Which Middle School for ADHD?

Parent Q&A

Middle School for ADHD Child currently in Dublin Feb 22, 2017 (1 responses below)
Can anyone recommendations for middle school on the Peninsula? Oct 18, 2016 (1 responses below)
  • My daughter, who has ADHD, is currently in school in Dublin and will go to middle school in the fall. She is struggling academically and has mild behavior problems, which often come with ADHD. (Impulse control, social awkwardness, inability to set and maintain boundaries, etc.) In addition, she does not take accountability for her work and has no self discipline when it comes school work. She gives zero effort to writing assignments and does the bare minimum with most other work, even when she is completely capable and has demonstrated a clear ability to do the work.

    I’ve thought of putting her in a KIPP school in San Lorenzo and even the Oakland Military Academy so she can practice accountability, discipline and become more mindful. However, I am concerned about how well she’d do academically. Dublin, because it is a much wealthier district, probably has more resources for kids with special needs, though, even with those resources and an IEP, my daughter is struggling.

    I know that, once my daughter starts middle school, the work and expectations will be even higher, so I have to find a school that meets her need and offers a chance at success. At this point, I have no idea what to do. Are there middle schools in the East Bay, perhaps a charter or private school, where kids with ADHD thrive?

    Orinda Academy--but they enroll 8th.  

  • I would love to hear from any parent with a great middle school experience on the Peninsula (Burlingame down to Mountain View) for a girl with ADHD and dyslexia but able to track on grade level provided she can use assistive technologies and other scaffolding accommodations. In short, we are looking for a mainstream school with a warm, accepting and supporting attitude towards this kind of student. Thank you for any insights!

    Both of my kids have attended the Keys School in Palo Alto.  They are "whole child centered" and accept that there are many different types of learning styles, good classroom size, a welcoming environment, and good academics.  You might also want to check out Charles Armstrong in Belmont, which is specifically for students with Dyslexia.   I have known several kids who went to Charles Armstrong and have done very well in learning the skills they needed to attend and do very well at a main-stream high school.  

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Questions

Help from OUSD for private school student with ADD?

October 2006

I have a 11 year old daughter in a private school in Oakland who has ADD. Tutoring is becoming expensive and overwhelming. I'm wondering if OUSD offers any assistance with ADD, evaluations and tutoring. Does she have to be enrolled in a public school. I don't want to label her as being learning disabled, but what about later when she needs to take exit exams and needs extra time or help. Will they give her those considerations without a diagnosis from OUSD. Please help, any advice is greatly appreciated.
Frustrated, but trying to be patient Mom


OUSD is required under the new special education laws to assess (called child find) and provide services to children who are in private schools where the private schools are located in the OUSD. Before the OUSD has to provide services or any accomodations it must evaluate a student and determine that the student has a learning disability that is recognized under the federal laws (determine that the student is eligible for special education). No evaluation and determination of eligibility means no services and no accomodations by the OUSD. I suggest that you get the NOLO press book the IEP Guide. You can also call the State of California Department of Education Procedural Safeguards Referral Service. Your concern about labeling is valid, but that has to be weighed about the ability to get services and accomodations. Annon


