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Parents of ADHD Children

How medication helps at school

I just got back from meeting with my son’s teacher and thought the discussion was interesting enough to share and get feedback on.

My son is 11 and just started Biphentin (ritalin type medication) in December.  Up until this year, he was considered mild/moderate ADHD and some accommodations at school and at home were enough.  This year I believe that a combination of things made things explode for him, so that his grades had dropped two grade levels and he was getting into trouble, etc.  I think it was the new environment (middle school vs. elementary), the age (lots of brain development at this age according to his psychiatrist) and harder work (e.g. math can’t be done in his head anymore, but requires several steps and planning).

Since going on the medication I’ve noticed a drop in anxiety at home, but not a whole lot else.  To be fair, I don’t get to see the effects much… the medication hasn’t kicked in yet in the mornings before he leaves for school, and I’m pretty sure it’s worn off or wearing off in the afternoon when he gets home (Biphentin starts strong then fades off to avoid the crash that many of the medications have).  So basically I’m having to rely on his teacher for feedback as to how it’s going in class.  She filled out another questionnaire for his doctor and it showed positive improvements in many areas.  She said it’s huge.

Well he took a math test last week and got 58%.  Not good.  He knew it really well all weekend when we were studying, but… So I was thinking “How can she be saying she’s seeing all this progress and he’s still getting these grades?!?”

The difference, as I understand it, is that he is now WILLING to do the work, where before he would just completely shut down.  He’s still getting overwhlemed by word problems (there’s a lot to sort out before you can even begin to answer the question, plus there are usually multiple parts).  And he’s still not always answering every question to the fullest (e.g. on a three part question, he may only answer the first two parts).  And he still tries to rush and isn’t always giving his best work.  But she said he wasn’t the first one finished this time.  He’s willing to go back and recheck his work.  He’s involved in discussions and not making random comments anymore.  He’s not just walking out of class, but will come and ask her if he can go.  He’s staying on topic more and participating more, and she says his peers are noticing (or not noticing… he’s fitting in more, rather than standing out).

Are these the types of things you (or their teacher) see in your own kids?  A willingness to try, but not necessarily trying as hard as they can?  Or a willingness to try, but maybe not succeeding yet?


Yes. My daughter has been on Ritalin for a couple of years.  This year she was having a lot of difficulty with math. Her first test was a 33. Her most recent was an 83. That’s progress! She enjoys math very much despite her “failures” and she sees the progress. We celebrate every time the score goes higher. She’s in third grade.

Posted by Speduc8r on Mar 05, 2014 at 4:22am

That’s the thing, medication is a huge help, but not a cure-all. The kids still have their ADHD challenges, it’s just that medication makes it easier to manage. The most important thing is that your son’s teachers report the behavioral improvements in class even if the grades are not where they could be.

My son’s grades go up and down even though his medication is working great. He can function in class where as he couldn’t before. His teachers have all said it’s like night and day, but he still had ADHD issues such as losing papers, not completing things, missing details, getting distracted, etc. It’s just part of the condition. We just have to help them manage it as best we can. Any kind of extra stress or fatigue and we have bad days. At this age they’re starting to go through all of the pre-teen/teen changes which aren’t going to be all that fun.

It’s gotten better over the years though. My son’s grades should be good all the time, however I do my best not to pressure him since I know he’s doing the best that he can. It’s hard as a parent not to worry though.

Hang in there! As long as your son’s teachers are happy with his progress that’s the best gage to go by. The grades will go up as the abilities to cope increase although at times they need extra help/attention in order to keep improving. It’s never easy.

Posted by Havebeenthere on Mar 05, 2014 at 5:58am

It is more important that he feel good about himself than the actual grade. And he may have been much farther behind than you realized. People with ADHD are good at finding work arounds for things they can’t do. Just look at any adult with ADHD!

Bottom line is in the grand scheme of life what will matter most is that he feels capable, and like he’s allowed to try, to reach to stretch, not the particular grade. The grade is not the education!  Focus on his education and what he’s learning about himself. One grade won’t matter six months from now but if he learns from your stress that no matter how hard he tries it’s not good enough for you, well low self esteem can be a life sentence. Relax and tell him you’re proud of him. Let the meds give him the chance to make up the ground he lost and believe the teacher.

Posted by YellaRyan on Mar 05, 2014 at 6:37am

School also became more challenging for our son by grades 6 and 7.  He had more than one teacher and school work became harder.

