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District Profile

Capturing the Interest of AD/HD Students

Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools

Can we please have your attention? With everything competing for your students’ attention—MySpace, SportsCenter, Twilight and Gossip Girl, to name a few—how can your teachers capture the interest of students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder?

Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools (FCPS ) has devised some answers. For the past 17 years, FCPS educators have met regularly with psychologists, social workers and pediatricians from the local chapter of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). The partnership, called the Leadership Development Project, addresses the ways teachers can better serve students with AD/HD. It began when the district realized it was not providing services for such students. “We recognized that we had a number of these students whose needs were not being met. We wanted to do something for them,” says Debra M. Tucker, a psychologist at McLean High School and a liaison for the Leadership Development Project.

Attention to Details

The first step was educating teachers. The partnership created a brochure describing the disorder and how schools would handle it. At the same time, it trained the district’s psychologists to conduct AD/ HD workshops at the elementary schools and gave tips for teachers to use. Next, the partnership developed training for reading teachers and offered seminars for middle- and high-school guidance counselors.

A Shift in Focus

After its success at addressing the elementary schools, the partnership decided to tackle secondary schools. “There was nothing being done at the secondary level, so we took it on,” says CHADD’s Maureen Gill, the partnership chair. When the group found no time to reach high school teachers, it developed a training video that could be viewed at their leisure.

In AD/HD Teens Talk, students discuss their AD/HD and suggest ways their teachers can work better with them. Gill says the tape is revelatory. “I’ve never shown it to a teacher who doesn’t say, ‘I had absolutely no idea the kids were struggling with what I said.’”

AD/HD Teens Talk has been shown at local and regional conventions as well as the national CHADD conference. As the only video that addresses this audience, it remains popular. It’s the most asked-for video at the FCPS media center and has been sold to schools in France, Israel, Singapore, England, and Norway. (To order AD/HD Teens Talk, go to

In addition to the video, the partnership held weekend conferences focused on secondary schools and AD/HD. “We were concerned that no one would attend,” says Gill, “but when 240 teachers showed up that first Saturday, we saw how much interest there was.” Gill is the national CHADD board member who co-chaired the organization’s Public and Professional Education Committee.

Universal Benefits

For the last year, the partnership has been developing a workshop on executive functioning deficits that teachers can use on their own. Next up, it will revisit elementary schools by compiling a first-of-its-kind PowerPoint presentation with embedded videos on teaching elementary students with AD/HD.

DeDe Bailer, FCPS ’ director of psychology and preventive services, has been involved with the partnership for 16 years and encourages others to form similar partnerships. “Our teachers have a lot of tools and resources as a result of our partnership with CHADD,” she says. “We have come miles in terms of working together and understanding what the medical interpretation means in the schools. I have a tendency to wear rose-colored glasses, but you need to be forward thinking and look for the positive.”

“We have learned that a small group of people can start something that can keep mushrooming and blossoming,” Gill adds.

Ellen Ullman is a freelance writer based in Fairfield, Conn.