ADHD or School?

Caitlin’s teacher called. Caitlin was acting up in class, wasn’t paying attention and often didn’t bother finishing her work. Sometimes she just "zoned out."

Caitlin’s teacher was concerned.

She knew that Caitlin was one of the brightest kids in her class. Knew Caitlin could do excellent work. Could get straight As.

Then the teacher suggested to Caitlin’s Mom that she thought Caitlin had ADHD.

That Caitlin should be tested. Perhaps put on a drug for the disorder. Caitlin’s Mom was stunned. How could she have missed this?

So what should Caitlin’s parents do? Agree with the teacher? Tell the pediatrician that the teacher said their daughter has ADHD? Ask for a prescription?

If Caitlin’s parents do a bit of homework—even a quick internet search—they’d soon discover that ADHD isn’t something a child (or an adult) has just at school or just at home or just when they go to Grandma’s house.

Children with ADHD have this behavior in at least two different environments and often in almost every situation--except for playing video games and doing things they're passionately interested in.

In Caitlin’s example, school was the only place she exhibited ADHD behavior, and she didn’t show any of these tendencies in school last year. So Caitlin’s folks can rule out ADHD.

But what’s going on instead? Why is Caitlin acting up at school?

Turns out Caitlin isbored at school with work that’s too easy for her. Last year her teacher understood this and gave Caitlin some interesting projects to work on.

Caitlin’s parents solved the problem by choosing to home school her and their other children. But what if that’s not an option in your family? You don’t want to do homeschooling. What can you do?

  1. Discuss the situation with Caitlin. Show her that you understand what’s going on. That you know the work isn’t challenging. Avoid saying negative things about the teacher. Ask Caitlin to help think of a solution. Let her know that being disruptive in class because she’s bored isn’t o.k. with you.


  1. Talk to Caitlin's teacher. Explain what you think is going on. Ask for the teacher’s help. Does she have any suggestions? Show a willingness to work together.


  1. If talking to the teacher and figuring out how to make the work more challenging for Caitlin doesn’t work, talk to the school principal. Perhaps Caitlin could be transferred to another class.  Find out what options are available.


  1. If the problem persists, look into choosing another school for Caitlin. Perhaps a good charter school with a more challenging curriculum.

Always investigate the situation completely when a teacher suggests that your child might have ADHD.

Teachers, no matter how dedicated, aren’t trained to recognize or diagnose ADHD. Their job is to let you know behaviorally what’s going on with your kids, not what disorder might be causing that behavior.

Once you have this information, you can relate it to your child’s pediatrician without suggesting that the teacher said it was ADHD.

And for more guidelines on what to say to your child’s pediatrician plus a checklist of factors that can look like ADHD, get your free copy of “Maybe It Isn’t ADHD After All."  Sign up on the form in the right-side bar at the top of this page.

Leave a comment. What solutions have you discovered to help kids when they're bored?  Or when school is too easy?

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About Dr. MaryJo Wagner

MaryJo Wagner, PhD, helps you help your kids transform ADHD behavior for success. Sign up at Coaching & Accountability to get your questions answered with a complimentary Transformation Session.

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