Teaching Students with COMPLEX ISSUES like ADHD

Teaching students with complex issues like ADHD- ImpactADHD

Did you know that teachers are struggling, frustrated by the challenges of teaching students with ADHD and related complex issues? And it's not just because they want kids to behave. It's because they really want to help their students succeed.

Teachers' Concerns

All too often, teachers don't get adequate training in managing students with ADHD and related challenges. That's not meant to criticize teachers, or schools, or administrators. It's just the reality. This is a universal problem – we hear this repeatedly from parents and teachers all over the world.

For years we've been speaking to rooms full of parents, teachers and school counselors, and the request has always been the same: when are you going to provide this information for teachers?

So we've been working on doing something about that.

Since we have so many teachers in the ImpactParents community, we conducted a small survey to get a sense of what teachers who are concerned about these issues are struggling with, and what they want. And while we can't capture all of their comments here (it was a LOT), we can boil them down to three overarching concerns:

  1. Parents and teachers are often not on the same page
  2. Teachers have trouble meeting the needs of their students and the expectations of the administration
  3. What teachers have been trying isn't working (and they don't know what else to do)

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What Teachers Want

So teachers are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, (sometimes) disrespected and exhausted.

Teachers want help. Strategies. Language to use. A practical approach.

They want to apply to apply minor tweaks to what they already know and get better results for all of their students.

Because they want to feel inspired, confident, hopeful, energized, productive, collaborative, and prepared to meet the needs of their students (and their administration).

That shouldn't be too much to ask, right? Certainly, it's what all parents want for their child's teacher.

What Teachers Need

Teachers need:

  • a deeper understanding of their student's challenges
  • an understanding of the pervasiveness of executive function challenges and how they interfere with all aspects of a child's ability to learn
  • a toolbox of simple yet innovative approaches that work with complex students
  • to understand how to take a disability perspective without lowering their expectations or minimizing a student's capacity

These are reasonable expectations. But how best to get teachers the information they need!? That's more of a challenge. With shrinking budgets and increasing demands, teachers' time is at a premium, and every second of training needs to return an hour on that investment.

That's why we've used our award-winning parent training program to create an effective, efficient training – Sanity School® for Teachers. We know what teachers need – and we're (finally) ready to give it to them.

  • "As a teacher, the Sanity School® curriculum was a lifeline for a class that was filled with complex, chronic behaviors and parents who were not always ready to face their child’s reality. The section on Executive Function provided essential information for me to create systems and plans. It also provided tangible information to aid in my conversations with parents.” Jean M, FL

Our first step was to host a free event called "School Survival for Teachers." We introduced three key strategies that teachers could begin to use immediately in their classrooms and answered as many questions as we could in over an hour. We taught…

Three Key Strategies for Teachers

1. Take the 3-5 Challenge.

Complex kids tend to be 3-5 years behind their peers in some aspects of their development. More often than not, students' difficult behaviors are a result of developmental delays in executive function. When a student is struggling, take a few years off and consider where they are developmentally (rather than chronologically). That will help you address your students' challenges more constructively and compassionately. Remember – their difficulty managing their emotions is part of their developmental delay.

2. Understand the Role of Motivation.

The brains of students with executive function challenges are wired without a "just get it done" button. In fact, they need a motivation for everything they do. Younger children may be motivated by pleasing adults, but it's not a sustainable strategy for the long term. Help them identify what is likely to motivate them using this acronym: P (play/humor) I (interest) N (novelty) C (competition) H (hurry up/urgency).

3. Make CALM a priority.

When students resist work, are oppositional, anxious, impulsive, over-sensitive, aggressive, etc., their immature executive functions are interfering with their education. Focus on calm. For you, instead of getting frustrated, get curious. Identify the underlying source of a student's emotional reactions. For students, create an environment that makes mistakes "matter-of-fact." Don't ask them "why" they did something because they probably don’t know. Instead, help them identify their feelings and concerns without shame, embarrassment or judgment. When we stay calm, we keep things from escalating; when our students stay calm, they have access to the problem-solving parts of their brain.


At School Survival for Teachers, in over an hour we barely got through a quarter of the questions that registered teachers submitted. Clearly, the need is great.

Our Solution: Sanity School® for Teachers

Parents want their child’s teachers to have the training and tools they need to help kids succeed in school. And teachers want a more effective toolbox for teaching kids with complex issues because they really want to help.

So, if the question is, how do we help teachers get the training they need? Our answer is Sanity School® for Teachers.

  • "Hello. I just finished Week 6 of Sanity School®. Thank you for this amazing program! I have already started sharing the way the program has changed my perspective of my students (by helping me to understand them better) and transformed my classroom. In particular, I really love the chart on executive function. I think it is a great tool to use in my school with parents." Jessica G., Teacher, NJ


Sanity School® for Teachers energizes and equips teachers to create more productive classrooms. Teachers get an understanding of the key issues facing students, and three months of coaching and support to implement what they're learning in their classrooms.

So if you're a teacher who wants help, we invite you to try the strategies we've shared here, and find out more about our new program for teachers. It is nothing short of transformational.

And if you're a parent, and you know your child's teachers need help, share this article and encourage your child's teacher to get support in learning how to teach students with ADHD. Talk to the administration about enrolling teachers into Sanity School®. Advocate for your child, and for all the other kids who deserve teachers who really "get it."

P.S. While I was writing this article, a client texted me. I'm not making this up, I promise. She had just left a parent/teacher conference, and wrote: "I just had a teacher ASK me for resources so he could learn about ADHD!!! He was fascinated when I described some of the lesser-known symptoms. He said it makes so much sense because he couldn't figure out why my son can be so advanced with complicated topics but not able to organize the basic assignments. I think teachers know and recognize the 'typical' ADHD hyperactivity, but they aren't aware of the spectrum and how many kids fly under the radar. But these kids are stressed every day just trying to get by. They also spend a ton of energy trying to look 'normal.' And yes, I'm sending him the Sanity School® for Teachers stuff. Such a total WIN!!"

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