Anyone keep their ADHD child back a y... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Anyone keep their ADHD child back a year in school (3rd grade)?


Grandson has been on meds a year and is doing much better at school, but January tests show his skills are actually about first grade level. Of course schools don’t like to retain kids. We think holding him back might allow him to be caught up if he repeats; he is also an April birthday, so less mature for that too. Anyone had their child held back? Pros? Cons? Suggestions how to approach with a child?

19 Replies


Here is something that seems important for you to know:

Outcomes of retention

The idea of giving a child another year to “catch-up” and develop needed skills sounds like a positive alternative. However, research shows that outcomes for kids who are retained generally are not positive. In its 2003 “Position Statement on Student Grade Retention,” the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) reports:

Academic achievement of kids who are retained is poorer than that of peers who are promoted.

Achievement gains associated with retention fade within two to three years after the grade repeated.

Kids who are identified as most behind are the ones “most likely harmed by retention.”

Retention often is associated with increased behavior problems.

Grade retention has a negative impact on all areas of a child’s achievement (reading, math, and language) and socio-emotional adjustment (peer relationships, self-esteem, problem behaviors and attendance).

Students who are retained are more likely to drop out of school compared to students who were never retained. In fact, grade retention is one of the most powerful predictors of high school dropout.

Retained students are more likely to have poorer educational and employment outcomes during late adolescence and early adulthood.

Retention is more likely to have benign or positive impact when students are not simply held back, but receive specific remediation to address skill and/or behavioral problems and promote achievement and social skills.

I think that is important for the school to help you deal with this. It might be giving extra tutoring, IEP and or 504 plan and curriculum support ( how to organize things, write notes, things needed to get better grades). Is your getting extra support now? Pull out or push in services can help a lot.

Hope this helps

Thank you for taking time to reply. We do have an IEP and we have made a lot of progress. I’m worried as there are 5 third grade classes this year but they will combine into only 2 fourth grade classes. He is easily distracted and the teachers are both in their second year of teaching. Not exactly a recipe for huge success. We are still consulting and thinking about it. Appreciate your advice. I’d prefer not to keep him back but don’t want him getting further behind either.

If you decide to not hold him back, I would hold a meeting in the beginning of the year to discuss with the teachers what you need from them. His "case manager" the person who runs the IEP should be helping you make sure he is placed with the best teacher next year. When things are not working, please act quick don't let it go on all year.

Hope this helps.

Reeeba1 in reply to kimyvonnelee

This is hard. I am inclined to say no due to other impacts. Sounds like he needs outside help to get and stay on level. Repeating a grade he may be bored and ultimately end up totally disinterested in school. Also he would lose any friends in his class. Sounds like he needs extreme intervention regardless of what class he is in. You have the summer. Put him in a summer program if one is available and find out what remedial help the school can offer. Give him all the tools you can to get him prepped and work closely with the assigned teacher. Can you get an in class aide? I know my state isn’t big on that but others offer it if you push. Even a part time aide to help him work 1 on one could help a ton. Good luck....

Holding back is generally not a good idea because of the social impacts. Also, if the child doesn't get help with the executive function deficits, the same issues will recurr.

I only know one child that was held back after starting that had a positive impact. But in that case the child coincidentally moved states at the same time, so none of the kids knew he was repeating and his mom convinced him the repeat was because the states had different rules about what age kids should be to start a grade. Also, she made sure to line up better resources for him at the new school.

Thank you! Appreciate your thoughtful response.

Another thing I noticed is that every child learns differently regardless if they are diagnosed with ADHD or not but yet the school system teaches one way and not in different ways so most kids can gather the information correctly


Yes, before we knew my daughter was ADHD. I would definitely not do it again, especially if we knew she was ADHD. She is s lot bigger than her classmates and even though she is immature mentally, they are immature in ways that just frustrate her. You ultimately have to make this decision but I wished my daughter had gone through.


