My School-Related ADHD Gripes


When it comes to handling ADHDers at school, I have several issues that have caused me much grief over the years, and that still create uphill for ADHDers and their parents- not the least of which are the teachers who claim they “…don’t believe there is such a thing as ADHD, your child simply needs more discipline…” (a quote from a few of Damien’s teachers, in case you were wondering).

For today’s post however, I’m going to focus on three aspects of teaching ADHDers that are prevalent, and that I personally feel teachers should think twice about.


The first one is the behaviour “charts” on the walls in the class.

You know the ones that have gold stars and black dots on them (or sad faces and smiley faces or whatever) to denote merits and demerits.

There’s nothing I loathe more than having any child’s “bad behaviour”- ADHDer or not- displayed on a wall for everyone to see.

As it is, ADHDers have to work three times harder than anyone else to earn a gold star or a merit, and when they do they are immensely proud of themselves- but when that gold star is added to a wall chart that already has 20 demerits displayed on it, their motivation simply evaporates! And for an ADHDer parent, to walk into a classroom for a parent-teacher-meeting and be confronted almost immediately with a big poster full of black dots or cross faces or some such is very upsetting as well. We’re already intimidated by teachers because we know a parent-teacher-meeting will not necessarily be something pleasant…

Lemme put it another way. Can you imagine if there was a chart up in your office that publicly displayed every single occasion that you had fouled something up at work!? It’s humiliating, and adults wouldn’t stand for it no matter how many gold stars were also displayed.

Why should our children have to be publicly embarrassed like that?

By all means, have charts on the wall- but display only the merits. For all the learners. Put the gold stars or the smiley faces on when they achieve something or do something well, and if you absolutely have to keep a record of demerits then do it in a book or a file.

My Damien had several star-charts at home that we used to try and get him to do chores and do his homework, but we simply didn’t add a sticker if he hadn’t done something the way he was supposed to. Or if he had given himself a sticker for something and it came out that he had lied about that particular point on the chart- he had to remove the sticker himself. And his sticker charts were inside his cupboard door where only he could see it, not everyone who visited him. And not getting the sticker on a particular square on his chart at home was enough for him.

Please try and motivate my child, don’t humiliate and belittle him.


The second point I would like to address is the writing of notes to mom inside the homework diary.

A homework diary is just that. A place to record homework and tasks that need to be done. A place to record the daily subject time-table and class schedule. A place where the school rules, code of conduct and annual calendar should be listed. A place where the learner’s contact details can be listed.

I’m not even going to get into how ADHDers battle to record their homework assignments in the first place.

Personally- I am all for daily checking of the homework diary so that I can help make sure my child does the homework and/ or preparation required of him. And I’ll sign it too, provided my child’s teacher is going to check it and sign it too.

But do not, under any circumstances, write me a note or a message in my child’s homework diary. Communication between teacher and parent should be private, and for adult eyes only. Nowadays there are ample ways to get a communiqué of some kind to a learner’s parents without writing it somewhere the child can read it too. You can give the learner a note in an envelope, you can make a phone call, text a meeting request, send an email or post a letter for goodness’ sake! And if you are trying to get hold of a parent who tends not to answer or pitch up then do all of the above.

But do not write a note in my child’s homework diary.

Do you know what happens to that little note in the homework book? If the child hasn’t already read it and upset himself, he just may give it to his parents. When the mom sees it, she’s immediately upset or disappointed, or both. The learner starts to associate this with the diary itself and will then start “losing” it. Then you’re back to not having ANYthing written down.

Or that learner- especially if he’s an ADHDer- will read that note over and over and over again because it’ll be in his diary all year long. And every time you think you’re making a little progress, he may find that little note and he’ll be taken right back to what happened then and he’ll be upset all over again- even if everyone else has forgotten!

Please teachers, communicate with the parents in a formal way and do it so that the learner doesn’t have to be directly involved.


The last point I would like to address in this post is where teachers withhold break (recess) as a punishment.

Tell me honestly, teachers, how much can or will you get out of an ADHDer in that short space of time? A non-ADHDer may quickly catch up on whatever it was he was supposed to do to try and at least have a little bit of a break, but an ADHDer will not be able to focus on work when all he can think about is Recess! Food! Play! Recess! Food! Play!

And from everything I have learned over time and with all the reading I’ve done is that a punishment should be something that can change behaviour. ADHDers don’t learn lessons that way and they will likely end up staying in for every single recess because they keep doing the same thing over and over again.

