Talking to Your Child’s New Teacher About ADHD

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Open, ongoing communication between parents and teachers is essential for children with ADHD. In fact, the most effective non-medication interventions for children with ADHD involve regular communication between parents and teachers. At the start of a new school year, parents have the opportunity to set the stage for productive, ongoing collaboration with their child’s teacher. Follow these guidelines to get things started off on the right foot:  

Initiate the first meeting. 

Teachers have 25-30 new students in their classroom at the start of the school year, and will probably not have an opportunity to reach out to each parent individually. So, take the first step by emailing or calling the teacher to schedule an initial 15-20-minute meeting at the beginning of the school year. It may seem like you will need more than 15 minutes to discuss your child’s ADHD, but longer meetings will be more difficult to schedule, and may provide more information than your child’s teacher can digest during this jam-packed time of year. Remember that this is just an initial meeting. There will be opportunities for ongoing communication throughout the school year.  

Approach the meeting with an open mind.  

Every parent walks into teacher meetings with mixed emotions at the start of the school year. If your child’s needs were not met in the past, or you had a challenging relationship with last year’s teacher, it will be tempting to carry these negative experiences forward with you into the current school year. Even if you and your child have had positive experiences previously, you may worry that this year’s teacher will not reach the high bar set by the wonderful teachers your child has had in the past. Regardless of your past experiences, try to view the new teacher and school year as an opportunity for a fresh start. Approach your child’s new teacher as a partner. You are both invested in ensuring that your child has a great school year, and you both have important roles to play in making this happen.  

Make most of your brief meeting time.  

Make the most of the time that you have scheduled by thinking through the key points that you want to discuss in advance. Make notes about these points, and bring the notes with you to the meeting. Throughout the meeting, be succinct and specific. Too much detail and too many tangential stories will make it difficult for the teacher to focus on the important information. When considering which topics to cover, aim to focus on these four important meeting goals: 

  1. Share essential information about your child’s ADHD.
    • How does ADHD affect your child academically, socially, behaviorally and emotionally?
    • What was your child’s greatest struggle last year?
    • What is your child’s biggest strength?
    • What are some interventions or accommodations, including those in IEPs and 504 plans, that have previously helped your child manage their ADHD?
  2. Learn about your child’s teacher’s prior experience with ADHD.
  3. Learn about the teacher’s impressions of your child so far.
    • What have they noticed about your child during the first few days of school?
    • Having observed your child, and having heard the information that you’ve shared earlier in this meeting, what challenges do they anticipate for your child this school year?
  4. Discuss next steps.
    • What is at least one action that you can take at home and the teacher can take in the classroom this week to help your child?
    • How will you and the teacher have regular communication going forward?
    • When should you have a follow-up meeting?  

Initiating collaborative communication with your child’s teacher at the start of the school year will lay the foundation for a positive partnership that will help your child get the support that they need throughout the year at school and at home.


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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