tac or encourage doodling to help students manage restlessness and maintain focus. 5. **Gentle Redirecting**: Instead of disciplining a student for daydreaming, gently approach them and tap them on the shoulder to bring their attention back to the lesson. 6. **Question Allowance**: Allow a set number of questions per class that are not related to the current topic. Any additional questions can be written down for later. Offer to address these questions via email a specific number of times per term. 7. **Homework Support**: Collaborate with other staff to ensure students are aware of homework due dates. If possible, break down assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. 8. **Emphasize Learning Journey**: Remind students that the educational experience is about the journey, not just reaching the destination. This can help refocus their attention if they become overly task-oriented. 9. **Self-Regulation**: Encourage students to monitor their behaviour. If they become overly hyperactive, suggest they refer to school rules and take note of their activity levels. Consider allowing short, brisk walks around the school grounds before returning to class. It's important to note that these are just examples, and the support provided should be customized for each individual student. Tailoring strategies to the unique needs of ADHD students can greatly enhance their educational experience and overall well-being.

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