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Parents of ADHD Children

So frustrated with school

My son is ten and has ADHD.  We had his parent teacher conference the other day and his teacher had him present for us.  One of the things he presented was a paper where he rated his performance and his teacher rated his performance on different things - like following directions the first time, getting along with peers, etc. 
When she gave him the paper, he looked down at the table and was very quiet.  She pushed him to tell us about the paper, so he read us what it said.  There were about 12 different things that he was rated on using a happy face, a neutral face and a sad face.  On almost every category he was rated a sad face.  But, his teacher was quick to tell us that he was improving.  I don’t understand - if he is improving - it should show that he is trying and that to me would not be the sad face, but at least the neutral face.  Most of these things were subjective things about his behavior which would also vary from day to day and also things that are greatly affected by his ADHD - like blurting out answers.
It was so hard to watch him have to present a paper that I could have easily read myself.  When we left he commented that his teacher thinks he is a terrible person and since then he has acted depressed and is just not himself.  It is breaking my heart.
He does not qualify for an IEP because he does well enough in school despite the focus issues.  But, does have accommodations through section 504.
I feel that realistic expectations are a huge issue and that the accommodations are not being followed as well as I’d like - especially in regards to communication, since I was not made to be aware of these issues until PT conferences. 
It is just frustrating how much we have to advocate for our children.  ADHD is so prevalent why do teachers not understand it?  I realize that my son is not the easy kid - come over and try to get him dressed and ready for school BEFORE he takes his medicine and you’ll see how hard it can be - but just because teaching him is more challenging doesn’t mean that you just put him in box and expect the same of him as all the other kids. - See more at:


That breaks my heart.  That was just cruel to make him read that paper because all it did was make him feel bad about himself.  These teachers are so clueless when it comes to teaching kids with ADHD.  I wish they were all required to take classes to better equip themselves in this area.

I hope you had a little talk with him afterwards to stress his improvements and try to make him feel better.  That is just so sad that she took this approach.

My son had a 504 for a couple of years, and I, too, kept hearing that he would never qualify for an IEP because he was always an A-student (until last year).  When his focus issues got worse, and when the accommodations were getting us nowhere, I insisted that the school do a full battery of testing to consider him for an IEP, and we got it.  I thought for sure they would turn us down based on all of our earlier conversations, but they saw enough in the test results to say, “oh, gee, I guess he does have some learning issues.”  I had him tested privately a couple of times, but even that wasn’t enough to convince them, so I pushed for this.

Have you tried giving the teacher information on effective teaching methods for dealing with ADHD kids?  Have you made a list of other things she might try?  Just asking, because I know that nothing will improve unless you are able to get her to work WITH you and communicate every day, and she has to be willing to implement accommodations that will actually help your son. Also, the methods have to be positive, NOT negative. This is where education comes in.

I tried sending information to my son’s teachers, and I will tell you that much of it was ignored until I had them do this testing.  Now they are more willing to listen and learn when I share some new tidbit of information with them, and they’ve gotten off their “this is behavioral” horse.

Good luck, and I’m so sorry you and your son had to go through that experience.  It’s maddening and heartbreaking. :(

Posted by JAMurphy on Mar 06, 2014 at 9:03pm

I agree, that was a cruel, insensitive, and ignorant thing for that teacher to do.  Pray a shield of protection over your son so that she cannot hurt his heart anymore.  Explain to your son that she does not have information to help her understand how she can help him. 

Explain that it is not his fault if his teacher does’t know the best way to encourage him.  Share ideas through email with his teacher that you find helpful in encouraging him to make good choices.  Email creates a trail of communication between you and the teacher that can be submitted at 504 meetings or other meetings on your sons behalf.

Finally, I would speak to the counselor at school, have her meet with your son, and ask her to help you educate his teacher on ADHD and how NOT to humiliate a child. 

I am so sorry that this happened and you have every right to be upset.

Posted by Kellie on Mar 06, 2014 at 9:14pm

Thank you SO much!  Dealing with the school has me doubting myself as a parent. 
I have two older children who have never had issues in school, so this is a whole new ballpark for me.  I have never been one of those parents who thinks my child is perfect and can do no wrong.  But, this is a neurological issue - not a behavioral issue!
Even the doctor we went to for a sleep study (because he has so much trouble falling asleep) suggested that I send him to a behavioral therapist.  The child hasn’t slept well since I brought him home from the hospital - this is not a behavioral issue.
I had no idea what I was in for when we got the diagnosis.  I am a single parent and am so lucky that my mom who helps take care of my son after school is willing to advocate for him as well.

