Five Steps for a Smooth Transition Back to In-Person School for Kids with ADHD

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Back-to-school is going to feel different this year for kids who are returning to full time in-person learning after spending a year or more attending school remotely or in a hybrid format. For kids with ADHD, a smooth transition is going to require extra planning and support from parents and teachers. Here are five steps you can take to support your child as they begin the new school year.

  1. Talk to your child about what they should expect when they return to school. It’s been a long time since your child was in a classroom full-time. Talk to them about what to expect when they head back to school by walking them through a typical school day, telling them about their teacher and classmates, talking about the kinds of activities they’ll be doing throughout the day, sharing information about what they’ll be doing after school each day, and describing COVID-19 mask and social distancing requirements.
  2. Plan and practice your morning routine. Good school days begin with good mornings. Help your child start the school year off right by planning and practicing a morning routine that they can follow throughout the school year. For more information about creating a morning routine for kids with ADHD, check out my previous blog post on this topic.
  3. Schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher as soon as possible. Schedule a brief meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss your child’s learning, organizational, and behavioral needs, as well as any classroom interventions and accommodations that may be available. If your child has an IEP or a 504 plan, then this meeting should be scheduled with the help of your school’s special education coordinator.
  4. Consider your child’s social needs. Kids with ADHD need extra support to establish and maintain friendships with their classmates. This is particularly true this year when kids have spent so much time isolated from their peers. Enroll your child in at least one school-based extracurricular activity to create opportunities for bonding with classmates with shared interests. Also consider scheduling a playdate or two with a classmate that your child enjoys spending time with outside of school.
  5. Optimize your child’s ADHD treatment plan. Check in with your child’s pediatrician, psychiatrist, and/or therapist to assess whether their current ADHD treatment plan is as effective as possible. As children mature, adjustments are often needed for medication and/or behavior management plans to maximize the impact of these treatments on ADHD symptoms.

Returning to school this fall is going to be a major transition for students, parents, and teachers. Taking steps to be proactive, plan ahead, and connect with your child’s teacher as early as possible will go a long way in helping your child have a positive start to the new school year.


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.


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