He Just Has to Learn

Elementary schoolboy listening to his teacher at lesson

By Donna Shea & Nadine Briggs

He just has to learn:

  • to be responsible;
  • to listen;
  • to turn in his work;
  • to sit still;
  • to pay attention; and
  • to focus.

There isn’t a parent of a child who struggles with the symptoms of ADHD that has not heard the words “he just has to learn to (fill in the blank).

You know what? There isn’t a child out there that doesn’t want to please or want to be able to do the things we ask of them. Nothing upsets me more than hearing about a child being punished for his or her disability or symptoms. Because you know what else? Impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention are symptoms of ADHD. They are not chosen behaviors. (Yes, ADHD children are also perfectly capable of purposeful misbehavior, but it is quite easy to tell the difference.)

Disciplining a child for the executive function challenges inherent with ADHD is the same as disciplining a child who has diabetes for not controlling his or her blood sugar.

The more that a child begins to feel that he or she cannot meet our unrealistic expectations of an ADHD student, the more that child’s self-esteem will suffer and he or she will either act up or give up.

Let’s stop punishing children for their neurological challenges and symptoms. These kids learn much better when we approach them from “how to” instead of “don’t do.”

They don’t have to learn. We do.