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Tips That Can Help Anyone With ADHD Be More Successful At School

For those with ADHD, summer can often be a welcome respite from hectic school schedules and homework. The first few months of a new school year, however, can often mean added stress and anxiety — not just for those who live with ADHD, but for the entire family as they return to the school mindset.

Getting back into the swing of things doesn’t have to be a major challenge. Whether you’re newly diagnosed with ADHD, have been living with ADHD for a few years, or you’re a parent of a child with ADHD, there are plenty of things you can do to make the back-to-school transition as smooth as possible.

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with ADHD (or your child has), you may be trying to figure out how to approach school and studying. This can also be especially true for teens and college-aged students.

As a site built by and for people who live with health conditions, we have pooled some of the tips and tricks that are favorites among our community who live with ADHD. If you haven’t already adopted any of these, some ideas that may be worth trying this year include:

1. Find your “prime study time” when you’ll be most attentive to your studies.

If you haven’t done this already, find a study time that works for you and will allow you to best focus on what you need to study. If you are someone who focuses best right after school, then start your homework and studying as soon as you walk in the door. On the other hand, if you are someone who needs to decompress before starting work, take some time to do that (but not so much time that you get too tired!) before beginning your work.


2. Determine what type of environment you thrive in for studying.

Do you prefer absolute quiet when it comes to doing your work? Or do you like to have some white noise or instrumental music playing in the background? Do you work best at your desk or on the floor? Making your study environment comfortable and conducive to learning can help you retain your information better.

3. Use active reading strategies when studying.

These include reading the headings before delving fully into the chapter you’re studying, skimming the chapter to see what comes next, taking notes while reading, and reviewing major points in each chapter.

4. Dislike using traditional planners? Try brain-dumping in a notebook.

Brain-dumping is when you write down your thoughts and ideas on a piece of paper, on a calendar, or in a notebook. Using this method can be beneficial because it can allow you to see everything you’re thinking about and better organize your thoughts in a way that makes sense for you. You can then use color coding, stickers, and other organizational methods to prioritize your brain dump.

5. Establish a routine, but find a balance where you’re not overscheduling yourself.

For ADHDers regardless of age, establishing a routine where you’re not overscheduled is key. You (or your child) may want to do everything at once, but it is important to build some time in your schedule for downtime and self-care. Overscheduling has the ability to lead to burnout and exhaustion.

How Can Parents of Children With ADHD Help Their Children Thrive

Many of those initial tips speak largely to older students who are leading their own study habits, but we recognize the challenge faced by parents of children with ADHD who are not yet of an age where they can independently manage their own education.

In addition to the standard tips, you would find anywhere else on the internet—finding and sticking to a routine—we compiled a few additional ways parents can help their children with ADHD perform better in school:

1. Communicate your child’s needs to their teachers and teachers’ aides on an ongoing basis.

If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, then you can meet with their teachers to discuss how to best work with them to implement the plan in the classroom. Working with your child’s teacher can help them flourish while you know they’re getting exactly the support they need.

2. Practice calming exercises with your child.

Back-to-school and getting back into a routine means new activities, authority figures, environments, and of course, stress. Try doing deep breathing exercises together to relieve excess energy and stress.

3. Use encouraging phrases and positive reinforcement with your child.

One way you can use positive reinforcement with your child with ADHD is to verbally appreciate good behavior when it occurs. When speaking about school, the routine, homework, or other topics related to school, make sure you’re talking about it in a way that’s motivating and uplifting rather than negative or discouraging.

Considerations and Accommodations for ADHD at School

Asking for accommodations for your ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. For children with ADHD, this may look like an IEP or 504 plan. These plans can offer extra time on tests, tailored instruction and assignments, positive reinforcement, and feedback, allowing breaks or time to move around, and extra help with staying organized.

If you’re in college and are looking to request accommodations for your ADHD, common requests may look like extra time for tests and/or a quiet testing environment, access to professor notes or a notetaker in class, priority course registration, course substitutions, reduced course load, or access to certain technologies for reading and writing.

To learn more about all kinds of support options available to students, consider taking a deeper look into our comprehensive guide to IEPs, 504 plans, and other special education services.

Other Resources to Know About

Symptoms, treatment, and coping strategies often dominate conversations around ADHD—and understandably so—but one critical element of life with the condition that can often get lost in all of that: talking about ADHD with others. The social component of ADHD can be challenging, especially when communicating with students, teachers, and administrators who may not be as familiar with the disorder. To that end, Mighty community member Ameera provided these helpful tips on how people living with ADHD can better approach challenging conversations they may find themselves in.

Finally, many people in our ADHD community report experiencing long and uncertain paths to a formal diagnosis. Perhaps you’re reading this article and realizing that many of these tips would benefit you, or recognizing yourself in descriptions of the many ways ADHD manifests? If you are not diagnosed with ADHD and seek more information on this condition that sounds familiar, one place to start is our extensive condition guide devoted to ADHD. 

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