What can I do if my child’s teacher takes recess away?

School can be extra hard for kids with ADHD when teachers take recess away. An expert weighs in on how you can work with teachers to find a solution.

By Kristin J. Carothers, PhD

Updated January 26, 2024

Q. My child has ADHD, and the teacher often takes away recess as a consequence for disruptive behaviors. But he needs recess to get his energy out. How can I talk to the teacher about this? 

A. Sometimes it’s tough for teachers to choose the right consequences for disruptive behaviors. They know that kids look forward to recess. So it can seem like an easy option to take recess away as punishment and to treat recess as a privilege. But that might actually be doing more harm than good.

The importance of recess

Research shows that recess plays an important role in helping kids with ADHD. Many kids with ADHD struggle with social skills. They may talk with other students during class when they’re expected to be quiet. Recess gives children time to socialize with others in the right setting.

Kids with ADHD can also struggle with gross motor skills. Recess gives another way to develop their fine and gross motor skills through activities. 

Plus, recess gives all kids a brain break, so that they can come back to class and focus.

What you can do

If you have concerns that your child with ADHD is losing recess, schedule a time to speak with the teacher. That way you can get on the same page about the importance of recess.

Talk about what “taking away recess” means to each of you. Explain how your child needs recess to socialize and to have a break from sitting at a desk or being quiet.

Then, try to agree on how to structure recess so that your child doesn’t lose the entire time. One way is to think about incremental removal of time instead of taking recess away entirely. That way your child still gets their needed break.

For example, maybe recess is a set amount of time per day for everyone, like 20 minutes. Kids who have been disruptive in class can start recess a few minutes later. This way, no kids lose their entire recess time. And they still get the benefit of having the time to run, play, and grow their brain in that way.

Another idea is for your child to earn special recess privileges when they follow the class rules. For example, your child might get to lead or choose a recess activity. But no matter what, your child gets to participate in recess.

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