How policies can help
Policies and procedures ensure agreed standards are met across all aspects of education, from class size and staffing levels to the acceptable behaviour of children. Many policies are directly relevant to a child with ADHD, for example:
- All children should have equal opportunities regardless of factors including race, religion or disability.
Special education needs:
- Most countries offer support to children with special educational needs
- Some schools have access to additional funding for specific children.
- Every child has the right to learn in a safe and secure environment that does not tolerate bullying.
- Countries limit the maximum number of children in a classroom setting, dependent on age, the special needs of the children, and number of staff.
- No child should be discriminated against if they have any form of disability.
Policies vary between schools and it may be useful for parents and carers to examine their child’s school policies and consider how they can help to make the case for ADHD support. Policies can usually be obtained from the school office in printed form or via their website.
Using policies to get support
Schools will have multiple policies. It can be important to become familiar with the ones relevant for your child. These areas can include the following:
- Extra support available in the classroom and at break times
- Knowledge and experience of teachers working with ADHD
- Extra teaching support during lessons
- School’s policies on children with ongoing medical conditions, including support provided
- Average number of children in lessons
- School’s policies on discipline and punishment
- School’s policies on the areas included within the child’s school reports, e.g. are behaviour and attitude a major part of the report?
- School’s policies on homework
- Extra support available to children, such as extra time in tests
- Communication with parents.
You can follow up with the school on any of these areas over time to check that the policies are carried out effectively in relation to your child.
School policies on extra-curricular activities
The school’s policies may also cover extra-curricular or after-school activities such as music, drama or sport. It has been shown that children with ADHD who take part in physical activity have improved academic performance, and this may help to improve their self-esteem.
Policies on extra-curricular activities may cover areas including:
- Teacher to child ratios
- Level of instruction.
Sharing your child’s interests and previous extra-curricular activities with the school may help them to identify activities that can help the child. For example,
- A fidgeting child may gain focus and control through martial arts
- An artistic child may be able to express themselves through painting or pottery
- A shy child with low self-esteem may gain confidence and be able to express themselves through drama and music
- A hyperactive or high energy child may benefit from dancing or a vigorous sport.
Getting support for your child
If you feel that school policies are not being fully implemented for your child, it is important to tell the school about the areas of concern.
If you do not have a copy of the school’s policies, obtain them from the school directly or via its website.
Examine the policies or refresh your knowledge, noting the key areas relevant to your child.
What was agreed with the school when your child started?
Make sure that any requests for support are in line with this.
Find relevant local, regional or national education policies on the internet.
How do they differ from what is actually happening at school?
Meet to discuss your views with your child’s teacher and the findings of your research, as well as feedback from your child. You may also obtain a written statement from the child’s healthcare professional to support you.
Resolve issues that have arisen in respect of policy breaches with the teacher or school.
It is always a good idea to keep records of:
You may also want to contact your local ADHD support group. You may be able to speak to other parents with similar experiences who may be able to offer help.
Working with the teacher
It is important that there is at least one person with whom the child has a positive relationship, and this may be the child’s teacher. The more a teacher knows about a child with ADHD, the more they can plan for integrating them into the classroom.
It can be helpful to meet with your child’s teacher(s) as soon as possible, or before the child starts at a new school, to explain ADHD and how it differs to other conditions. You can also explain how ADHD affects your child and how this might affect their behaviour and their approach to schoolwork.
If you are unable to meet with your child’s teacher, consider writing to the teacher/school, setting out what ADHD means for your child. You can download and edit this sample letter to make it relevant for the needs of your child.
Managing medication at school
Medication is one possible treatment option for children with ADHD, alongside other approaches such as behaviour management and counselling for both children and their families.3
Medication may be prescribed to children with ADHD to help them manage their ADHD at home and at school. It may help them to:
- Be less hyperactive/impulsive
- Increase their attention
- Reduce their aggression at school and at home
- Internalise their symptoms less
- Improve their social skills
- Improve academic achievement (at reading, maths and spelling).
Any child with medical needs should receive appropriate care and support while at school. It can help to give the school a letter from the prescribing doctor outlining how to take the medication. School medication policies can cover areas including:
Checklist: Areas to consider as parents
Is there a policy setting out school responsibilities for managing a child’s medication at school?
If the school doesn’t have a nurse, what are the policies and procedures for the management of medication by another member of the staff?
What are your responsibilities as parents/carers in managing the child’s ADHD medication at school?
What information about ADHD medication should you provide to the school?
Have you discussed with the prescriber the possibility of the child taking the medication outside school hours?
Are records kept at school of your child’s medication?
What is the school’s policy on storing medicines?
What should be in a school’s policy on managing medication?
What practical steps are needed for your child to safely and discretely take medication?
Monitoring medication in the classroom
Teachers can play an important role in assessing the effect that medication can have on the child in the classroom. Feedback from the teacher on the effects of the child’s medication can be passed to the child’s doctor or healthcare specialist so that dosing adjustments can be made if necessary. Teachers can watch for:
- Positive (and negative) changes in behavior
- Potential side effects of medication.
If a change in behaviour occurs, teachers should note how long it lasts and inform the child’s parents/carers. This information is very important for the child’s doctor as it will help them to understand whether the dose is adequate and if it is lasting them through the school day.