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  • Writer's pictureShannon Anderson

How I Got Through School With ADHD – Accommodations

Here's how I got through school as a straight A honors student with ADHD.

Introduce Yourself + Ask for Accommodations

  • Before the start of school, email your teacher(s). Tell them you have ADHD, you really care about their class, and you want to do well.

    • (when I was younger, my parents would do this)

  • Ask to be put in the front row — preferably in a corner, by the teacher's desk, and/or next to quiet kids.

  • If you have a friend in the class, tell the teacher who your friend is and ask to not be sat by them (I also asked them to keep this request a secret)

  • (If applicable) Tell them you're a visual learner and it's very difficult to retain auditory instruction. Ask if when giving instructions, if they could write it on the board, send you an email with the instructions, or give you a print out.

Throughout my entire K-12 schooling, all but one teacher OVER THE MOON that I wanted to sit in the front row, do well in class, and not sit by my friends. I know this is scary and uncomfortable, but 95% of the time, the teacher will be so happy! The other 5% of the time, the class was going to suck anyways so it was worth a shot!

Example Email to Teachers

Hi [Teacher Name],

My name is Shannon and I am in your ___ class. I really care about your class and want to do well. I have ADHD and I was wondering if you'd be willing to make a few accommodations for me.

Could you please seat me in the front row — preferably in a corner, by your desk, and/or next to quiet kids? When I'm not in the front row, I get distracted easily. I really care about your class and this would be so helpful for me!

Also, my friend ___ is in your class. Could you please not sit me by her (I know I'll get distracted if I sit by her)? Also, could you please not tell her or anyone I told you this?

I'm a visual learner and it's very difficult for me to retain auditory instruction. If you're giving instructions for classwork or homework, could you please write it on the board, send me an email, or give me some sort of printout? If this is not something you're willing to do, would it be alright if I come up to your desk after you give instructions and show you my notes of your instructions to make sure I got everything correct?

Thank you so much for considering these accommodations! I'm looking forward to your class!

Thank you,


Other ADHD Accommodations

In the US, schools/teachers are only required to provide accommodations like these if the student has an IEP or 504 Plan. I didn't have either but I received many accommodations just by asking (or my parents tirelessly fighting the school boards/teachers to get them for me — I am EXTREMELY privileged to have parents who did this). Some of the accommodations I received were chewing gum, fidget toys, extra breaks, extra test time, seating accommodations, etc.

  • Chew gum in class

  • Keep a weighted blanket in the classroom (provides proprioceptive input to the brain and creates a calming effect)

  • Exercise: my brother's teacher kept a backpack full of dictionaries in the class and when he felt like he needed to move around, he would do pushups or walk through the halls while wearing it.

  • Extra Breaks:

    • Leave class to go for a walk when you're overstimulated or have too much energy

    • Take extra "bathroom breaks" even if you don't need to use the bathroom

    • For younger kids, ask the teacher to send your child to the office to deliver a "note" when your child is having trouble focusing. The note doesn't have to say anything, it's just an opportunity to get them moving which can help focus when they return.

  • Fidget Toys (can't be distracting for other students)

  • 2 Sets of Textbooks (school and home): helps with forgetfulness

  • Format Changes to Tests

    • Extra test time

    • Take breaks during tests (do pushups, jumping jacks, go for a walk, etc.)

    • Take the test in a different room away from classmates to help reduce distractions

    • Break the test up into multiple sessions

    • Provide a written form of all instructions

    • Write instructions in a simplified, bullet point format

    • Take test orally instead of written

  • Format Changes to Tests/Homework

    • For big assignments with one due date, ask the teacher to break it up into sections and give you different due dates for each.

    • ADHDers often struggle with writing "drafts" of papers. Many (not all) are slower writers, but their "first draft" is often very similar to their final draft. Talk to your teacher about modifications to "draft" requirements.

    • Example modification request for a typical 3 draft paper:

      • Draft 1: outline with rough plan for each section, 1/3 of the draft paper written

      • Draft 2: any updates to the outline, edits/revisions to previous draft, 2/3 of the draft paper written

      • Draft 3: edits/revisions to previous draft, complete draft

      • Finval Version: edits/revisions

  • Seating Accommodations (mentioned about)

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