My heart goes out to you, becuase I know how hard this is. I have an 8 yr old adhd son with severe LD. I don't know about OUSD, but let me say what I do know from WCCUSD, and what we learned from private services. You said you have had tutoring. Did you have any testing done to see what kind of learning aassistance your daughter needs? If not, this should be your next step, and I would recommend both a school eval, and a private eval. Also, please please do not worry about labling your kid as LD. ''LD'' kids can get services from the school district. Kids with LD need to KNOW why they are not like other kids. The self esteem issue is HUGE. Once they know that their brain is wired different, they are relieved to know they are not just dumb. LD does not mean dumb, it means differnt. My son has an IQ of 120, but he cannot read. He is just different. I have learned that getting and paying for exacltly the right kid of intervention (tutoring) is critical, otherwise, you are wasting lots of money. An educational therapist is essential. So, about testing. Call your local public school, and ask if you child can be tested for learning disablities (something specific). Find out if they do this- I don't know if you have to be enrolled. I would recommend asking for the full phyco-educational test, as well as speech- expressive and receptive languge (there can be hidden problems there). If you where in public school, they would do some observations, and preliminary testing to see if full testing is warrented. I don't know how they would do that at your private school, but ask the OUSD. You have have to call the superindentands office. Second, find out if your insurance will cover an evaluation by a developmental and behavioral pediatrician. Get a freferral from you pediatrician. I was suprised to learn that our insurance, pacific care, covered the whole cost (over $2000 of testing). Children's hospital has a great program, but the insurance hoops can be great (but do-able). Third, Lindamood Bell in Berkeley does a great battery of tests, it costs about $700. They are a very expensive option if you go there for remediation,(about $1650 a week for 20 hours of one-to-one remediation in the summer), but they usually get great results. The reason I recommend both the school, and private is because they come from different sides of the fence (in my opinion). The school does not want to find anything wrong, because they do not want to provide services. Lindamood Bell may Want to find problems, so they stay in business. In my situation, the school took more notice when we came in with a pile of tests, and previous remediation (we went to Lindamood bell for two summers). Once our school in WCCUSD found my son had specific problems, there was not trouble getting lots of services (he has an IEP, special ed, speech, OT). If money is a big issue, you may do better enrolling in a public school, getting as many services there as you can, and suppliment with an educational therapist. But you really need the testing to know what kind opf help your child needs. My son get about as much help as the district can give him, and we still need to pay for extra. But with adhd, things can get bad, so we are trying very hard. Good luck!
another mom 


Can ADD student succeed in Berkeley middle school?

April 2005

My son will be in 5th grade next fall in one of the Berkeley public schools and he has been diagnosed with ADHD. He is a bright kid and is doing well in school now, but is still easily distractable, emotional, and has bouts of anger and depression, especially after experiencing teasing by classmates (he has some speech issues). I am very concerned about how he will handle middle school and want to start looking at alternatives to the public schools now. In particular, I would like some honest feedback by parents of ADHD kids or kids with other challenges who are in the Berkeley middle schools or who have chosen private school for their kid's middle school years. Are there any private schools in the Berkeley area that do well by these kids? Is competition for these schools especially fierce? Anxious mom


My thirteen-year-old son is ADD (he is on a medication regimen during school hours) and is going to finish eighth grade at Willard this spring. He has encountered problems periodically at Willard dealing with other students, but I have never thought that his being ADD was particularly responsible for these.

Keep in mind that the middle school years are for many, if not most kids, the most difficult years they will experience in terms of peer relations. No matter what school a child attends, there will be issues of exclusion/teasing/bullying. What's particularly difficult in a Berkeley public middle school is that there is a significant ''diversity'' of students, including children who can be disruptive, aggressive, and downright mean to other students. My son found ways of coping with these students that rendered his experience in this fairly wild social milieux tolerable. We know of other students who found it simply too loud, wild, and overwhelming. I don't think there's any way of knowing in advance how well your son might cope.

As for academics, up until the advent of ''work to rule,'' I think my son was getting a good education at Willard. Partly, this is because fortunately for him (and for us), he is very conscientious about schoolwork and he sets high standards for himself. He also has no reluctance about going to see teachers before or after school for extra help. When there are problems, however, parents of public school students often must be assertive and proactive to make sure that proper attention is paid to their children; the teachers are overwhelmed enough that they generally won't ''call home'' or take the initiative to resolve an emerging academic problem. At least at the middle school level, we found that teachers and administrators still seem very receptive to parent inquiries and concerns. This is far less the case once the students move on to Berkeley High.


I have no pat answers to your question, but our ADD (quiet form) daughter was generally far more successful in public school than in private.

We initially moved her in second grade from a Montessori school -PRINTS- where she was doing poorly (and the teacher insisted that ADD was non-existant) to a more structured environment at the Nomura School. Here she had a great run for second and third grades before coming up against another unsupportive teacher (wouldn't read/follow physician recommendations like seating her in front of the class, humiliated her in front of her classmates, encouraged them to tease her as 'peer behavior control', repeatedly suggested we put her on drugs despite physician recommending against, etc etc etc.) When we learned she would have the same charming woman for 5th grade, we moved her and her sister to our local public school.

In public school she had a talented and motivated teacher who didn't reject her. We did our part by volunteering in the classroom a few hours a week. Although we worked with other kids, it gave us a big leg up on what was going on and we felt that the teacher (Jon Mayer at Le Conte) appreciated it far more than her private school teachers.

