Best Practice

Practical strategies for building self-esteem in pupils with ADHD

Children with ADHD will hear thousands more negative messages while at school than their peers, making self-esteem and poor self-image a huge challenge. Dr Pooky Knightsmith considers how to better support ADHD pupils

“Was self-esteem an issue? Yeah. For sure. I'd almost say it was ‘the’ issue. When you're told off all the time for being lazy, being rude, not paying attention, fidgeting, saying the wrong things, bringing the wrong things and, well – you get the picture. When everyone's hating on you, you start to hate on yourself too.”


Given that pupils with ADHD could hear 20,000 more negative messages than their peers by the time they finish primary school (Jellinek, 2010), it is perhaps not surprising that poor self-image and negative self-esteem is a frequent issue for this cohort of pupils.

With this in mind, I would like to explore some steps that we can take to boost the self-esteem of children with ADHD.

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