Most ADHD kids have problems in school but surprisingly, many do not have academic problems. Many ADHD kids are able to, in their own disorganized and unique way, excel in the academics of the school environment.
ADHD kids in schools that allow for a great deal of personal choice, such as Montessori schools, schools that allow for and encourage movement, such as Waldorf schools or schools that have a devotion to the creative curriculum approach such as Reggio-Emilia schools are ideal for kids with ADHD. In these environments, ADHD kids often excel academically.
The problems that all ADHD kids have in school, the problems that school curriculums rarely address or even recognize, are social problems. Our Inattentive type ADHD kids tend to be introverted and/or socially immature, our Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD kids tend to be aggressive and/or socially immature and the end result is that many ADHD kids find school difficult not because of the course work but because of the ‘playground’ or social work.
I believe that all learning is emotional. Think back on the last time you really were excited about learning something. You either found something that you loved and that you wanted to learn more about, you found a contagious teacher that got you energized about something or you had a friend, family member or co-worker that was into something that you wanted to be a part of.
I believe that if you are not emotionally involved in what you are learning, you cannot learn and if you are not socially comfortable, you will have difficulty attending to the academics of school. People learn best when they are engaged with people that they love. A child who dreads the social aspect of school cannot learn. I child who feels isolated at school, cannot learn. A child, who goes to a school where they feel no one knows or ‘gets’ them, cannot learn.
Schools can help with these ADHD school social problems by encouraging and teaching social interaction skills, by having teachers take a leading role in getting to really know every child, and by encouraging friendships. A beloved teacher that takes a socially inept child under their wing is often the key that opens the door to a child’s academic excellence.
ADHD kids do not need many friends. Studies have proven that all that is required is one friend. One friend can make the difference between social isolation and having a sense that you ‘belong’. Just having one friend goes a very long way and sometimes parents need to help ADHD children find and develop that one friendship.
Not all ADHD school problems are academic. Many ADHD kids excel at the academics of school but dread the social aspect of the school environment. Schools need to spend more time attending to the emotional and social aspects of learning and realize that the emotional life of teachers and students plays a critical role in the learning process.
Some ADHD kids will have both academic and social problems but surprisingly, many academic ADHD problems will improve once the social issues improve. Parents can help by selecting schools that pay attention to emotions and social skills in the classroom and teachers and school counselors can help ADHD kids by recognizing that the social aspects of school are as important as the academics. Many ADHD school problems can be improved by acknowledging that before kids can learn, they must feel emotionally engaged and socially secure.