Resources for Families, Individuals and Professionals

Alternative School Options for Teen Age Students with ADHD

Ask the Experts by Dean Dauphinais

Q. I’m the parent of a high school student who is struggling in public school because of some learning differences. Is there an alternative school option for them that may provide a better way to learn?

A. I feel your pain. My younger son’s struggle with ADHD, anxiety, and learning began late in middle school. Although he was super intelligent and tested off the charts, learning and comprehending in a mainstream environment wasn’t working for him. He did the best he could in public school during ninth and tenth grades. The school was incredibly helpful, too, putting an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in place for my son, which included numerous accommodations. Things improved, but my wife and I thought a smaller school with more individualized instruction and hands-on learning would help him even more.

We did some research and discovered The Leelanau School, a small college-prep boarding high school in Glen Arbor, Michigan. Their curriculum uses multi-sensory, experiential, and strength-based methodologies, just what our son needed.

The school’s alternative learning environment changed his life. He went from feeling left out and hating school to feeling welcome and loving school. His grades improved dramatically. He blossomed into the student we knew he could be, and his self-confidence grew.

As a result, he did things we never envisioned him doing, like acting in plays, playing music and singing in public. Those things happened because our son felt comfortable in the school’s environment: Small classrooms, individualized attention and a small, tight-knit student body that felt like a second family.

We are blessed with wonderful public schools, but some kids need a different style of learning in order to succeed. And that’s okay. I would urge you to explore alternative educational options. Your child doesn’t have to struggle in high school. The right school can recognize your child’s potential, maximize it, and help them achieve great things.

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