I would look into getting an iep and getting the resources needed. My son in elementary school had an iep and got pulled out for math and reading. There are other ways you can help a child without holding them back. My son has always been behind acedemically but over the years he has improved little by little at his own pace. If you do hold a child back it should be with a different teacher

I wanted to add one more thing.. Many children with ADHD struggle to learn with teachers who show they do not like them or they are uninterested in teaching them ( often due to the child being unfocused/impulsive. So my advice is ride out the year then get a good start and get his services increased for more help in the areas he is struggling with. If he has a teacher he does not "gel" with change the teacher. Also start the year with a meeting with his teacher to make sure you guys are all on the same page. if you get 1/2 way through have another meeting to talk to them about progress. Hope this helps. Also does your son have a therapist that he can talk to about these issues? This helps a lot so if you need one see if the school can provide this.

My son was held over in the fourth grade

Contrary other's opinions, I think holding back an ADHD child is the best thing you can do. What others say absolutely has merit, so it really depends on your grandson. Kids with ADHD are typically 2-3 years behind socially. Holding them back allows for them to be on a bit more even, although not perfectly level ground socially. Mine was born in a month that allowed us to make her the oldest or youngest in her class. We did seek professional advice on this, but kind of knew the answer before we asked the question. What our doctor told us (mine was 4 at the time) was a child has a lifetime to learn, but only a short windows to socially adjust. It was a no-brainer, we held her back despite the fact she does really well academically. She is now in 6th grade, and still more immature than her peers. She gets teased now, I can't imagine what kids a year older would have done to her. I know kids in 7th, coached 'em, there is no way my daughter could have hoped to fit in with them. Just another view point. Good luck to you, I know it's tough. :)

Oh I totally agree with holding back before starting. We did that with my son. It’s the holding back in the other grades that I think generally is detrimental.

We held our son back when we switched from private to public and moved to a new town. His private school kept denying anything was wrong. We finally got him tested and discovered he has dyslexia and adhd.

There was no way I could put him into a third grade class at that time, he could barely write! We had special circumstances though, with the changing towns and schools. I’m not sure I would do it in the same school.

We had my daughter repeat 1st grade and she has seen vast improvements. She goes to a private school and is with the same teachers (who love her) but the school added special assistance for reading this year which is what she needed. She had already been diagnosed with ADHD but, towards the end of last year, we had her tested for learning disabilities as well. The psychologist theorized that she just never retained the reading basics that she was taught prior to medicating and we put off medicating as long as we could, hoping we could treat "naturally." She basically retains anything that interests her (she hyper-focuses when interested) but letters are boring. Now that she is working with a specialist, she is doing so well. She was distraught at being separated from her friends but, being a small school, she still sees them plus she's made new friends as I assured her she would. All in, she's now with peers that better match her maturity level even though she is older than they are.

Overall, I would say it depends on why you are holding them back. If there is targeted help and a specific goal, it can be beneficial.

Let’s take a look at that data up there. In order to critically evaluate data we must know all the parameters. Based on the most thorough article I could find on that position statement, the statement (from 2003) was derived from a review of studies from the last century. How many studies? I don’t know. Do we know anything about the subjects of the studies? No we do not. However they do go on to tell us this:

“Some groups of children are more likely to be retained than others. Those at highest risk for retention are male; African American or Hispanic; have a late birthday, delayed development and/or attention problems; live in poverty or in a single-parent household; have parents with low educational attainment; have parents that are less involved in their education; or have changed schools frequently. Students who have behavior problems and display aggression or immaturity are more likely to be retained. Students with reading problems, including English Language Learners, are also more likely to be retained.”

So I will assume that a majority of the subjects in the studies fall under these categories.

They go on to state this :

“Retained students have increased risks of health-compromising behaviors such as emotional distress, cigarette use, alcohol use, drug abuse, driving while drinking, use of alcohol during sexual activity, early onset of sexual activity, suicidal intentions, and violent behaviors.”

Which are, by the way, are identical to risks and behaviors associated with ADHD.

And finally, there is a note about individual considerations, as this is a broad review of group data.