Posted by Frenchy on Mar 06, 2014 at 9:22pm

Seriously????!!!!  This makes me so, so mad.What was teacher thinking???Perhaps time to turn the tables and make a sheet like that about the teacher to read out loud to you as the parent. So sorry you and your child have to suffer through this. I would bring it up with the principal and school psychologist (mind you, they will likely have teacher’s back).

Posted by AJGO on Mar 06, 2014 at 9:27pm

It is so unfortunate that this is the situation in our schools!  It makes me crazy!

You need to go to battle.  Fight for appropriate accommodations and rewarding good behavior.  Go to the principal for starters, and to the teacher.

Given them current research on how to work with a. ADHD child.  Don’t give up!  It is not easy, and you will step on some toes, but you have to protect your son.  His emotional and social well-being are the most important in their lives.  Good luck!

Posted by Pdxlaura on Mar 06, 2014 at 9:27pm

Mom, this is gonna be a really hard thing to do - but you have to re-engage that teacher in another meeting.  Tell youself over and over that she is your partner and that her “intent” is positive.  Verbalize to her that you are confident that her intent is positive———but then, you need to explain that all children need to understand the expectations and how they delivering, but our adhd kids often develop negative self images and lower self esteem.  She needs to know that ANY child should not be given sad faces - she needs a new way to discuss this with students—- starting with yours!  It is a delicate balance to advocate and keep the comminication open - our biggest challenge as parents!  I know you can do it!!!

Posted by momtodom on Mar 06, 2014 at 9:45pm

Frenchy, most of us have been in your shoes, so please count on us for ideas and support, and do NOT doubt your parenting abilities.  I, too, am a single mom, and this ADHD thing (and associated issues) is hard enough for a two-parent household let alone a single-parent one. 

Everyone is on the same page here—you have to keep at it with this teacher and call another meeting.  Is there a guidance counselor or school psychologist/behaviorist you can include?  Keep your emotions in check and try to educate this teacher and the other key people at the school. Call a meeting and provide information on how to encourage and coach an ADHD child, and make sure they understand that the negative approach is UNACCEPTABLE.  Our kids fight with self-esteem issues every day, and they don’t need this coming from their teachers.  She is supposed to be helping him, not hurting him.  My son has had teachers like this, and we ended up changing schools because of it.  Let’s assume she just doesn’t know any better, and see if you can educate her.

It is difficult to get her to change her ways without her feeling like she is being criticized or attacked, so be careful to explain that you want to work as teammates and advocates for your son, not adversaries.  This may not be easy for you, but it will be worth it in the long run if you can get through to her.  I just cry when I read your original post because I’ve been there and it makes you feel so, so bad for your son. 

As Kellie said, make sure your son knows that the teacher doesn’t have the education she needs to help him, and that he shouldn’t feel bad just because she handled this the wrong way.  You have to boost him back up after a hit like this.

Posted by JAMurphy on Mar 06, 2014 at 10:08pm

Oh, and sleep issues are very common in ADHD kids.  My son was a HORRIBLE sleeper until a year ago.  That usually gets better with age, but I think removing the stressors from my son’s life (the teachers who were putting him down, for starters) helped a lot as far as him being able to relax more at night and fall asleep.  That’s a whole other subject, but if he’s super stressed at school, he will have a very hard time calming down and sleeping at night.  So, all the more reason to get some changes made at school.  (I used melatonin for a few years with my son, and it helped.  Now he doesn’t need anything at all and falls asleep right away, btw.)

Posted by JAMurphy on Mar 06, 2014 at 10:15pm

Oh man!! This makes me mad!!  You’ve gotten some good advice so far though.  I really like the comment about keeping in mind his teacher is your partner in this, she’s just clueless and needs to understand that she can’t handle things this way, with *any* kid.  Kill her with kindness, but you gotta say something!  Don’t let it go!!

My son has an awesome teacher this year.  He’s just gone on medication and even though his grades are still very low, she’s praising him and even gave him a certificate in the last assembly for the progress he’s making and how hard he’s trying.  She’s seeing changes in his attitude and willingness to try even though the skills aren’t there yet.  And like a good teacher, she’s trying to encourage that.

