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8 ways to support children with ADHD return to school


Returning to school after the summer holidays is a time of mixed emotions and for some children, heightened anxiety. The disruptions caused by the pandemic over the last two academic years mean that there is still much uncertainty about exactly how ‘normal’ schools can be. This is unsettling for everyone, but especially for children with additional needs such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Here are 8 tips to help make your child’s transition back to school as smooth as possible:

Talk about the ‘new normal’

Guidelines around what we can or can’t do seem to be ever-changing and it’s important that your child knows as much as possible about how their school will be. You need to discuss any changes they will see around school. Allow them to ask you questions and address any unanswered queries to the school. Even during holiday time, there should be someone available to answer emails.

Be prepared

You can never be too prepared or too organised. At the start of a new school year, there is lots to organise and it’s wise to start it early. Make sure you know what resources your child may need. This could include any uniform changes, new equipment, and ensuring that all the resources your child needs to have a successful day at school are in place. 

ADHD kids may also have sensory needs. It’s a good idea to allow them to ‘wear in’ their uniform if they need time to get used to it. This is particularly important for shoes or any items of uniform such as a tie that may feel restrictive.

Help your child to stay organised with what they may need on different days. Encourage them to take ownership by getting them involved in the process. Create checklists, timetables and clearly label items to make this as easy as possible for your child.

Imitate the school routine

Children with ADHD need to have a consistent routine. This ensures that they know what to expect and helps to keep them focussed. A good morning routine will help to ensure that your child is calm prior to starting school, setting the tone for the day ahead. Equally an after school routine is just as important. This may include some downtime or homework study time.

If your routine has changed over the holiday period, start setting an alarm at the time you need to get up for school a few days before school starts. You can also practice doing a few concentrated activities at around the time the school day begins. This gives a child with ADHD time to adjust to the new routine.

If your child is young enough, you could do some role-play activities where you can play schools and let them be the teacher. This is a great way to find out what they really think about school and address any concerns.

Work together with school staff

By working closely with the staff at your child’s school, you can ensure that there is consistency in place between home and school, making for a smoother transition. If you know what your child’s school timetable is then you can help to prepare them for the day ahead, ensuring they are organised in advance and know what to expect.

Having good communication strategies in place with your child’s school will give you a better insight into how they are at school, and areas where they may need additional support, either at school or at home. Even if you were able to discuss arrangements for your child with school staff before the end of the last term, it’s a good idea to set up a meeting with someone early on in the term so you can address any concerns you may have. It’s also reassuring for a child to know that home and school work together closely to help them as much as possible.

Be optimistic

If your child senses you are worrying about how they will cope at school, they will worry too. While it’s completely understandable for a parent to have these thoughts, it’s better if you and your child can look forward to starting school again. Be sure to praise their achievements and provide them with stability if they require support. Returning to school can be a big step for kids with ADHD, especially if they get anxious and/or are transitioning to a new school.

Meet other children and parents

If possible, encourage your child to meet up with other children from school before they go back. It helps to cement and maintain friendships and means the first day back may not feel quite so strange. It can also benefit parents to meet other parents, especially if you have particular concerns in relation to the educational setting.

Take it one day at a time

Remember nobody knows your child as well as you do and it might take time for them to settle back to school. While we can be optimistic that there won’t be further periods of lockdown or self-isolation, nobody actually knows how the next few months will be. It’s completely natural and normal for parents and children to be anxious during these uncertain times.

Last but not least…

Remember to monitor ADHD symptoms carefully as they may be affected by changes in routine and environment. If your child takes ADHD medication, it’s worth monitoring this too, especially if they have been on the same dosage for a while or had a growth spurt.

Further help and guidance

At The ADHD Centre, Our clinical team of Specialist ADHD Consultant Psychiatrists, Coaches and Therapists are highly experienced and offer only the latest evidence-based treatments to ensure that our clients get the help that they need quickly, safely, and effectively. We offer a wide range of effective treatments which are always individually tailored to best suit your specific needs.

If you would like further support with managing symptoms for you or a loved one, then contact us at the ADHD Centre on 0800 061 4276 or via [email protected] We offer private ADHD assessment for children (and adults) and ADHD treatments. 

Free resources

Our FREE E-Book Helping Children with ADHD to Thrive is full of information about child ADHD and has some useful tips for parents and carers.

If your child loves technology you might find this blog useful The Seven best apps to help kids with ADHD thrive

Updated August 2021

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