My first thought is that you may want to look at your medicine. I am not familiar with Biphentin.  My son is on Concerta, and it usually lasts 10 - 12 hours. He usually takes it an hour before school starts so it starts working when he gets there. It continues to work until dinner time so we also get the added benefit of the medication after school.  Better behaviour and this is when he does his homework.

But also remember: babysteps.  Your son is moving in the right direction and that is the best part.  He may just need to get used to being medicated and being able to focus.

Posted by staypositive on Mar 05, 2014 at 6:44am

According to my research, Biphentin and Concerta are both methylphenidate (same as Ritalin) and both last about the same amount of time. The difference is how they’re released… Concerta in three layers by capsule, Biphentin in two by capsule or you can open the capsule and sprinkle the little beads inside into yogurt or something for kids who have a hard time swallowing pills (mine does for sure). Biphentin isn’t available in the States (we’re in Canada).

Posted by Rai0414 on Mar 05, 2014 at 1:17pm

Thanks for all the comments so far. I think I need to shift my focus slightly. I think I thought the medication would bring him back up to where he was in the earlier years, and maybe it would have if it was only the ADHD at play here. I think he’s got some skills to learn. And it’s sinking in that I need to be looking at a longer timeframe for this. But at least the medication is helping… it’s making it possible for him to learn what he needs to, where before he was just sinking.

Posted by Rai0414 on Mar 05, 2014 at 1:25pm

My son was on oral meds for two year. We put him on a patch in January. The difference is like night and day. Now, instead of having to sit on my son to get him to do a single problem in math, he comes home, sits down and does it without even being asked. I have been told that the school has achieved similar results. He doesn’t require constant reminding to get him to initiate and complete a task. He just sits down and does it. He even does a little extra. This week, he completed his online division drills, he’s in third grade, in a single day. Up to that point, he was doing one a day.

The only downside to meds is that, although he is more task oriented, he is less sociable.

I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but I hope it is.
Susan in PC, Ohio

Posted by SueH on Mar 05, 2014 at 6:27pm

Medication doesn’t “cure” ADHD—nothing can. It’s important to keep that top of mind when debating the efficacy of ADHD medication. Most of what you are describing as lingering struggles are part of executive functioning. Medication can’t help with that. Medication slows our kids down enough to be able to learn the skills they lack over time though.

If the behavior has improved, now it’s time to work on teaching these skills. You can teach some organization and planning, but it takes a lot of consistency and a lot of time. Years in fact, I believe.

There’s a great webinar archive on on executive functioning and academic success that you will find very helpful. Listen to the archive here:

But, again, you have to shift your expectations with ADHD. Your child will always struggle some with planning and organization—your job is to help them learn as much of those skills as possible—not “fix” the problem, because there isn’t a “fix” for being born with a different brain.

You are making great progress! Make that your goal and you and your child will do a lot better.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Mar 05, 2014 at 6:41pm

I’ve been thinking more about his math test… he got most of the first page right.  There were a few mistakes, but mostly things seemed good there.  The second page it looked like there were some mistakes because he didn’t take the time to go through each of the steps he needed to and write out each problem.  That seems like something he will learn.  There were also some questions he didn’t even touch.  He didn’t realise he’d missed them.  Then the last page was three word problems.  He attempted two, but pretty much blanked on the whole page really.  I’m wondering if maybe he was overwhelmed and just done at that point?  I know with homework, if he was doing that much work he’d need a break in between the pages at least. I wonder if it would be a possibility to break it up for him at all?  It’s a test, so I don’t know what the rules are, but I really do think he would have done better if he’d not gotten overwhelmed…

Posted by Rai0414 on Mar 05, 2014 at 9:36pm

In the US, I would recommend a 504 plan to give him more time.  I don’t know if you have something like that in Canada.  But, I would think that the teacher might not mind.  The other thing is to get him used to timing himself.  Allocate a certain amount of time for each page.  Never spend a lot of time on one problem!  Many kids will get locked into that problem and not get to problems that may have been a lot easier.  In other words, skip the ones he is not sure about, and then come back to them if he has the time.  He will need to practice this a home.
  One thing to keep in mind is that math is cumulative knowledge.  He is bound to have holes from his prior years of not paying attention.  Sometimes a good tutor can do wonders in helping to catch up.

Posted by Sandman2 on Mar 06, 2014 at 4:00am


Testing accommodations are common for special needs kids in the US. I don’t know anything about education laws in Canada, but I bet you can show the teachers what you noticed about the test and ask that he be able to take a break during tests longer than 20 minutes, or whatever time is right for him. He can take a break that won’t compromise the validity of the test.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Mar 06, 2014 at 6:38pm

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