What did you find out in the sleep study?  Anything useful?  So, SO many ADHD kids have issues sleeping.  I swear half the battle would be won if my son could just sleep well.  He’s alert and happy on days he gets enough uninterrupted sleep and he’s cranky and miserable and an ADHD mess when he doesn’t.

Posted by Rai0414 on Mar 06, 2014 at 10:48pm

IF you’ve met the guidance counselor and know that he/she also supports the idea that SHAMING kids in front of their parents is not a great motivator for anyone (let alone ADHD) then I agree that the two of you meeting with the teacher is the way to go.  You do not however want to find yourself shocked (& outnumbered) in the middle of this 3-way-meeting when/if you find out that public humiliation is encouraged or condoned by the guidance counselor as well. 

All schools are different, but around here I’ve learned that the counselors refuse to get involved in any way unless & until the parent has met with the teacher face-to-face already.

Posted by BC on Mar 06, 2014 at 11:53pm

Watch out for the IEPs When My son was in 2nd grade. They asked me at an IEP meeting if it would be ok to have an aid for him. They said she would be in the classroom and if he lost focus she would get him back on track. It was suppose to look as if she was there for all the students so he wouldn’t be embarrassed. I said ok and latter found out that she followed him to every class even lunch and recess. She wrote down everything she thought he did wrong. Like picking up a snowball when all the other kids were also doing it.  She would poke his hand with her pencil if he wasn’t writing neatly. They even put in his IEP that in 2nd grade he looked under a stall at another kid in the bathroom. When I asked him why he looked under the stall he said it was because the boy was saying haha you cant see me. They didn’t put that explanation in the IEP though. I took him out of public school that year and put him in a Christian school. Where he got great grades without any extra help. Its all about the money the public schools get for kids with IEPs and the aids don’t want to lose the job if the kids don’t need them.

Posted by leslie 1 on Mar 07, 2014 at 6:24am


Maggy V
This is terrible.  You must protect the self-esteem of your ADHD child.  According to our doctor, this is the biggest problem they face.  They are made to feel inadequate and different due to the expectations placed on them by people who don’t know how to deal with them.  Obviously your son’s teacher wants him to act like her other “normal” students.  She needs to realize he has a legitimate reason why he is INCAPABLE of some of these things.  You are right:  you need to advocate non-stop.  Email that teacher A LOT, stay on top of what accomodations are being made, ask about how your son is doing, what you need to be working on at home, etc.  I have even sent articles and research to the school for my son’s teachers to read.  Hopefully things will improve for your son’s sake.  A child should never be made to feel like he is a “horrible person” for something he can’t always control, especially by someone who is supposed to be there to help him.  And I would definitely tell his teacher your son’s response to that conference.  She needs to never make a kid feel that way again.

Posted by MaggieV on Mar 06, 2014 at 4:02pm

Machelle B
Yep, just went through a similar experience 2 weeks ago for parent/teacher conferences.  My son is an honor roll kid—all A’s and B’s.  But to hear the teachers talk about him, it made me feel like he was barely getting by!  Of course when I got home, my son asked me how it went.  I sugar-coated it.  I told him his grades are great but he has some issues with his behavior in class that needs some work.

Too many teachers are not up to the challenge of teaching the ENTIRE class; they want their little cookie cutter kids and if your kid doesn’t fit the mold, look out!  I send articles via email to his teachers who don’t seem to demonstrate a knowledge of ADHD. I figure it can’t hurt, right?

I also tell my son that no matter what the teachers think, I know he’s wonderful and he’s got the good grades to prove he’s learning. He just does it in a different way.

But on the other hand, I do talk with him about behavior issues and ways we can improve some of them.  I don’t want him thinking it’s ok to disrupt the class if he can curb some of his behavior.

Posted by Machelle B on Mar 06, 2014 at 4:52pm

First of all, my son has adhd, classified as emotionally disturbed and has an IEP, yet he is academically advanced.

I think with ADHD your son is showing emotional imbalances as well as low self-esteem and shame clearly shown when he had to read the paper with his rates.

ADHD children are hard on themselves and don’t see themselves improving even if teachers your parents do, that’s why its important for us to praise them!