We did try to return her to private school for middle school, because a small class size is so desirable in holding her attention. We applied to three, all with reputations for small classes, an indvidualized approach to learning, and appreciating diversity. She was rejected by all three; none would give us a reason beyond ''we had many applicants for every opening.'' (One was advertising for 'places still open' the following October.) My husband translated this as ''we'll take a normal kid over one with ADD.''

She was assigned to ML King Middle School --which was not in our zone, and I have no idea how THAT happened-- and in general that was very successful for us. Her vice principal, Dianna Penny, made us feel that she really appreciated our daughter and worked with us and her teachers to resolve problems. Although she was not disabled enough to receive assistance through the full inclusion program, she bonded with several kids in the program who provided her with the kind of accepting environment she always yearned for. She had one real problem teacher and a couple of 'FAQs'in her three years there, but we all survived.

My personal feeling is that unless you can find a private school that will embrace your son's differences, the more accepting environment of a public school might actually work better for you. And you can be a hero by donating a tiny fraction of the cost to your public school, you can spend your time volunteering in a class instead of fund raising for new buildings, and maybe even afford after school enrichments for your son that are focussed on his needs and interests.

Best of luck with your decision, Chris


Middle School Recommendations for ADD and LD Kids

April 2001

I would appreciate any recommendations for alternative middle schools in the East Bay area (Richmond/El Cerrito/Berkeley area, preferrably). I have a 7th grade nephew who has problems expressing his understanding of ideas an concepts in a written form. He is very bright, but is rapidly losing any traces of self-esteem when it comes to academics. I think an alternative school setting which emphasized more creative ways of learning and expressing ideas would make a huge difference. Unfortunately, cost is an issue as his Mom is single.


I have a son in 7th grade at Community School of the East Bay (CSEB) ... (see recommendations for Community School of the East Bay


Oct 2000

I am looking for a private middle school for my son who has ADHD. Does anyone have any experiences to relate or recommendations regarding middle schools in Oakland or Berkeley that do or do not accomodate children with ADHD or learning differences? Thanks.


Depending upon how severe your son's condition and how well he responds to treatment, there are a number of possibilities. At the far end, you could consider schools like North Bay/Orinda and Raskob (@Holy Names College in Oakland) which have a specific focus on kids with challenges like ADHD and LD. A family therapist I know and respect who deals with placement issues like these all the time thinks that Head Royce is good with bright ADD/LD kids. But I wouldn't choose to send such a kid to private school, in general.

Here's why. Based on 10+ years of experience, my personal belief is that the local private school community is quite inhospitable to children who manifest their ADD (or LD) in the school environment (and why else would you be asking?). Even mild LD and moderate ADD are more than enough to mark a child as 'a problem' and to prevent him from receiving the benefits you might expect from a private school -- respectful, individualized teaching and good peer relationships. We left the private school world at 5th grade (after two schools and a good deal of effort toward finding others) because we concluded that in private schools a child with 'differences' will always be viewed as a 'problem' rather than a jewel perhaps rough) to be valued and burnished.

Of course these kids *are* problems "from a certain point of view" -- they need teachers who make an effort to understand their problems, who are sensitive to the effects those difficulties have on the child's behavior and performance, and who are willing to make appropriate allowances and adjustments in light of their special needs. The attitude we encountered in local private schools, was, at bottom, one of "we don't need to/want to/have to deal with difficulties like this because we have more applicants than we can handle anyway." As one administrator put it (a math teacher no less!) "your son simply falls outside the bell curve."

What about the public school option? First, I'll acknowledge that the public schools are nowhere near perfect-- at least in Berkeley (if Piedmont schools are an option, take it.) Don't count on the special ed department for a thing, even if you can get your son through the entitlement process. BUT, consider these benefits:

Compared to private schools, your child will be seen as fairly normal by teachers and peers. If he is at all well-behaved, he will find himself going from a 'troublemaker' image (and self-image) to being 'a pleasure to have in class.' This alone has a terrific positive impact on a child's long term mental health.

