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Child with ADHD Is Always in Trouble

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Eileen S. Marzola, Ed.D.

Q: Our eight-year-old has ADHD and takes Ritalin. He's always in trouble at school and on the bus. He spends a lot of time in the hall due to distractions in the room, and he hasn't gone on two field trips due to conduct grades. We've talked to the teacher and principal, who told us he doesn't need special learning classes.

Our son's self-esteem is low and he feels he's always wrong. He has some privilege taken away from him every week. We're at our wits' end on how to help our child and have him continue to like school.

A: The first thing I would do is check with your son's doctor and report the behavior his teachers are observing. He may need a different medication or an adjustment in dosage of the medication he's on. That said, medication alone is often insufficient to meet the needs of children with ADHD.

If your son's medication is in fact appropriate and he's more "available" to learn because of it, now he needs to be taught (or retaught) coping skills to "make it" in his classroom. A big part of those skills involve self-monitoring his own behavior in and out of the classroom. It would be helpful at this point to have someone (e.g., a guidance counselor or psychologist) visit the classroom and record observations of what misbehaviors are occurring, when they occur, and what responses are generated when they occur.

This information needs to be shared with your son and his teacher as the preliminary step in generating a behavior plan where troublesome behaviors are targeted for reduction and ultimately for elimination. In his book, Problem Solver Guide for Students with ADHD, Dr. Harvey C. Parker presents several behavior-modification plans that have had good results for students in school. Whichever plan parents and the teacher choose, it's critical that they use it on a consistent basis and carefully monitor the child's progress to see if adjustments need to be made.

If no one at the school is willing or able to help you with this, then you might want to consider consulting a therapist who is experienced in working with children with ADHD. You can call the toll-free number for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD) at 1-800-233-4050 for a referral in your community.

More on: Expert Advice

For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.


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