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ADHD and the Classroom

By Carrie E. Powell, PhD

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.


Most children who are referred for an evaluation of ADHD-related symptoms are identified by their teachers due to behavioral or academic problems. Classroom teachers are widely discouraged from using the terms “ADD” or “ADHD” when speaking to parents for a variety of reasons. Other terms, however, may indicate that a child is inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive. Here are some things you might hear teachers report about a student:

The student is easily distracted or has trouble staying focused. Does the child lose their pencil, glue stick, lunch box, jacket or other items on a daily basis? Are they slow to transition from one task to another, like switching classes or going to lunch? Do they seem confused when called upon, as if they never heard the question? Do they forget to submit their class work? Is the work that is submitted often incomplete, as if the student unintentionally skipped items? Does the student’s work often look messy? Does the student make mistakes on assignments because they misread the instructions or because they only answered part of the question? Does the child do poorly on timed assignments, even though they are fluent with the material? While inattentive students (without hyperactivity or impulsivity) are often praised by teachers for their behavior, students with significant attention problems may still struggle academically, despite having adequate academic skills.

The student is more active than other students of the same age and gender. Teachers may report that a student disturbs the other children in the classroom because of their behavior, even when promised a reward or threatened with punishment (e.g., loss of recess). Is your student consistently talking to their peers during class? Do they create reasons to get out of their seat? Does the student sit on their knees or rock back in their chair, even when redirected? Do they fidget throughout the day by tapping pencils or kicking their feet? Does the student speak in a louder voice than other children? These issues are often present when students are hyperactive. Children with hyperactivity may want to follow all of the classroom rules but may struggle to control their own behavior – or even realize they are doing something that is considered inappropriate or distracting to others.

The student often rushes through their work or guesses the answers too quickly. Does the student blurt out answers in class? Is the child having trouble keeping their hands to themselves, especially while waiting or walking in line? Does the student struggle with multiple-choice tests because they do not read all of the answer choices? Does the student say or do inappropriate things and regret them afterward? Is the child likely to follow their peers without stopping to consider possible consequences for their behavior? Does the child sometimes struggle to keep friends because they are too rough or intense for other children their age? A student with high impulsivity would likely struggle with most of these issues as well. Even though an impulsive child knows the rule, they often make the wrong choice and end up earning behavioral reprimands.

If your child’s teacher is sharing concerns that are consistent with attention problems, hyperactivity, or impulsivity, consider having your child evaluated further. Remember, teachers generally want their students to be successful and reach their full potential, so listen carefully to what they are telling you. It is important to note that many of the issues listed here could be caused or intensified by something other than ADHD (e.g., anxiety, learning disabilities and noncompliance). A formal psychological evaluation is necessary to rule out all other causes.

At Connections, we offer behavioral and mental health evaluation. Following diagnosis, we work with you and your child to determine the best course of treatment and therapy for them. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at 601-261-5159.

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.