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Please Don’t Take Away My Recess – A Poem for Children with ADHD

taking away recess as punishment

After observing classrooms in a variety of schools for 15+ years, I continuously saw school staff take recess away from students as punishment for talking out of turn, calling out, leaving their seat, not completing assignments, etc.

It was these real-life observations, including many with students who have ADHD (or symptoms of ADHD), that compelled me to write this poem.

My hope is to raise awareness about the benefits of recess for children, and to reduce the number of times children lose the opportunity to run, play, be outside, and connect with peers.

Please Don’t Take Away My Recess – A Poem for Children with ADHD

I got in trouble in school today. They took away my recess. They said it was because I couldn’t sit still, but I was feeling so restless.

I couldn’t control my body. I wish they’d give me breaks to move. It’s so much easier to concentrate when I’m not forced to sit for an hour or two.

Sometimes directions come on so fast, I can’t keep them all straight. Giving them one step at a time or writing them down would be great.

It’s hard for my mind to focus on 30 questions in a row. Break my work into smaller parts and watch the answers flow.

Check on how I’m doing after I complete the first ten. While you’re looking at my work can I get up, stretch, or play with my pen?

My mom told me you’re disappointed with my messy space. All my belongings overwhelm me. Teach me how to keep them in their proper place.

You yelled at me for calling out and I felt embarrassed in front of my friends.

Sometimes my mouth goes faster than my mind. Kindly remind me to raise my hand.

Please know that these things don’t define me. Let me know when I make you proud.

If you just take the time to notice, you’ll see a bright star, instead of a cloud.

So the next time that I have trouble following your rules and routines, please don’t take away my recess. Burning energy improves my focus and self-esteem.

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Additional Info: If a child has trouble sitting still, focusing, or remaining seated, and as a result is having trouble completing their school work, taking away recess will make the situation worse, not better.

Many children who have the most difficulty, are in need of and greatly benefit from the fresh air, exercise, and social interaction that come with recess.

This poem gives some useful classroom strategies for kids with ADHD. It also talks about the epidemic of taking away recess as punishment.

Recess is not something to be removed because a child cannot easily and readily follow an inauthentic school routine.

So many schools (thousands) use recess as a punishment to force children to cooperate, and it is often an unsuccessful venture.

This applies to all kids. Not only those with symptoms of ADHD.

Additionally, research shows that strategies like detention, suspension, and taking away recess, fail for children who repeatedly struggle to follow the school routine and actually make the situation worse for those children.

Education and Behavior – Keeping Adults on the Same Page for Kids

Recommended Articles:
Top 10 Discipline Tips for Kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder
14 Strategies to Help Children with ADHD (School and Home)
How to Set Up the Classroom for Kids with Autism and ADHD
Exercise Ideas to Help Kids with Autism and ADHD
8 Unique Studying Tips for College Students with ADHD
How to Set Up the Classroom for Kids with Autism and ADHD

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65 thoughts on “Please Don’t Take Away My Recess – A Poem for Children with ADHD

    1. My child had the tests done when he was 5 and was found to have had the worst case of ADHD. He is now 25 and he still has it and to be a mother with a child who has ADHD it is not a pretty life i can tell you, but you just have to try and get through this.We had know help from anyone, people didn’t want to notice it so I am making myself free to help any parent who has a child to come forward and i will help them 100% of the way.These people are so clever but they can’t multi task and that makes it hard for them to work.

      1. Mine Son Has A severe Case of ADHD along With ODD.. it so hard and over whelming. It makes it very difficult for us parents and his siblings… We Have More Emotional Days The Good Days Recently…

      2. My is now 32 and married for almost 5 years. He had a child at 18. I say unmedicated ADHD boys give you grandchildren. Now I’m raising a 13 year old grandson with the same.
        How do we deal with them as adults? It’s a life long disorder. Not a child’s disorder. Not a school disorder.

      3. My 6 year old has ADHD and he is in the 90% and it is very hard with a child who is so stung out that I feel like I can’t handle it sometimes but I’m trying my best to understand and it’s only been a few months since I found out he had it! Any information would be helpful cause I get so stressed with it!!

      4. I’d love for my daughter-in-law to get in touch with you, or you her. My beautiful 10 year old grandson has ADHD. The schools did very little to help so she is homeschooling him now. Thank you for blessing others with your support.

      5. I have adult ADD and everyday tasks give me anxiety. I am a homemaker and get so frustrated because I can’t keep to a schedule.
        I am unorganized and can’t keep a structured schedule for my youngest son (ADHD/ODD).
        I am inconsistent with times and inconsistent with discipline.
        How can I help my son?
        He is a freshman in Highschool.
        He doesn’t think before he speaks and has a habit of swearing a lot.
        He has frequent meltdowns in public or home.