You have to continue to be involved work with teachers on a day to day basis or at least weekly to figure out a better approach or strategy where everyone is involved and mainly your son is getting the help he needs.

Posted by Anthony18Mommy on Mar 06, 2014 at 5:34pm

I’m a teacher, and so I’m familiar with student-led conferences…but what you described is NOT how student-led conferences are intended to run!  My stomach was in a knot after reading your post.

I don’t know how comfortable you are with confrontation…but this teacher really needs to have someone KINDLY tell her that what she did was very demeaning to a child.  I agree with Maggie V, she should hear about how he responded afterwards.

Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt - - maybe she is new to student-led conferences, or maybe she is sincerely unaware (being a reflective teacher is critical to our work) of the negative approach she took.  Perhaps if you can talk with her in a very calm, level-headed way, you can bring about some very needed awareness.  You may end up being the reason other students are saved from the same kind of discouragement your son experienced.  If no one ever brings it to her attention she’s likely to do it again.

I’m so sorry this happened to you and your son!

Posted by CBak on Mar 06, 2014 at 8:39pm

Wow, it always amazes me that so many others are going through the same kind of things.  Thanks for sharing it on here.  My son is 12 and has straight F’s in all but 2 subjects in 3rd Trimester.  Finally got school to have 504 meeting, and it’s purpose was apparently to omit the accommodations I had them on noncompliance: communicating with me and preferential seating (“Do we have to have that in there?  I haven’t done that.  I put him in the back because he is a comedian and is funny.”)  Since my son is unpopular due to distracting & annoying his classmates, becoming very disliked, per teacher statements in assessment documents, apparently he tries to be likeable in other ways.  My son is so depressed and his GI issues are so significant, he’s weak and losing weight.  Last semester, F grades were modified & eliminated to have a D average, which I was told it means he’s passing.  So with his high testing scores and adjusted D average, I conclude that some how there’s got to be more than school to make a person successful and happy.  The day to day dysfunctional existence is another challenge, but growing up ADHD has got to be hard.  The older the child gets, the more cognitively mature, the more they’re aware of and care what their peers think, and self-awareness of deficits heighten.  It’s a real balancing act.  How does everyone cope?

Posted by upsideoutlook32 on Mar 06, 2014 at 8:46pm

My email to the teacher:

I have not heard from you this week after talking with *principal*.  I really feel that realistic expectations and communication are becoming an issue for us.  If I do not hear from you, I assume things are going well.  That was the case until I came to the PT Conference.  I understand that Kai is having issues and I want to work with you to help him be successful.

However, I felt that overall, the conference was very negative.  I’m not telling you that I don’t want to hear the bad things.  But, Kai was heartbroken when we left the school and said that you think he is terrible.  I know that is not the case - I know that was not your intention.  But, if I had known that the conference was going to affect him so negatively, I would not have brought him.

I know better than anyone that Kai is more work than a “normal” kid.  My two older children always finished their work at school, so never had homework, other than reading, which did not need to be monitored.  They both graduated early and did well in school.  So, this is all new for me and I have had to realize that my expectations of Kai can not be the same as they were for my other kids.

I know it’s very frustrating to tell him to do something and he either doesn’t hear, is focused on something else or goes to do it and has to turn around and ask what it is he was supposed to do because he’s forgotten already.  Or in the mornings, before his medication has kicked in I can’t just tell him to get dressed.  I actually have to make sure that he’s doing what he needs to be doing.  I have spoken to people who work with ADHD kids and have been assured that this is the normal for them.  That’s when I realized it was not him who needed to change - it was me.  I couldn’t do things the same way as I’d always done them and expect him to just fall in line.  I had to find different ways of doing things that worked for him.  We are still working to find a way that works for some things.

My father was a teacher, my best friend is a special ed teacher and my daughter is studying to become a special ed teacher.  I have a great deal of respect for teachers.  I know you, as a group, are underappreciated and underpaid.  I am not trying to come down on you.  I do not consider you my enemy.  I am just trying to be an advocate for my son.

Teacher’s response:

Of course it is not my intention to make Kai feel that way. I don’t think he is terrible kid and don’t want him to think that. I am stern with him in class (because you told me I needed to be or else he would just try and “get a laugh”), I’m sorry if my strictness comes off as me thinking he is terrible. The reason I haven’t been emailing you on a regular basis is because I don’t have much new information to report. The things we are struggling with in class are the same as they’ve been all year. However, I will try and give you a more frequent report of what’s happening in the class (good and bad).
Kai has been really chatty this week and I told him and his group members that they would be moved if it keeps happening…just a heads up.

