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Parents of ADHD Children

Meltdowns at School

My ten year old son is having trouble with direction from adults at school.  He has been on Focalin for three years and it has help immensely with attention and hyperactivity but we have a lingering problem with his emotions.  He is not angry but is easy to tears especially out of frustration.  This is not a problem at home because I seem to be able to interrupt the meltdown and calm him before he gets too upset.  However, at school he has multiple episodes a week and is become a burden to the teacher.  He goes to a Montessori school and they have been wonderful in working with us on this journey but we are the juncture where they call a “meeting” to discuss his behavior, again…... I don’t have any ideas for how to help him when I am not around.  He does not respond to his teacher’s attempts to calm him.  She is engaged an eager to help with this but we are all out of ideas.  He is been tested and is extremely smart and in the gifted program as well.  He takes melatonin to help him sleep, I limit screen time and have a strong reward program for good behavior.  I don’t know what else to do.  any ideas?  Thanks!!


My son also goes to a Montessori school (he’s 11).  Nice to meet someone else with an ADHD child who has chosen this path!  The atmosphere is great for them, isn’t it?  Except for the self-motivation part, which is quite challenging.  You’re lucky that the teachers are willing to work with your son. I’ve had lots of resistance because the constant reminders sort of violate the Montessori method, but my son is also gifted, with A.D.D. and dyspraxia, and I actually had to get an IEP in order for them to drop the attitude and start helping him.

In any case, what I did was have my son’s OT go to school one day and spend a few hours observing.  She was able to identify the real trouble spots in the daily routine and make suggestions to the teachers as far as easy changes they could make to make him more successful during the day. If you have an OT, I found this to be a very helpful approach.

If not, have you tried going and observing yourself?  Perhaps you can see where their style differs from yours and give them pointers on how to head off the meltdowns and get your son back on track.  You could also write up a list of things that work for you at home, and maybe they could implement some of your ideas.

Do you have a 504 or an IEP? When I had the school’s ESE and psychiatrist do the testing for my son’s IEP, they learned quite a lot about his areas of weakness, and they started using some different tools/approaches.  It has helped a lot, and we no longer have the constant stress of wondering when they’re going to throw us out!

Communication and sharing ideas is key, and it sounds like you’re doing that.  I would call in a pro (like the OT) and have them evaluate what is being done and what could be done differently to make things work better for your son.

Good luck!

Posted by JAMurphy on Feb 15, 2014 at 9:59pm

People with ADHD suffer from overwhelm rather easily in my observation of my daughter, my husband, and friends’ kids.  I think overwhelm is the spark of meltdowns (believe it or not my husband still has his own adult-style meltdowns).  It is when too many stimuli are coming at them too soon.  Remember their brains do NOT automatically prioritize stimuli as a normally functioning brain does.  The meds help to slow the brain so that they have little moments in time between the thoughts for the opportunity to prioritize, but the meds don’t make it EASIER for them to make that decision.  We are all making a thousand little decisions in the day, and an ADHD brain cannot handle as many as a normal brain.

So he needs an interval of peace and quiet in order to regroup.  But he can’t do this on his own, he’ll probably need the teacher or an aide to help him develop the skills of slowing down, taking a breath, relaxing himself and considering what should be next. 

And also for an ADHD brain, since there is only NOW when a teacher or parent says “You need to do better on your work” they take this on as a task NOW, right this instant, and since they are not necessarily doing that thing right this instant it causes instant anxiety.  You want to make a person with ADHD feel anxious, tell them what you want them to do in the future! 

And he is old enough to start keeping a little log of what sets him off.  If you the parents and teachers don’t know what triggers the meltdowns you can’t make a bridge over them.  So ask his teacher if she will allow him a little notebook he can take out whenever he is feeling overwhelm coming on if he can write down what are the thoughts that set him off. Because basically it is a thought or collection of thoughts which cause the behavior we call a meltdown.  This happens inside the head of the ADHD person and they ultimately have to find a way in adulthood to manage that.  But that practice starts now.

Hope you find a good solution.  If you do please share.

Posted by YellaRyan on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:44am

Along with Ritalin, my son, who is 9, takes Intuniv, a non-stimulant ADHD medication. This drug helps with some of the social problems associated with ADHD. He is calmer, he makes better eye contact, and he is more socially responsive. He used to have frustration meltdowns as well, but since he started this new med, he is much better. I don’t think I have been called about a frustration meltdown in almost a year.

Hope this information is helpful to you.
Susan in PC, Ohio

Posted by SueH on Feb 16, 2014 at 2:24am

You say he has multiple meltdowns a week, but are they occurring at a certain time of day?  Is it during a particular subject? Just wondering, since my son (12 and taking Focalin) seems to have his during his afternoon classes.  Unfortunately, he has his subjects that require the most work for him (math and language arts) the last 2 periods of the day.  We are stuck with it for the rest of the year but I spoke with these teachers and they agreed to recommend he be scheduled next year for these subjects in the morning.

As a way to try to calm himself, he keeps a special coin in his pocket and when he feels overwhelmed, he puts his hand in his pocket, rubs the coin and takes a few deep calming breaths.  Many times it works; he just needs a moment to himself to regroup.  His teachers are aware of this process so they know he’s not just “zoning out” on them.

Please keep us updated on this matter. Many of us are looking for ways to combat this problem without adding more medication to our children.  Good luck!

Posted by Machelle B on Feb 16, 2014 at 7:45pm

Wow!  Thank you all for the amazing responses! This has been very helpful.  I am going to try several of your suggestions.

My son has an IEP, or I thought he did.  We got one when he entered the gifted program but there was no psychiatrist eval or anything like it.  I will look into that further.

JAMurphy, you mentioned an OT.  Is that an occupational therapist?  We don’t have one but I think we need something like that.  I have called several therapists in town that say they specialize in ADHD and will meet with them over the next few weeks. 

Thanks again to you all!  Sometimes I feel like I am trying to deal with this in a vacuum and everyone is looking at me for the answers or the key to unlock my son. I am sure you have all felt like that at one point or another.

I will keep you post.

Posted by rruddell on Feb 17, 2014 at 7:01am

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