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Helping a 6th Grader With ADHD

Is repeating a grade a good idea for a child with ADHD?

By Clarice Kestenbaum
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Q: My son, who has ADHD, just completed the 6th grade with almost failing grades. I don't think he's ready for the 7th grade. In addition, he doesn't like taking his medicine and doesn't believe he has to study since he already knows the class material. Can I work with him over the summer to prepare him for the 7th grade or should I have him repeat the 6th grade?

A: You mention that your son, who has been diagnosed with ADHD, is failing 6thgrade. As you undoubtedly know, ADHD is a condition characterized by impulsive behavior, distractibility, and difficulty paying attention. Psychostimulant medication is helpful but rarely successful without additional intervention, including various types of psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, social skills training, parent education, and family therapy.

However, your son may have another problem as well, a specific learning disability that may interfere with his ability to succeed in school. Learning difficulties frequently occur in children with ADHD. Children with learning disabilities usually have a normal range of intelligence; some have superior intelligence and yet they have difficulty concentrating and following instructions. Children who have difficulty remembering what the teacher has told them, who fail to understand simple instructions, or have difficulty organizing their homework, often feel embarrassed or ashamed to learn, and thus avoid study altogether.

It is very important that your son have a comprehensive psychological examination, usually performed by a neuropsychologist who can determine the nature of the problem and make specific recommendations about school or class placement. Educational remediation should be done by a learning specialist. Repeating the 6th grade is not an appropriate solution without getting the evaluation. Helping him yourself may create more resistance and set up a pattern of avoidance. It is important for your son to feel good about himself and become confident at performing academic tasks according to his innate potential. Learning disabilities are treatable and should be detected early so that the children can return to the path of healthy development.

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