Family & Education

Let’s Talk Schools: how can we help ADHD children to flourish?


The Umbrella Project was launched in Liverpool in 2017 to raise awareness of ADHD

Imagine this. You go to collect your child from school and you’re waiting with all the other parents.

Dread sets in. You can predict what will happen. The teacher will ask you if they could “just have a word”. So begins the humiliating walk of shame.

It is really tough being a parent of a child with ADHD. I should know. My son was diagnosed when he was eight and he is now approaching 36.

Back in 1996 no one was talking about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It was very lonely as I felt like a rubbish parent and couldn’t understand why my son couldn’t sit still, was easily distracted, totally impulsive and a little bundle of energy that never stopped.

No matter how often I wagged my finger, it didn’t change his behaviour. I felt angry, confused and isolated. I needed help but didn’t know where to turn.

Fast forward to 2024.

Fortunately, we now understand that ADHD is a neurological condition where the brain chemistry is behaving in a different way. Thankfully, there are also many professionals, organisations and charities that offer help and support

to families.

When I delivered an online workshop to parents and carers for PaJeS on ADHD in March, I was utterly flabbergasted that 770 families

registered for it. This was a huge wake-up call that this is a real issue within our Jewish community. There are so many families that are struggling at home and battling with schools.

Parents feel the shame of having a child that the world may perceive as naughty and that they are incapable parents.

But listen to this. Your child is not naughty, broken, damaged or ill. You are not a bad parent. Their brain is behaving in a unique way and so needs something different. That means adjustments, changes in expectations and a sprinkle of kindness.

My aim is to bust the ADHD stigma and promote my message that ADHD can be a superpower. This means our beautiful children can be fearless, curious, spontaneous and full of creative ideas. They can be intuitive, loyal and great problem-solvers.

But how do you manage at home when your child is running late and they cannot organise their belongings? We need to help them. This means providing the tools and equipment needed such as boxes, timers, label makers, planners, apps and alarms. Gamify and make it fun as much as possible.

Look at what your child actually needs and respond positively. So, if sitting at the Shabbat table is too much, let them get down early or do an activity at the table. If bedtime is an issue, set up a routine and think about the environment and if they’ve had a calming activity to quieten their busy brain.

Shaming, blaming and punishments do not work.

We know a high-protein diet can help with focus and concentration as well as the importance of exercise.Unfortunately, schools can be challenging for our talented children with ADHD. The rules, structure the need to be orderly, to sit still, to wait their turn and be organised may be difficult, and so we

desperately need teachers to really understand ADHD and learn practical ways to support pupils.

I’m delighted that PaJeS have organised ADHD training for safeguarding and pastoral leads this month. I will be educating the educators how they can make simple adjustments and accommodations to meet the needs of pupils with suspected or diagnosed ADHD.

ADHD is real. With support, understanding and kindness our little people can flourish and thrive both at home and at school. If we can all work together, I am positive we can make this a reality.

Soli Lazarus is a former teacher and SENCO who supports families with children with ADHD and author of soon to be published ADHD Teen Survival Guide

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