        1. Consistency, patience, understanding, clear limits, and focusing on strengths is a good start. Sometimes you can try every strategy in the world and still have difficulties. You have to keep in mind that your son needs consistency from all the adults in his life, and in the real world, unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen. So when that can’t happen, you have to expect that you will have downfalls. As long as you know you are trying your best, you do the best you can. Here are some articles that may be able to help you with your son, with links to more articles that are also helpful. I would definitely start here and let me know if you have any other questions.

    2. I am 58 years old and begin thinking a few years ago that i was add or adhd. Well today I found out that is is anxiety! Guess what , about 90 percent of kids diagnosed as adhd have anxiety!

      1. Unfortunately, those with ADD/ADHD often have anxiety as well. My daughter is ADD with anxiety complication. The ADD makes the anxiety so much worse, because not only does she lose focus, she gets upset that she can’t get it together and then she is nervous and frazzled. ADD does not define who she is, but it is a major part of her.

    3. I was that age in the ’60’s (tho I wasn’t diagnosed until decades later at the age of 41), when ADHD wasn’t even on the radar (even by its older name of Minimal Brain Dysfunction) and recognize myself in many ways here–the biggest difference between me and him is that I was finally diagnosed with ADHD-Inattentive while it looks like he has the hyperactive form.

      1. When I was in the third grade the school facalty decided that I was retarded. They wanted me to be placed in a school for retared children. My father went to a meeting.with the P T A. and convinced them , as a tax payer , he had the right to first have me tested. What was decided was that I.stay after school and do my scool work and see if I could catch up up with the rest of the class, witb a teacher’s supervision. I was able to catch up with the rest of the class, in fact I passed the classmates and went from Remedial to reguler , to advanced class before I was done.. What helpped me was one on one and no distractions from classmates ! And a long talk with my dad, who took time to understand me .

    4. I can’t help but wonder why a professional educator would not be able see that a child like this has a problem, especially in this age of enlightenment. She should have been a help to him, rather than exacerbating the problem.

    5. Why would it matter who wrote it;it’s what you can learn from it that’s important!

  1. No child should have to sit through recess in the classroom for exhibiting behaviors that are linked to their disability.
    I see it happening all the time, at all school levels. It is unfortunate, and even though there is so much research on the importance of movement for children, it seems that most teachers and administrators ignore or not know about it. Thanks for this article.

    1. We don’t ignore it! We can’t! When ONE student interrupts the other 25, what do you want done? Why don’t the only her students have rights?

  2. I have had adhd for 14 years now and if this happens in reality I will be very very upset because even though I was diagnosed with adhd when I was in 1st grade I feel some what the same

  3. Wow this is so true my son has ADHD we just found out this year n I keep telling his teachers that there was something wrong with my son but all they could say he is all boy! Deep down I knew I had to get him help because he keep getting in truble in School so Thank God I found help for him now he is on meds n doing good!! 🙂

  4. The school kept taking my sons recess away. Now that will let him have recess but won’t let him go to gym. Teachers in small schools especially need to be educated on this because it is so aggravating having your child singled out because he has something he can’t control.

    1. Very glad our school works extremely well with out child, I just repeat “be on control of your own body” and it helps

  5. I’m sorry, but if there is such a need for specialized teaching/education for this child, they should probably be in special classes designed for someone with disabilities. The rest of the class must sit, be quiet, and learn to certain standards. If you allow a child to get up and burn off energy during class, or change the entire structure of teaching to suit them specifically, how is the rest of the class going to react to being held to “normal” standards.

    1. Yes, there is a need for special needs children. That want to learn and have ADHD (focusing and understanding) not behavior problems. They can acommadiate children how have physical disabilities. Until, you know what you are talking about, I would keep my my mouth shut.

    2. Teachers need to provide learning opportunities for ALL of the students which involve them getting up and moving around. This can b.ll day long and in every subject. It requires planning, classroom management, and control with a positive attitude. In other words, it requires work. EVERY student needs many opportunities to move around throughout the day, not just those with attention or hyperactivity issues. A student should not lose their recess for this, and shouldn’t ever lose their whole recess. This defeats the purpose of trying to get them to behave in class. When a teacher feels the need to take away recess over and over, they are the problem, not the student(s). I teach 4the and 5the grade.

  6. I’m sorry, but if there is such a need for specialized teaching/education for this child, they should probably be in special classes designed for someone with disabilities. The rest of the class must sit, be quiet, and learn to certain standards. If you allow a child to get up and burn off energy during class, or change the entire structure of teaching to suit them specifically, how is the rest of the class going to react to being held to “normal” standards.

