Children with ADHD may have delayed language skills, both in comprehension and expression.

They may trip over words, misinterpret what they’ve been told and have difficulty remembering words, processing oral language, and organizing their thoughts.

When a student with ADHD can’t answer a question in class, teachers and classmates may assume that he or she doesn’t know the answer. However, the student may only need more time to remember and retrieve the answer.

What Helps

Partner with Your Child’s Teacher

Extra time and latitude is the most important intervention a teacher can provide. Parents should discuss these tips with the child’s teacher:

  • Develop a secret agreement that the teacher will never “pop” a question that requires a speedy answer. This alone will help a student relax.
  • Give the student extra time to answer questions, like pausing to write on the blackboard.
  • Speaking slowly and providing information in small units is a help at any time, but especially in the classroom.
  • Reinforce verbal instructions and lessons with written materials or by writing on the blackboard.
  • Work closely with the child to determine and accommodate individual needs.

At Home

Children with ADHD benefit greatly from a language-rich environment, one in which they are encouraged to interact verbally but never shamed for their slow processing or misuse of words. Parents might try the following:

  • Provide props to build a strong language base – books, movies, and computer programs – as well as family and friends who interact with the child and help him or her practice communication skills.
  • Use every experience as an opportunity to enrich language – the grocery store, the gas station, and the doctor’s office, asking the child to name what he or she sees.
  • Older children should be encouraged to recap their daily experiences at the dinner table each night, helping the child feel comfortable using language and never criticizing their efforts.
  • Early intervention is critical for children with language difficulties. If you suspect a problem, talk to the school or arrange for language remediation.