Let the kid have his break. Let him have his food. Let him play and get rid of some pent up energy. Find another way for him to catch up on what he’s missed, or to punish him for talking/ eating/ shouting/ walking around in class.


I have a lot more bones to pick with regard to the way ADHDers are taught in schools in South Africa, so I think I’ll be doing a few more posts like this one.


…come play on my rollercoaster…

24 thoughts on “My School-Related ADHD Gripes

  1. Great and well stated. I can believe that you have a whole lot of gripes because I do to. ADHDers get made fun of because they are different and teachers dont do anything about it. My daughter get very emotional when teased (which of course makes it worse) and teachers just say there is nothing they can do, to sort it out herself. I also believe that teachers should be taught how to help ADHD kids and not to lable them as “difficult”. I also have lots more to say, but won’t.

  2. You need to get this published. Every school, teacher,after-care teacher etc. needs a copy of this. A brilliant piece of work! well done!! thanks for sharing your insights. Tamara agree with you re: teacher conferences.

  3. I have a friend who teaches ADHDers. She can’t stop telling me how smart they are. They just need positive focus.

    No, it’s not right for demerits to be displayed. That’s not positive at all. It makes them feel worse about themselves, as does homework diaries and taking away recess. I totally agree with you xx
    .-= Elise´s last blog ..Great Aunt Celine =-.

  4. I think schools should hire you to do teacher conferences on ADHD from a parent’s perspective. Seriously. These things probably never even cross their minds!

    Some of my worst memories at school were being kept after class as punishment, which is awful becuase not only do the parents then have to wait with no notice, but the kids get in trouble with them too, as well as having detention.
    .-= Tamara´s last blog ..Of soundtracks, suppers and stress =-.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this. I felt so emotional reading it and I realise more than ever that school is never ever going to be easy for my kid.
    I’m going to print this out and give it to every single teacher I know.
    ps…I think that you will make a brilliant ADHD advocate.

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  8. I absolutely agree with what you have written here. There is also the other extreme where the teacher feels she has the qualification to diagnose your child with ADHD and insist you put them on medication. It it high time teachers are equipped to deal with ALL children and learn to discipline with love and not humiliate and degrade children. What do they think they are teaching them by doing this to them?

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  10. Thanks Angel, I was just going to ask if I could print it out and give it to my child’s teacher/s. I am going to do just that now and attach it to the booklet which I got from the doctor at the clinic and which I printed for the teachers information. All of the above have been done and are still being done to my child. No wonder he wants to hit his teachers. He is acting out as the only way to defend himself.
    .-= momcat´s last blog ..The saga continues.. =-.

  11. You just know how to say these things we as ADHD’er parents experience. This is exactly what me and hubby is going through with the school. They just DO NOT understand what ADHD is. It would be such a help if a speaker would give a few mornings at a school to address the teachers and inform them what it is to be a ADHD person/pupil/kid. It will help not just the child but also the teacher and others around the child.

    Well said!
    .-= zola237´s last blog ..Hangover with kids – Big NO-NO =-.

  12. I am going to print this post – and any others you write before the end of the year to give to Donny’s new teacher to read. I agree with ALL of these and being an Adder myslef I am the type who gets must upset when I get a nasty text message from a teacher abut Donny. I feel attacked and want to rather run away than communicate with her…
    One thing our school does is post all the weeks homework on their website and you can go and print it off there for your child, that way I don’t have to worry about checking homework books or anythinglike that. This was cool – thanks Sis!
    .-= Brigitte´s last blog ..WHAT A WEEKEND! =-.

  13. what a great post – i think you should send it to Your Family or Living and Loving for publication.

    my kids don’t have ADHD but the same principles you describe would be as valuable for them.

  14. you have taken the very words out of my mouth! I cannot have said it any better, thank you speaking about this out loud. I am so tired of the “here we go again” feeling of dread whenever I am going to school, because I am The Mom of That Child. Our ADHDers are just children, they deserve dignity. My child’s diary is red from front to back every single year, when I open it every afternoon, I KNOW there is another letter waiting for me, with result, by now, I scoff at everything written there, yeah whatever bla bla bla. I hope many teachers read this and think about what they are doing.

  15. wow. great post, was just about to start a behaviour chart for jackson BUT now I am so not going to. I really hadn’t thought about how it could impact him negatively. eeep. that’s why i am glad you are my friend.
    .-= The Jackson Files´s last blog ..Thank you very much =-.

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