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Is Your Child With ADHD Struggling In School In the UK? Here’s How To Help

Perhaps you’re the carer of a young child who seems to be falling behind their peers at primary school; or, you're the parent of a child with ADHD, and wondering which secondary school will best support their needs.
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Is Your Child With ADHD Struggling In School In the UK? Here’s How To Help

28/01/2024
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Perhaps you’re the carer of a young child who seems to be falling behind their peers at primary school; or, you’re the parent of a child with ADHD, and wondering which secondary school will best support their needs.

Whatever your child’s situation, dealing with the symptoms of ADHD can create frustrating and unwelcome challenges in the educational environment, and you may have observed them struggling in school.

If so, you’re not alone.

ADHD (or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) presents unique challenges in the classroom. The core symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can significantly affect a child’s ability to focus, complete tasks, and engage in structured learning environments.

Recognising the specific struggles young people face is the first step towards a child ADHD assessment, and implementing effective strategies and support.

Today, we’ll walk through practical tips and advice tailored to the UK educational system. From primary school challenges to selecting the right secondary school, we’ll guide you through empowering your child with ADHD to succeed academically and personally.

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What Struggles Do Children With ADHD Face in Schools In the UK?

For children with ADHD in the UK, navigating the school environment can be a challenging experience. The unique characteristics of ADHD can manifest in various ways that impact academic performance and social interactions.

Here are some common struggles that children with ADHD may face in UK schools:

  1. Inattention in the Classroom: Difficulty with focus during lessons can lead to missed instructions, incomplete assignments, and challenges in grasping new concepts.
  2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Restlessness and impulsive behaviours may disrupt the classroom environment, affecting the child’s and their peers’ ability to concentrate.
  3. Organisational Difficulties: Problems with organisation and time management can result in forgotten homework, misplaced materials, and challenges in meeting deadlines.
  4. Social Interactions: ADHD can affect a child’s social skills, making it challenging to navigate friendships and group activities. This may lead to feelings of isolation or being misunderstood.
  5. Academic Underachievement: Despite their potential, children with ADHD may struggle to reach their academic goals due to the impact of ADHD symptoms on learning and performance.
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Why Exam Results Aren’t the Be-All and End-All

In the UK, we’re often conditioned to see exam results as the ultimate metric of academic achievement prevails.

However, for children grappling with ADHD, it’s important to challenge the notion that exam results are the definitive measure of their abilities or potential.

Children with ADHD often possess an array of talents, strengths, and ‘superpowers’ that might not find accurate representation in standardised exams. Creative thinking, problem-solving skills, and unconventional approaches are valuable assets deserving acknowledgment.

Rather, there’s a better way to interpret success for children with ADHD. Instead of adhering strictly to conventional benchmarks, ‘success’ should rather include ideas of individual progress, growth, and the effort invested.

Results from a test are just one benchmark of a child’s development; social skills, emotional well-being, and personal resilience are equally crucial. Exploring alternative assessment methods that cater to diverse learning styles, alongside reasonable accommodations, can offer a more accurate representation of a child’s capabilities.

What Is a SENCO?

In the UK, a SENCO, or Special Educational Needs Coordinator, plays a pivotal role in supporting children with ADHD and other special educational needs.

A SENCO is a designated professional within a school responsible for overseeing the provision of special educational needs (SEN) support. Their primary objective is to ensure that every child, regardless of their learning challenges, receives the necessary assistance to thrive academically and personally.

Key Responsibilities of a SENCO:

  • Identification and Assessment: SENCOs work closely with teachers, parents, and external professionals to identify students with special educational needs and facilitate assessments.
  • Individual Education Plans (IEPs): SENCOs collaborate with teachers to develop Individual Education Plans tailored to the specific needs of each child.
  • Coordination with External Agencies: SENCOs also liaise with external agencies, such as educational psychologists and healthcare providers.
  • Training and Awareness: SENCOs provide training for teachers and staff to enhance their understanding of ADHD and other learning differences, promoting an inclusive school culture that embraces diversity.
  • Monitoring Progress: SENCOs act as advocates and regularly monitor the progress of children with SEN, adjusting support strategies as needed.
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Working With Other Parents and Teachers

Collaboration between parents, teachers, and other school staff is vital in creating a supportive environment for children and students with ADHD in UK schools. Effective communication and teamwork can significantly impact a child’s educational journey.

