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ADHD - how it can affect teenagers going to high school

ADD; ADHD; attention; deficit; hyperactivity; disorder; high; school; teenagers;



ADHD at High School 1You will already know that people with ADHD have trouble concentrating, staying still and being quiet, especially when doing school work or when there is a lot going on around them.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder  is one of a group of behaviour disorders where kids find it really hard to concentrate on what they are doing. They find it hard to make friends and often get into trouble at home or school for not listening properly or not paying attention to what they are doing.

High school can be a big challenge because students need to take more responsibility for their behaviour and be able to concentrate quietly for longer than they have done before. 

Other students may not realise that a person with ADHD is not trying to cause trouble.

It’s really important to remember that you are a person who happens to have ADHD. You are also a person who has lots of abilities to do things well, and some not so well – like everyone else. But life at high school can be tougher if you also have ADHD.

Secondary school and ADHD

ADHD at High School 2

If you have ADHD or ADD you may not be looking forward to going to high school.

Many kids who don’t have the same problems as you feel a bit scared about changing up to the ‘Big school’. They may have other problems which worry them.

So, you are not on your own!

Maybe you will be going with some kids whom you already know and are your friends, but you may feel lonely and not at all sure whether you will make friends and be able to succeed at high school.

However it is up to every single kid to make the most of their high school years and that includes you. After all, you are going to be there for at least 4 years so you need to make the most of them, don’t you?

Giving school your best shot

ADHD at High School 3Before you start the school year it is a good idea for you and your parents or carers to visit the school and talk to the teacher in charge of your year level or your home teacher. Your primary school will send your student notes to your new school but it’s a good idea to make sure that the school knows about difficulties you might have had, and that you know that they are able to understand that you may need some extra help.

You will be having different teachers for different subjects, so it is best if all your teachers know that you have ADHD, so that they help by making sure:

  • you have a quiet place in the classroom to learn
  • you have a timetable in your diary and there is a lesson plan for you to follow if you are not sure what to do next
  • that you are quietly reminded to be quiet and still
  • that they can encourage you and praise you when you stay on task
  • that they understand you may need help in setting goals
  • that you have a behaviour management plan in place
  • that you understand what work to do and when it needs to be handed in
  • that you respect the rights of your teacher to teach and the other kids’ right to learn
  • that you may need to take a break and go outside to let off some energy if you are having a lot of difficulty sitting still and concentrating. Where you go will be in your management plan so it’s a good idea to keep a copy with you at all times in case you have a teacher who does not know you, e.g. a relief teacher.

If your teachers know about your ADHD, they will be pleased when you have done well, because they know it takes a lot of work for you to learn and manage your behaviour.

After school

Make sure that you have some exercise every day. Perhaps you could join a club or a school team, run or walk the dog, skate or ride a bike. Exercise is a great way of using up energy after you have been sitting still for most of the day, and you will feel more like getting that homework done afterwards. You will also find it easier to get a good night’s sleep after exercising.

Feeling hungry
Most kids feel hungry after a day at school, and kids with ADHD can feel even hungrier because it has been harder work to manage their learning and behaviour at school. It might be a long time until dinner time.

Ask your parents or carers to make sure there is good food for you to eat as soon as you get home. Junk food is not a good idea – it can make it even harder for you to concentrate when you have to start your homework.


After a long day at school where you have had to stay still and concentrate it can be hard to settle down to do homework.

  • You may feel very tired after trying so hard to ‘be good’.
  • You may feel angry that you still need to sit still and concentrate after school is over for the day. After all it has been hard work to do this all day.

But most schools do expect kids to do homework.

Homework can be a problem, but it will help if you and your parents or carers;

  • set clear times for starting, and for finishing
  • have a written plan for what needs to be done, and when it has to be finished (you will have to use your diary!)
  • make sure you have a place where you can study without distractions.

You will need to work out what suits you best. Some kids need a quiet place, some work best if they have quiet music around which gives them pleasure and blocks out the sounds other people at home are making, and some even find it easier to study when there is loud music playing (parents might have trouble believing this – but it is true!!!!)

If you are not coping well with homework ask your parents or carers to talk with your home teacher to see if expectations about what you need to do can be changed.


ADHD at High School 5Young people with ADHD often have difficulty making and keeping friends because of their behaviour.

Everyone has problems with friends sometimes. All friendships have to be worked at. If you have ADHD, you may have to work very hard to make, and then keep, friends.

What can you do?

  • Don’t break the school rules or the social rules.
  • Remember to take turns and share.
  • Work hard on keeping still and not distracting others.
  • Stay away from other kids who get into trouble. Some kids can be very unkind and try to ‘wind you up’ so that you get into trouble. Don’t let them!

It’s worth the effort!

Have a look at our topic ‘Making friends’.


Some kids with ADHD are targets of bullies at school. Bullying is never your fault.

There are several topics about bullying on our site including Dealing with bullies and Cyberbullying – bullying from a distance

Managing your ADHD

ADHD can be managed by learning new behaviours and some kids do better if they also use medication. Treatment with medication may help you to be more calm and focused.

Often people with ADHD will be able to stop their medication one day because they will have worked out how to manage their own behaviour and how to focus on tasks they need to do.

Medicines should only be used in the way that the doctor has said to use them.

  • The medicines for ADHD need to be kept secure if you need to have them at school because other kids may to try take them away from you if they know you have them in your bag or desk. Your school will probably have rules about keeping these medicines safe. Find out what these rules are from your home teacher before the school year starts.
  • Your school should know what you are taking and maybe they will suggest that you keep some medication at the school with the First Aid staff just in case you ran out at home or forgot to take it.

Setting up your management plan with your new school before you go there will help you to settle down more quickly.

Usually all people get better at controlling their own behaviour as they get older, but without help, including medication sometimes, people with ADHD may find it harder to learn self-control when put under pressure. But many people find work after they leave school that needs their skills and where having ADHD is a benefit rather than a problem. Keep this in mind if you are having tough times.

Feeling good

Young people with ADHD can find it difficult to feel good about themselves. Many things that others take for granted are hard for them.

Often, other people only notice 'bad' behaviour instead of looking at all the good things about the person. If you have a friend with ADHD, you can help by concentrating on the things your friend does well and letting him or her know you've noticed.

ADHD at High School 4

How to feel better about yourself

  • Be willing to have a go at something new.
  • Set yourself short-term goals that you can reach and be happy about on the way to reaching your main goal.
  • Say thank you when you get a compliment and feel proud of your efforts.
  • Work at learning and practising new skills so that you feel confident in your ability.
  • Accept that everyone makes mistakes and use them so that you learn to do better next time.
  • Be a happy and caring person and you will attract people to you.

Dr Kate says

If you are having problems then talk about them.

  • At school you can talk to teachers and student counsellors.
  • At home you can talk to your family or whoever you live with.
  • You can talk to your other trusted adults like sports coaches, Police or you can contact someone to help you from one of the organisations below.

  Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800:   


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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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