Compared to private schools teachers will listen to and act on what parents (the experts about their child's special needs) tell them, are usually somewhat knowledgeable of the problems of such kids, and are absolutely DELIGHTED to deal with parents who care about their children and will help them do their jobs. Even if special ed isn't helpful, all you need is a "504" designation (automatic with an ADD diagnosis) and your child will get the accomodations he needs without all the special ed hassles. Regardless of legalities, thoguh, the iimportant thing is just to deal directly with the classroom teachers, starting at the beginning of the school year and staying on top of things thereafter.

Compared to private schools, your child will be much more likely to see himself as a success in academics and social relationships. Many people send their children to private schools because they want them to be tracked to go to the best colleges and generally 'get ahead.' For a child with difficulties like these, however, the first imperative is to learn that they CAN succeed in the school environment. The slightly lower pressure of public school academics is actually very positive for them. Able kids who graduate from Berkeley High after going through the public schools have no trouble getting into excellent colleges, from Harvard and Cal on down.

Compared to private schools, there is such a diverse pool of kids in the Berkeley schools that he will find friends no matter what he's like: geek, jock, social butterfly, space cadet, dancer, skateboarder .... Moreover, the kids in public schools are just as nice as elsewhere. They come from all classes and races, but are usually friendly and VERY accepting of differences. I'm no Pollyanna about class and race issues in the schools, but I have come to believe that those who haven't experienced what our public schools are like today often have a seriously distorted view of them. Sure, there are a few toughs out there, but they are few and far between and don't get away with much. King M.S. has one of the best principals (and staff) you'll find at any middle school, anywhere -- Neil Smith is absolutely first rate by any measure.

So what about academics? In middle school, the math and science program is good to excellent. Kids at King who could handle it were taking high school Algebra in 7th or 8th grade. A few were going up to BHS for advanced math. The foreign language teachers and classes are good as well. English and history are OK but not really challenging so far as I can tell. To me that doesn't matter much: I think those are areas learned by reading, not 6th -8th grade classes. Others may differ. Moreover, if you go on to BHS after middle school, the academic programs and teachers available are very, very good. (For instance, my son is taking Advanced Biology from Dr. Charles Martin, a Ph.D. biologist in his 50's who retired after 20+ years teaching at Cal, Howard and Northwestern. He was also a regional director of the Peace Corps. He inspires effort and excellence. How much more can you want?)

I hope this rather lengthy commentary is helpful to you and others on the list, if only as a counterpoise. Whatever you decide, I wish you very good luck, happiness and success in raising your son.

-- Tim


I just read the post about ADD and other special needs kids and thought it among the most sensitive, detailed, thoughtful pieces I have seen on this subject. I am not the parent of a child with these needs, but can only thank him---and the Newsletter for giving him this forum---for his message that must mean much to many parents. Thank you for the insight, concern,. compassion, and willingness to share these views with us. Stephen


Everyone's experiences are different concerning this. I read the 10/5 advice and thought of how different our experience was. So here is another view.

I thought that public school up through the 6th grade was not useful for a boy with ADHD. Getting anyone to pay attention to a 504 plan was impossible. I worked closely with classroom teachers and spent hours every night with our son relearning the day's materials plus doing homework One teacher tried to help with accommodation of his learning style but there were 31 other students to deal with, some who also had learning disabilities. It was a struggle for our son but he prevailed. His grades were good but he hated school. Not a good combination.

More and more private schools believe that they should be heterogeneous. They desire diversity in their student body including learning styles. It is the reality of society and what their students will experience in life. We discovered Berkeley Montessori School (on Le Roy in Berkeley) for the 7th grade where for the first time our son enjoyed learning. We fully disclosed his ADHD prior to admission. The teachers worked with us. There was daily communication. The class size was appropriate. He discovered new academic areas that he loved. He related to the teachers. They set him on a good path.

Our son is now in the 9th grade at Arrowsmith Academy in Berkeley, another wonderful school to consider for High School. We fully disclosed to Arrowsmith and let the admissions process happen. We are so glad he is there. He likes the teachers and the students, He has new subjects that he likes. His grades are good and many have been amazingly good. He seems happy and to quote him, "If a kid has to go to school, Arrowsmith is a good place to be." Teachers give out their home phone numbesr and encourage you to call. In the first 6 weeks of high school we have seen a wonderful transition happening.

Best of luck to you.
(Posted anonymously)

[See Arrowsmith Academy for more recommendations.]


