Over these past couple of days I have been saddened and shocked in equal measure.
I have been reading multiple reports from parents about how their children, who have an ADHD diagnosis, are being treated at school.
Read on and weep…
A teenager being told to move away from a friendship group or he is likely to be excluded.
A parent is being fined for her daughter’s non-attendance despite the mum attempting every day to get her daughter to school.
A 6 year old missing her breaks because she hasn’t completed her work.
A teacher writing a report about a pupil “he is unconcerned about the lack of work he produces and will ignore class instructions”.
A pupil being sent to an isolation room with no other contact for a whole day.
A child saying he is scared of the teaching assistant.
A parent being told by school staff not to apply for an EHCP assessment as academically they are within expected levels. This is despite the child having on-going emotional, social and sensory needs.
These are our babies who we send into the institution of school every day for 6 hours. We are trusting the professionals to look after them, make them feel safe, teach them stuff that matters and to be kind.
I was a teacher for 30 years and worked with some incredible professionals. I have trained teachers in many schools and I see some fantastic practices.
Teachers are still not being trained at university to understand and make accommodations for ADHD.
So the result is that there is little understanding what our children with ADHD actually need.
There is the assumption that if the school puts in punitive measures, put their name on a sad cloud, threaten red cards, keep in at break, detentions and exclusions, then the behaviour will change.
In reality, behaviour will not change as our little people have neurodiverse brains.
This means they may be:
If our children are punished, shamed and blamed instead of supported, their self-worth will be rock bottom.
Look at this shocking statistic:
How do you think a little person feels if they are constantly hearing low-level criticism, complaints and negative messages?
They feel hopeless. We are perhaps damaging their future life chances. This is serious.
So I think two things should happen:
1⃣ Teachers must receive up to date ADHD training so they can make ‘reasonable adjustments’ and accommodations to support our children
2⃣ We must empower our young people to ask for what they need
So how do you do this….?
1. ADHD Training For Teachers
There are now many organisations that offer ADHD training. Pass on information to the school SENCO or Head of Year. Share infographics, information, articles, memes – anything that will give staff more understanding what is ADHD.
Here are my details for ADHD training and I am willing to travel anywhere in the UK www.yellow-sun.com/adhd
Inform staff that ADHD is a neurological condition that affects how the neurons fire in the brain. The signals in the brain that control behaviour, impulses, emotions and movement are not consistently firing. So the brain is sending weak signals to the body and the resulting behaviour is seen as a problem.
Your child is not being deliberately naughty. Their brain is functioning in a different way.
To support your child at school therefore, teachers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’.
Depending on your child’s needs, these could include:
- use a laptop
- movement break
- noise cancelling ear buds
- kick band on a chair
- fiddle equipment
- task written out in small steps on post-it notes
- visual schedule
- chair with a back rather than a stool
- help younger children at breaktime
- eat in a separate room
- adult to write out date, title and Learning Objective
- use practical equipment
- extra time
- copy of slides
- calming area
- give notice of any changes
- watch with an alarm
- plan to de-escalate emotions
- and so on and on………………….
It is up to the adults to make the environment suitable and to have realistic expectations what your child can manage. The threat of a punishment will make them angry, disconnected and oppositional.
Find ways to make a pupil feel successful, valued and heard.
2. Empower Your Child
First off, normalise ADHD in your home, speak about it, share positive role models and make ADHD an okay thing to talk about.
In my book ‘ADHD Is Our Superpower‘ I flip thinking about ADHD in a negative way and instead see the positives such as being curious, creative, fearless and hypervigilant.
Get your child to show off that they have ADHD as it makes them think in a different way and they are a fantastic and fearless problem-solvers. Share their successes and praise, praise, praise.
Now, how do you get your child what they are entitled to at school?
First off, establish a good relationship with SENCO or Head of Year. Set up regular meetings and keep an email trail.
Then, sit down with your child and write a document for the school. You can scribe whilst they dictate.
- what works well in school
- what doesn’t work well in school
- what I need to help me
- what the adults can do to help
Give your child an opportunity to say exactly what they think should be happening in school. Give your child a voice.
Share this document with the SENCO. This should form part of a termly meeting where parents and staff draw up a SEND Plan. This plan should highlight the reasonable adjustments (see above) and then shared with every member of staff.
Make sure your child is familiar with their SEND Plan.
If they feel able, they can ask members of staff for the things they need. This should be done as respectfully as possible and staff should oblige. If not, contact SENCO immediately and maybe see the school’s Complaints Policy on their website.
Your child is entitled to a ‘full and balanced curriculum’ according to the SEND Code of Practice 2014. In addition, they should not be discriminated against because of their ‘disability’ according to the Equalities Act 2010. The UN Rights of the Child states that all children deserve the right to Education and to Play.
School could be a happy place for your child. There shouldn’t be barriers to attend. It is so easy to put adjustments and accommodations in place to meet their needs. It is neither expensive or complicated.
So we all need to talk more about ADHD. Let’s bust this stigma. Let’s get rid of the notion it’s about naughty boys throwing chairs.
Our children have neurodiverse brains that mean they struggle with all the requirements that the school system demands. Sitting still, walking in a straight line, taking turns, waiting.
Instead our children need an environment where they can use their amazing brains to be creative and inventive. Where they can feel free to be expressive, to move and to do things in a different way.
Let’s talk about ADHD. Let’s start to get it right.