BTS with ADHD can be a WTF kind of deal.

By Catherine Bergrud, SHiFT Brain Integration.


Back to School can be stressful in most situations.   For kids with ADHD, ADD, Anxiety or other specific learning differences,  it can be a nightmare. Here are some tips to make the transition back to school less frustrating.  The advice presented here came from parents on staff and clients we have worked with, basically people who have lived it.  We know not every suggestion will work for everybody, adapt as needed. And if you have an idea to ease Back-to-School, we’d love to hear from you!   Email




Start the Routine Early


  • Start setting times for certain activities.   Establishing the routine now will cut down on the frustration later when you are facing real deadlines.   Have a certain time of day when the child is expected to bathe. Set aside some time for reading or summer workbooks.  Start limiting screen time if you haven’t already done so.
  • Summer days are great for sleeping in and staying up late, but it can make for a literal rude awakening when school starts up again.   A few weeks out, set a wake-up time.  Each week, make that time earlier and earlier until your child is waking up in what will be time for him or her to get to class on time.

  • Do some run-throughs for making and packing lunches.   Have the child wake up early, get dressed and make their own lunch.  The goal here is to for the child to become comfortable with the process – and it’s a great excuse for a late summer picnic!
  • Post the routine.   For younger kids a picture chart with activities and expectations cannot only guide them through the day, it can also lessen the frustration of transitions.   For older children, a posted checklist can be helpful. Each check mark can add to their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.



Get Organized

  • A little work now can save you time and angst later.   Set up a family calendar, either electronically or on paper, and post individual, school and family activities.  (Fore)knowledge is power! Again, this goes back to lessening the frustration of transitions.   When a child can see they have an event coming up they can mentally prepare for it.

We use these utility carts in the office and they are great for holding books, supplies, folders etc.

  • Dedicate some space to school work.  A desk with file folders, and coordinating accessories is great.   A storage cube with some folders and a pencil box that you haul out to work on the kitchen table is just as good.  The point being, there is one place that a child will keep their pens, pencils, papers, folders and whatever else they need to get their homework done.   Which brings us to our next point:
  • Get some extras.   Back-to-School sales can be fantastic.  Go ahead and stock up if you can, extra markers, glues, paper and whatever else you might need to finish a project.   Then store it all in one location so your child can easily find it. Nothing makes me want to scream more than when my child asks me to run to the store at 8 pm the night before a project is due because they are out of glue.
  • Color-coded folders are a handy way to keep class assignments organized.   Classrooms around here tend to request specific color notebooks for the different class subjects.   Follow that same color coding at home if you can.
  • Keep school uniforms separate from the rest of the wardrobe.   If your child wears a uniform to school, consider storing the uniform in a separate closet.   We ended up hanging our son’s uniform in the hall closet so he can find shirts and pants easier.  No more tearing through his shirt drawer to find a blue polo! If the hall closet doesn’t work for your family, what about dedicating a drawer?   Just make it easy for a child to find what they need to start the day – and I don’t mean you do it for him, Mom.


Gather the team

  • It takes a village, it really does.   You can try to do it all by yourself, but you will have more success, your child will have more success with a good team working with him.   So look at areas, especially in the school system, where you can gather people who will work together to help your child have the best school year possible.  From teachers and principals, to therapists and coaches, to clergy and doctors, and of course Brain Integration practitioners, these are people who can help.  Seek that help. Accept that help.
  • Humanize your child’s teacher.   Teachers are people – most are really great people.   But it’s far too common that children view a teacher or other authority figures with a hint of fear.   Talk to your child about their teacher and share any relevant personal information you might know. Most teachers have a website with at least some biographical information.   Set the tone for a good relationship.
  • And along those lines, don’t fall into the trap of viewing your child’s school as adversaries.   When you’re raising a child with a learning difference, odds are they will attract negative attention at some point.  Try not to take it personally and instead focus in on ways that you as the parent can shepherd this team into helping your kid in the best way possible.  
  • Tour the school with your child.  Attend Meet-the-Teacher functions if you can.   Maybe sit together and go through the school’s website.  Taking the mystery out of something can also take away the fear.
  • Get it in writing.   Does your child have an IEP or 504 plan?   Do they need to?   There are significant differences between the two plans, but basically, both work to ensure your child receives an appropriate public education.   That can mean anything from a specialized classroom or specific accommodation like freedom to do yoga before End of Grade testing. If your child has an official diagnosis, then sit down with your child’s teacher and team and hammer out what is necessary for a good school year.   For help with specialized education plans, you can find some great resources from Parents F.I.R.S.T  or ECAC.   


Build up your child.


  • Low self esteem is far too common in children with ADHD, ADD or other specific learning disabilities.   Negative attention from perceived bad behaviors can really affect your child’s sense of self. Take some time to accentuate the positive aspects of their difference, be it creativity, or multitasking, or a unique perspective.   There is always a positive side to point out.
  • Recognise your child’s good works.   Kids with learning differences thrive with positive reinforcement.   Take the time to notice – and comment – when your child does something good.   Even – especially – the little things!


Give yourself a break!

  • You do the best you can and that is enough.  You aren’t perfect, you won’t ever be perfect and that is perfectly okay.   You. Are. Enough.