Many thanks to Tim for such a thoughtful letter. Our experience with one year of private school during the middle school years confirms many of Tim's observations -- our son was actually ridiculed in front of the class for his inattention and his incomplete homework. Quite a shock after years in the Berkeley public schools, and a memorable and miserable year it was. This kid was evaluated for ADHD and LD at the insistence of his teacher that year, but was found to be in the "normal" range. He is just profoundly disinterested in school and without any motivation to do homework or study for tests or participate in class. He is one of those backrow kids who keeps a low profile, never causes any problems, and just drifts along, getting by with C's and D's. We returned to public school after that experience, and things went fine for a while.

However the big-school environment of Berkeley High School did not work at all. He was in heaven at BHS - loved the school, loved being independent, loved being even more anonymous than ever before. Within a couple of months after he started 9th grade, we were getting phone calls from teachers and seeing F's on the progress reports. Despite a mighty effort at home, and concern from teachers, we found that without his cooperation it just wasn't going to happen. Try as we might, he was not into cooperating, and it seemed clear he would very happily coast along on the backrow for the next 4+ years, bringing home F after F, despite his parents' and teachers' efforts.

So, we tried Arrowsmith, recommended here by other parents. It was rocky at first, and he did not like leaving his friends at BHS, but the small classes, run seminar-style, really did make a difference, because there is no way to fade into the background - you can't be anonymous in a class of 9 kids! He has actually become engaged and is interested in many of his classes. There are still teachers he doesn't like, and he still claims to not like school, but the change is truly amazing. He now comes home from school talking about the poem he read today, or the topic in biology they are studying. Wonder of wonder, he records assignments in his little book, and does homework without prompting. He proudly shows me the tests he's gotten A's on, and he hasn't yet made below a C. Maybe other parents have had this experience all through the school years, but it's a first for me, and it is extremely satisfying.

So, it depends on the kid, as we all know, but my experience is, that if you have a pleasant bright-enough kid who is satisfied to drift along with minimal effort, and maximum bad grades, then a big school like BHS may be a very difficult 4+ years. We are lucky to have had another option for this kid, and the one we picked has worked out really well. I wish there were a place for kids like mine at BHS, because that would have been my first choice. But the independence and wide-open opportunities at BHS that so many kids thrive on really don't work at all for a kid like mine. He seems to do better in a smaller more controlled environment. Anonymous [See Arrowsmith Academy for more recommendations\ .]


Tim's response to the parents seeking advice on private middle school for a boy with ADHD was thoughtful and thorough in discussing the considerations one faces when deciding whether public or private school better suits a child's needs. Our family's experience is different in that we came to private school at the high school level, after many years of committment and involvement in Berkeley public schools. Our daughter just graduated after 4 years at North Bay Orinda School (NBOS) and our son just started there as a freshman this fall. [See Recommendations for North Bay Orinda School for the rest of this recommendation.]


My kids left the public schools in 1987 because of ADD issues which BUSD would not address at the time, and all 5 have gone to private parochial school through 8th grade. The middle three have gone or are going to BHS. This year, I have 504 plans in place for two of my kids at BHS. My 9th grader is in heaven; everything Tim Perry said applies to her: in the big mix of kids, she feels normal, well-behaved, liked and accepted; in the big range of abilities, she comes out as a stellar student. I haven't seen her so happy since she started school 9 years ago. I am very happy with the decision to have her attend BHS and I can't say enough good things about the willingness of BHS staff to hear and accommodate her needs. The times they are a-changing, in public schools, at least; getting special needs met in private school is still an uphill struggle. The main advantage we found of private school is the sheltering of your child if his/her behavior has a track record of attracting aggression in the public schools. Also, when we switched to private school years ago, a child with impulsive behavior was less likely to encounter opportunities for drugs, sex and vandalism in private school and thus was also sheltered in that sense while developing a more mature sense of judgment. Today I don't know that kids can avoid these things anywhere. Anonymous


This note is in reply to the recent discussions on ADD/ADHD appearing in the newsletter. I agree with Mr. Perry about what a private school, in general, will mean for kids with learning differences/styles/disabilities etc. However, I have to disagree with him on at least the one school I know about for kids with these issues and that is Raskob Day School on Holy Names campus in Oakland. [See Recommendations for Raskob Day School for the rest of this recommendation.]