The Truth About ADHD And The Middle School Years
This is an honest look at ADHD and the Middle School years.
My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 10 – very late by ADHD standards.
Although I had long suspected it, I also did not feel like there was any pressing need to pursue testing and diagnosis. If I am honest, part of it was fear and maybe even a little shame. We were already homeschooling, so needing to sit still in a classroom was a non-issue. Overall, ADHD seemed minor at the time.
My son is now 12.
It doesn’t seem minor anymore.
As we have entered the middle school years, the struggles he faces as a result of his ADHD have only intensified.
The middle school years are a time of significant change for all children.
Cognitive maturation, physical changes and puberty, coupled with increasing social expectations and requirements can make this time frame a difficult one – even in the best of circumstances.
Add ADHD to the mix and things become complicated, quickly.
School and ADHD
My son was the one who identified it first. In conversation with me and his therapist last year, he said, “What’s hardest right now is feeling like my brain won’t slow down. I can’t really even focus. Is this my ADHD, because if it is, I think need help.”
That same day, I came home determined to find as much information as I could about his age and ADHD. I was surprised to find very little. Most resources were designed for parents of younger children, or parents navigating the seriousness (read – drivers licenses and drug abuse) of ADHD and teens.
With that in mind, I thought I would share what I have learned so far, and the work in progress that is my understanding of ADHD in the middle school years.
The Truth About ADHD And The Middle School Years
Physical vs. Emotional Maturity
I read somewhere that children with ADHD often develop emotional and functional maturity at a slower rate. Typically, children with ADHD are approximately 2-3 years behind their typically developing peers in emotional and social maturity. Their physical development however, if not affected and proceeds as usual.
This gap between physical and emotional development is at its greatest disparity during the middle school years. As such, our children often feel increasing levels of anxiety and depression associated with the new physicality of their bodies coupled with a lagging emotional ability to handle all the feelings it brings. My son is literally becoming a boy in a man’s body.
Executive Function and Increasing Demands
When a child reaches the middle school years, the expectation shifts (and rightly so) to increasing independence and self-management. School demands increase and include an expectation of organization and planning. For a child with ADHD, executive function is often a struggle, making this a difficult transition on every level.
For my son, this tends to look like not knowing where to even start, or having trouble switching gears between subjects. It also leads to leaving work about half-done without even realizing it.
Social Development and Peer Relationships
As a child gets older and enters into this season, his or her differences become much more apparent. A younger child who is rambunctious and silly can still get along and more easily interact with other children. In the middle school years though, it is just not as easy. The emotional immaturity we discussed above, coupled with peer pressure to “fit,” can make social situations extremely difficult for the child with ADHD.
This has certainly been true for both of my children with differences, including ADHD. The older they get, the harder it has been for them to maintain existing relationships and develop new ones.
Incidentally, one of the reasons we did not receive a diagnosis of ADHD for so long, was because of our decision to homeschool. Hands down, homeschooling my son has eliminated many of the stressors and struggles children with ADHD tend to face in a classroom.
One of the most difficult struggles I’ve had in homeschooling my child with ADHD is never knowing if I’m doing enough. Please join me today at Simple Homeschool, where I answer the question Am I Doing Enough In Our Homeschool?
For More Resources and Support:
When Your Child Has Both ADHD And Anxiety
When The Child Who Needs Structure Fights It The Most
Is It ADHD Or Bad Parenting?
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.
Middle school is the worst. As a matter of fact when my son didn’t like something when he was little he said “There ought to be a law against ______” That’s how I feel about middle school. And here something my son wrote for my book I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE – Winning Our War Against Autism. http://autism-and-treatment.com/2015/05/03/no-one-should-ever-have-to-go-to-middle-school-by-ryan-hinds/
My third son just turned 12 last week. He is still in 6th grade (which is still considered elementary school where we live). He has both ADHD and Autism. He is still very immature for his age. He was born 3 months premature, and has always been very small for his age, so out in public he appears to be a younger child. But he will be going to Middle School next fall—and I am already DREADING it (have been for many months now)! I honestly don’t think it will be anything less than a nightmare. His 2 older brothers—one has ADD and one has Autism, but neither has both issues—both went to the Middle School in our district, and it was not a good experience. High School was even worse. But at least i was able to find other options for High School. There just are not other options for Middle School, and home school is not a viable option for me; neither is moving to another location. I don’t know what i’m going to do….
I’m in the same situation Abby. You wrote your post a few years ago. I hope y’all made it through middle school ok. I just keep wondering when public schools are going to step up and actually start offering what they’re supposed to for ALL kids…even those who are ADHD, ASD, etc…a free AND appropriate education. Public schools in most school districts are just not and our bright and worthy kids are losing. And parents of these kids are too. I constantly feel like a failure for not being able to provide my ADHD/ASD/SPD son with a safe and appropriate school.
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