“Retention is more likely to have benign or positive impact when students are not simply held back, but receive specific remediation to address skill or behavioral deficits and promote achievement and social skills. However, such remediation is also likely to benefit students who are socially promoted.”

So here is what that tells me. I am going to have to assume that a majority of the subjects fit into the categories described up top. (Do these categories describe your grandchild? I’m going to take a guess and say that probably male, attention, and immaturity, maybe behavior and reading problems? )

I’m going to also extrapolate that the studies are based on “simply”, as they say in the article, “holding children back”. Which to me should be obvious. Simply holding children back is not going to solve the issues. They just told us there are possible correlations between issues in school and other Socioeconomic and developmental issues. The obvious answer is that “simply” holding children back does not correlate with a positive outcome. Holding children back, accompanied with therapies, intervention, things to address the reasons that the child is exhibiting problems in school, has a benign or positive effect. Oh.

So there it is. Maybe this statement needs to be said so it can be put in policies of schools that simply hold children back with no other intervention. If you are in a failing school with limited resources and get held back, you are just going to be put back in another failing classroom, but likely zero improvement in the issues that had you in trouble in the first place. So, not only were you held back, you continue to fail, you continue to exhibit poor self-esteem, maybe teased by the other students because you possibly could be larger and older than them at some point, so yes I can see how that would lead to some poor outcomes.

However, the right child in the right school with the right opportunity to work on some of the non-fixed environmental and developmental challenges should expect to see some improvement if not marked improvement and increased self-esteem with positive future outcomes. I have seen it time and again. I have a neighbor who this year held back her first grader and the child is receiving regular 4 day per week tutoring (ADHD & dyslexic), intervention in the classroom with regards to her reading struggles, psychological and medical management, none of which she had the first time she went through first grade. The improvement in her reading and comprehension abilities as well as her growth in self-esteem is amazing . Her emotional immaturity actually allows her to relate better to these children. Will she grow up to exhibit some of those risks up there? Maybe. I have no idea. But I do know that she’s already at risk for developing those problems simply due to her current diagnosis.

And so in the data presented, were any of these things excluded so as not to skew the data and erroneously find correlation between holding kids back and future life failures? I don’t know. But it’s possible. Are there studies that look at holding children back along with specific interventions related to particular types of diagnoses or other things? I don’t know.

So I think holding children back, not simply holding children back, but holding children back appropriately with appropriate other intervention, can be an excellent choice for the right child and the right family and the right school. This is a very individual choice that will vary greatly depending on the above factors. While it is nice to ask opinions, be aware that there is just simply no right answer.

I wish you luck and I hope you figure out the best option for your grandson.

Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. We are definitely still in research mode, but he does have an iep and since finally* getting him on meds nearly a year ago (*a rant for a later date!), he has made huge progress, but still isn’t caught up to much of his class academically, in all subjects. Second grade was a horrible experience and he learned almost nothing due to a bad teacher which took until halfway thru the year to change. When you have an unmedicated child with combo adhd, you need structure...first classroom was CHAOS, which even other teachers commented on. He had almost 70 referrals last year! This year, different school, awesome teacher, on meds, and there have been only two referrals.).

I think we are leaning toward keeping him with his peers, but pushing hard in the school to pull him out for math, too, in addition to reading and social skills. He sees a therapist weekly and we work with him at home, but I’m worried since 4th grade becomes ‘reading to learn,’ vs. the ‘learning to read’ of 3rd grade.

Regardless of what we decide, we will continue working hard to help him be successful.

Quick update: I talked to grandson’s therapist and she said for him, probably not a good idea to retain. She suggested we push hard on school to provide additional instructional help, modify iep accordingly, get a tutor, and she (therapist) is willing to meet with teacher, too. We will make sure this little guy succeeds!

Great posts everyone!! This has been super helpful in my decision to push my daughter through Kindergarten despite being significantly behind her peers...she’s already the tallest in her class (tall parents;)) so I struggled with the social implications of holding her back. I feel like keeping her going and advocating for support is the right choice. It “takes a village” with all kiddos but especially with these special needs babies! 🥰

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