    1. What is “normal”? I don’t guess I understand? Just because a child can sit and be quiet doesn’t mean that child might not have problems! Just because a child has a different way of learning doesn’t make them a outcast..their way is “normal” for them. The children who sit and and are quiet is that a specific way to suit those children specifically? If so than than “normal” standards can specifically be made for children that learn in a different way,

    2. Every child in the US is guaranteed a free and appropriate education. IDEA provides that children with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment (a simple Google search with give you a wealth of information). So a child’s IEP (individualized education plan) might specify a break every once in a while. The law is quite specific that an IEP must be followed. Least restrictive environment means that if the child can function in a mainstream classroom with a few simple to implement accommodations, that is where he/she must be. Special education classrooms can cause more harm than good for a child with a learning disability that can easily be accommodated in a mainstream classroom.
      I have a 6yo son diagnosed with high functioning Autism (Aspergers). He has a special spot in his classroom where he can go hide when overwhelmed. All his teacher has to do is ask him if he feels like he needs a break when he’s showing signs of anxiety. The rest of the class doesn’t care, nor should they. They know he has Aspergers (we gave permission for the counselor to give a talk to the class about it), and that he’s a little different.
      Even children without ADHD should have regular movement throughout the day. We are lucky that our son’s school has 20 minutes of P.E. every day. Some children are kinetic learners, and teachers are now taught to include movement in lessons, especially at younger ages. Even if it’s only to stand up and “get the wiggles out”.

      1. Amen to that! I’m a special ed. teacher, and the comment about putting that child in a “special ed class” made me burn!

      2. Do you know how hard it is to get an IEP? They are very expensive and most schools fight you because of the cost. Also, just because my child learns differently he would be labled as special needs/special education. BBut, my son gets good grades and is average or above average intelligence so he isn’t considered sspecial education so, they denied his IEP.

    3. Sounds like you need more education. Children with adhd usually have a very high IQ. If this child is being disruptive in class and having to burn off steam then the school is not doing its part in challenging this child and keeping him/her engaged in learning. I would hope this childs parents call the school out on this. One can also argue: why should a very intelligent child be held back because the rest of thr class is to slow?

      1. As a school social worker who has worked with K-12 kids for over 30 years I am compelled to comment. Children with ADHD do not necessarily have “a very high IQ.” Most often it is typical (90-110) but there are also many who have lower as well as higher IQs. It is a fact, however, that many children with ADHD have additional challenges such as ODD or OCD. And, yes, the parents should contact the school and demand help. If not qualified for special ed, the child may qualify for a 504 plan which, in some ways, is better than a special ed plan because it can follow the student beyond high school. Special ed stops when the student graduates.

      2. I’m sorry but teachers can’t keep kids up and moving no stop throughout the day. Like it or not, part of school is, in fact, having to sit and listen. Kids with severe ADHD that can’t even do that for small spurts of 5 minutes at a time don’t need to be in the regular classroom until they are medicated or old enough to control themselves for at least small amounts of time. I’m a teacher that keeps my students up and moving throughout the day yet I still have a couple students with severe ADHD that consume my entire day with their behavior. They cannot join the other students in other activities most of the time because they won’t stop bothering them and keeping others from learning. When they disrupt our entire day, they do need a consequence and that consequence has to be the only thing that is actually meaningful to young children and the only thing we are allowed to give , the loss of recess. I’d parents don’t like that, they should take their child to the doctor and put them on some much needed medication so they are able to function.

    4. As an early childhood educator it has been proven that children learn better if they have opportunities to move. This is true whether the child is adhd or not. Most adults even have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time. Our minds process information better if we are able to move and it helps improve brain function making information easier to comprehend. All children should be given time to move throughout the day!! I believe this would decrease unwanted behaviors in the classroom.

    5. I was that kid! In fifth grade I was sent to a “a special school for gifted kids”. That’s how they sold it to my parents anyway, they thought I was really smart. When I got there it was a school for BD and LD kids. The curriculum was actually dumbed down for me and I was talked down to, a lot. When I asked questions out of turn I was made to sit in the hall. This was circa 1987. Luckily I was only there for one year because it closed shortly after that due to the program being disbanded and I was sent to a “normal” middle school. Needless to say that environment didn’t work. It made everything worse!

    6. Are you a moron? They are just like the other kids . It’s not a disability . You sound like all the people I encountered that were plain ignorant and only think of their perfect child . Good luck you are going to need it

      1. Not Nice! They do have special needs and though they may not benefit from being treated differently, they are different! So, you are the Moron!

  7. I think all students need to have a recess time, including 7th and 8th graders. In my opinion adolescent students strive for socialization opportunities, and if they were given a time to do so other than in a fast gulp and go cafeteria setting the teachers would have a more manageable classroom environment. Imagine a group of teachers at an in-service without the intermittent ten minute breaks, and yet students are expected to be constantly attentive. I recommend an occasional 5 min. talk and stretch movement in the classroom for all students.