Here’s how parents and teachers can work together:

Open Communication Channels

Establish open lines of communication. Regular updates on a child’s progress and challenges foster a shared understanding of their needs.

Shared Information

Parents can provide valuable insights into their child’s strengths, weaknesses, and strategies that work at home. Sharing this information allows teachers to tailor their approach in the classroom.

Collaborative Goal Setting

Set shared academic and behavioural goals for the child. A collaborative approach ensures consistent expectations and reinforces productive behaviours.

Parental Involvement

Parents should aim to actively participate in school activities and meetings. Their involvement helps create a unified support system.

Training and Resources

Workshops, webinars, or informational sessions can empower parents and teachers with proactive strategies for supporting children with ADHD.

Consistent Approaches

Aim for consistency between home and school. This reduces confusion for the child.

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Questions To Ask Your Child’s School

Sometimes, you might be seeking clarity on how a school approaches ADHD in the classroom – or how they plan to approach it, if you’re considering one of several secondary schools, for instance.

To help get the information you need, consider asking one or all of the questions below. Remember, it doesn’t need to feel like a confrontation or an audit; it’s about clarity and transparency.

  • Are there other children with ADHD attending the school, or that have attended in the past?
  • Does the school have a SENCO, or designated point of contact, to discuss my child’s school life?
  • Are there any accommodations my child might need in class or exams?
  • Does the school have a way of checking that children take any needed medication?
  • Does the school have any special equipment (eg., designated computers for exams) that can help?
  • Is it possible for important letters and documents to be sent via email?
  • Can I keep a secondary set of books needed for homework at my home?
  • Can I contact school to double-check what homework tasks my child has been assigned?
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How To Help Your Child At School

In general, supporting your child with ADHD in the UK school system involves proactivity and engagement with teachers. Often, a combination of strategies work together best to address their unique needs.

Here are some effective ways to help your child succeed at school:

  • Maintain regular communication: Share information about your child’s strengths, challenges, and any adjustments that have proven successful at home.
  • Create a Support Plan: Work with the school’s SENCO to outline specific strategies and accommodations that address your child’s ADHD-related challenges.
  • Collaborate on Classroom Strategies: Discuss classroom strategies (eg., preferential seating, minimised distractions, consistent routines) to support focus and organisation.
  • Advocate for Reasonable Adjustments: Check that reasonable adjustments (eg., additional support, extra time for exams, or modified assignments) are made, in accordance with the Equality Act.
  • Foster Independence: Encourage independence by teaching organisational skills and time management. Simple tools, like planners or digital apps, can help your child keep track.
  • Reinforce Productive Behaviours: Celebrate your child’s achievements, both big and small. Positive reinforcement can motivate them and build confidence.
  • Stay Informed: Attend parent-teacher meetings and keep up to date with your child’s progress, attendance, and any behavioural concerns.
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Lifestyle Strategies That Can Help

Beyond the school environment, implementing lifestyle strategies at home can complement the support your child receives in school. For example:

  • Healthy Diet: Ensure your child maintains a balanced and nutritious diet.
  • Adequate Sleep: Make sufficient sleep a priority for your child. Create a bedtime routine to promote quality sleep; this plays a crucial role in overall well-being and focus.
  • Regular Exercise: Exercise is linked to improved attention and cognitive function, making it a valuable component of ADHD management.
  • Mindfulness Practices: Introduce mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, to help your child manage stress.
  • Hobbies: Engaging in positive and stimulating pursuits outside of school can also contribute to overall well-being.

Making Sure No Child Struggles Alone

Addressing ADHD in children requires a holistic and collaborative approach that involves parents, educators, and healthcare professionals. Often, the journey begins with parents noticing signs such as persistent inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

From here, your child’s teachers – the frontline observers of in-school behaviour – play a crucial role in providing insights. Open communication between parents and teachers creates a shared understanding of your child’s ADHD across different settings.

Through thorough childhood ADHD assessments, healthcare professionals are then able to diagnose and recommend a treatment plan tailored to the individual needs of your child. Typically, this involves a combination of behavioural therapies, educational support, and, in some cases, medication.

The holistic approach encompasses an understanding of your child as an individual within various contexts, allowing for more effective and compassionate intervention.

To learn more about childhood ADHD assessments at The ADHD Centre, contact us now, or book an assessment today.

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We have been diagnosing and treating people with ADHD since 2009.

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