Getting Ready for Middle School and High School with ADHD

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

 4 Key Areas to Prepare for Before Day 1

It may only be July, but back-to-school shopping commercials and sales are already under way! As you create the list of school supplies and backpacks that your family will need for the next school year, remember that teens with ADHD also need extra programs and support to succeed academically. By planning for extra support now, you will ensure that your teen has everything that he/she needs to succeed right from the start. I recommend having a plan in place that targets the three areas below. Involve your teen in the planning as much as possible, so you’ll both feel confident and prepared heading into the school year.

  • To be effective in school, kids need to be organized. Where do books go? Where do you take notes? Where do you write down assignments that need to be completed? Where do you keep handouts and worksheets? And what should you do with notices from school? Teens with ADHD have weak “executive functioning skills” which makes it hard for them to stay organized. Start off the school year right by helping them create systems. Color-coded notebooks by subject, simple folder systems for storing worksheets and assignments, assigning places for everything from school supplies to school notices, and visual calendars.
  • Goal Setting. One of my favorite tools that a high school English teacher used with his students was the Grade Contract. At the beginning of the semester, he asked each student to decide on the grade they wanted to achieve in the class, and then shared the work they would need to do to achieve to reach that grade. The Grade Contract helped each student set specific goals and promoted a keen understanding the milestones they would need to meet along the way. In a less formal sense, parents can have discussions with their kids about course goals the academic year. You can help your teen break down each goal into the necessary milestones, and provide them with the support they need to achieve their goals. Having a roadmap for your child makes the end goal less daunting and helps your child stay focused and on-task. Since kids with ADHD struggle to sustain motivation for long term goals, attach rewards and motivators to each milestone and check-in regularly.
  • Time Management. Staying on task and completing an assignment means understanding how to manage the time at hand. It’s helpful to coach your child through the steps of the first few assignments of the school year. Ask your child to articulate the assignment that needs to be completed, then write out the plan of attack together -- “First this, then that, next this, and after that…” Have your child check-off each of the steps as he/she goes. After your teen announces he/she has completed the assignment, review the checklist. Praise hard work and effort! If he/she has missed a step, have him/her make corrections before turning in the assignment. Eventually, you can try pulling back on your support and have your teen create his/her own plan of attack. If it goes well, you can supervise from a distance. If your teen is still struggling, then don’t hesitate to stay involved or get him/her extra time management support and skills training.

If your child needs more support than what you can provide at home, learning centers like Huntington Learning Center offer great programs like the Advanced Study Skills Program that help kids improve their organization and executive functioning skills and give them practical tools and tips for improving their goal setting, time management, memorization and recall, and study guide use.



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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