Why Can’t Johnny Sit Still? ADHD and How it Affects Your Child’s Classroom Behavior


A parent asked me this the other day:  She and the teachers were so frustrated with her son’s behavior.  It turns out that “Johnny”, as he is known in this blog, is a bright child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Luckily for him, his parents, and his teachers, he is not alone and there are many well-validated interventions to get him to “sit still”. Johnny is just one of the estimated 8-10% of school aged children who have a diagnosis of ADHD.  The DSM-IV, which is the diagnostic manual for all mental health disorders, indicates that there are several symptoms of ADHD including:  inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Once the diagnosis of ADHD has been made by a pediatrician, psychiatrist, or psychologist, the next step is to develop the most efficacious and lasting intervention plan.  Typically, the intervention plan should be applied across multiple settings, including:  home, school, and the child’s social environment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a best practice paper for the intervention of ADHD in 2001.  In a nutshell, the paper states that the two primary interventions for ADHD include the use of stimulant medication and behavioral therapy.  Donna Palumbo, a neuropsychologist from New York, wrote a chapter in a Pediatric Neuropsychology Textbook in 2007 that updated the AAP practice guidelines to include parent training and social skills training in addition to the already mentioned stimulant medication and behavior therapy.  The one area that was left off of everything is the child’s school performance.  Children with ADHD frequently exhibit deficits with their performance in the classroom setting.  They have trouble focusing on the teacher’s lectures, and often exhibit co-existing learning disorders.   Previous blogs of ours have described the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Plan process two extremely important aspects of the child’s plan for school success.  However, the child’s academic performance and behavior within the classroom must be an area that is addressed.  Children with ADHD do need help receiving behavior strategies in school.  It is imperative that the behavior therapist working with the child provide support for the academic team to ensure that he or she progresses to potential.

What behavior strategies have or have not worked for your child with ADHD at school?

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