Posted by Frenchy on Mar 06, 2014 at 10:23pm

Posted by adhdmomma on Mar 07, 2014 at 6:06pm

I am sad to hear that your child was subjected to that kind of treatment. It sounds like he is still in the very early grades and a lot of the stuff he is supposed to learn there involves his sense of accomplishment and confidence.

My son supposedly doesn’t qualify for an IEP either because he functions at or above grade level in every subject except handwriting. However, I went to an education advocate and she helped me a letter and we got him and eval and he qualified for an IEP.

I have a copy of the letter with our personal information blocked out. I have given it to other parents in the past. It contains the legal language necessary to obtain an IEP eval for a kid who isn’t failing in school. Shoot me an email if you would like a copy. Here is my email. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Otherwise, we sought the assistance of Ricki Light at the Melmed Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. If you can’t go to see her, she may be able to direct you to an advocate in your area. Be aware that a single visit to one of these individuals is going to run you between $300 and $500 and your insurance will not reimburse you for it. However, if you have a HSA, they may bill willing to pick up the cost once you file a claim.

I don’t know about what you should do about the teacher. Maybe you should speak to her without your son present. She doesn’t sound mean, just ignorant to the fact that what she did to your son wasn’t helpful. It only made him and you sad.

Hope this information is helpful.
Susan in PC, Ohio

Posted by SueH on Mar 07, 2014 at 6:28pm

I really wish teachers were required to take specific courses for learning disabilities; ADD/ADHD; etc. or at least research it and try to understand. I’m in school to be an elementary school teacher and since I have ADD and I have a child whom I’m almost positive has ADHD (she’s only 4) I fully understand the importance of learning about the disorder. I think society tries to downplay it and make it seem like the children (and adult) just aren’t trying hard enough. Unfortunately I don’t think there any rules or guidelines to MAKE teachers do their research on certain disabilities and disorders other than what they briefly go over while they’re in college.

Posted by _ashlynnicole on Mar 08, 2014 at 8:18am

My child was ashamed by an assistant principal because I had told her he has ADHD and requires more specific directions, etc, because of an issue I had at school, and a few days later my son’s words were: “mom she made me feel stupid in front of my math teacher when asking him to explain things more clearly to me, as she said it with “a tone”….
I hate not knowing what to do, if I don’t say anything to the teachers, they will not do anything for my son (not that I feel they do regardless) but I have to try…. But then if I ask for a little extra help, they “maybe unconsciously” take retaliation or act against him doing things like this. It is so frustrating :(
There is a petition asking for a change in schools for adhd children, please sign so that we may hopefully get something done about all this… here is the link

Posted by Romina on Mar 08, 2014 at 11:46pm

I am sorry.  Your son does not need shaming.  Explain to the teacher that shaming is counter-productive.

Don’t be afraid to look at other classrooms/ teachers.  Ask to sit in and see if there is a teacher that knows how to handle your son better.

Posted by daddyx2 on Mar 09, 2014 at 9:46am

As an elementary teacher with 20 years of experience, I am ashamed that another teacher would do that.

I must say congratulations to the parents who advocate for their children with ADHD. 

When I initially raise attention issues with parents, I only do so without the child present.  I explain what I see and during what parts of the day.  I tell parents what I have tried and what was successful and what did not work.  Then I ask parents if they see the same things I do.  I also ask for their suggestions so I can try them out in class. 

Every child is unique.  What works for some students will not work for others.  Some solutions work for a short time.  Teachers and parents need to be willing to seek new solutions.  I agree that everyone needs to be on the same page, but I can not control what happens at home, and parents can not control what happens at school. 

The best thing is that everyone has open communication.  As soon as you see something wrong, tell the teacher in a non-confrontational manner.  Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements (e.g., I have been noticing that Johnny doesn’t want to go to school lately.  Why do you think he feels this way?)

Finally, if you still feel that your child’s teacher does not meet your child’s needs, you have the right to remove him from his class and put him in another class.

Posted by Popcorn on Mar 12, 2014 at 4:48am

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