    1. Good points! Even in my college courses, many students were antsy and fidgeting. It’s 2015, technology has changed the way we interact with information. We are accustomed to short bursts of information. I’ve participated in many city council meetings and school board meetings. The members appreciate breaks. So, if grown adults cannot sit through longer periods of didactic lectures, then how we expect younger kids with shorter attention spans to do the same?

  8. Forced to sit for an hour or two?? No breaks to move? Thirty questions at a time? Even kids who DON’T have ADHD shouldn’t be taught this way!

  9. My child went through Kindergarten before we saw a physician. She has ADHD/ID <– that's impulsivity. She has explained all of the things that are mentioned in the poem to me, and it is really sad that children have to deal with this, along with the other things children experience.
    I didn't understand it before, and I didn't know how to help her. Think of a Jack Russell that starts chewing on things because he has built up energy. Taking breaks could be beneficial to a child with ADD, ADHD, etc. If you really think about it, most children with this condition are geniuses! One side of their brain fires faster than the other. She's 12 now, and functions just fine. Smart as a whip! She wants to be a forensic scientist, among other things, all at the same time, when she gets older.
    She is special.

  10. Of course the kids with ADHD have anxiety! It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure that out. When you are not able to function in the classroom like the other kids you are going to be anxious! They can’t sit still, they are distracted by every little noise or movement. They get in trouble more because they can’t sit still and disrupt the class. I have raised a daughter with ADD and a granddaughter with severe ADHD, she is 6 years old and they are trying to get her adjusted on medications now. I am Also the director of nursing at a 64 bed residential facility for boys 9-17 that are in DCS custody. Most of these kids are in the juvenile justice system and 90% are ADHD which has influenced their behavior.

  11. I have a 13 year old grandson who is ADHD. It has been a struggle for our family. What others need to realize is how hard it is for the individual. By the middle of the afternoon his meds have worn off and his attention span is ground zero. In January he was placed in a home school environment and attends school from 9-2 Monday-Thursday. This adjustment has made a significant positive impact on his grades and behavior. Every child needs recess to work off stress as well as exercise.
    Fight for your childs rights. Talk with their teachers and praise your children when they accomplish the positive. Ask them open ended questions ie where they explain their reason for making the decision they made.

  12. I was this person in school growing up. I was also tested in adulthood and was found to also have a severe case of of it. I was also made to miss recess for non compliance. One case in particular was when I failed to learn my multiplication tables. I was told “well someone has to flip burgers and pick up garbage.” I graduated high school at 21 when I was told I should just drop out. I was told I should never even apply to college I should just get on at the railroad or something. I’m now a nurse and tutor medical math, biology, and chemistry at my community college. I wonder what they will go on telling me I can’t do tomorrow.

    1. You are to be commended for your perseverance. How can we get the help that these children need, from the public school system? You have been through it, and have been a victim of it. Please elaborate on how you think these children can get the much needed help to become all that they can be. I have a ten year old grandson who was diagnosed, medicated, and calmed down, to become the “ideal” student in grades 1-4. Now in 5th grade, he’s had some trouble and has brought home his first C on his report card. The C was because he was unable to complete the number of math problems on his on-line math program. This is to be the only math instruction that the class will get, although, when cornered the classroom teacher said she would give some added instruction IF the students needed it. So, no accommodation is being made for his ADHD at all, not to mention the Aspberger symptoms that he has exhibited for the last four years. As a matter of fact, most of the faculty at his school already talk of him, as an Aspberger kid, to other faculty members that come to the school. He has not been diagnosed with a ASD yet, but I am pretty confident that he will qualify for the diagnosis. I have had 15 years experience working with students who perform below the norm, for different reasons. In my spare time I have taken classes and researched some of the conditions that might cause low performance in elementary school children. My grandson exhibits deficits in the same areas as those of individuals with a ASD, namely Aspbergers. Already the school is trying to wiggle around what they will have to provide for him. I need to know just what can be done, legally, to get them the help that we need, for my grandson to reach his potential. All suggestions will be appreciated. And God Bless You and Yours.

  13. To any kids out there who may see this post who struggle with ADHD I say this. Your not a terrible person and your not alone! You are beautiful and unique. Truly uniue! Like a super hero who has just discovered thier powers you can turn this around and make your strengths work to your advantage. You see things in ways no one else can, or even imagine were possible, almost in three dimensional ways. That’s why we are restless. Sometimes it’s information overload. We fidget because we need to sooth our minds to focus. I used to read my college text books while playing with play dough. Hang in there. You have great potential, when you harness this you will be academically unstoppable!

  14. As a preschool teacher I typically have 1 ADHD child a year. I get it, these kids can not help it. In preschool, we sit very short periods of time and there is lots of movement. When you have one child who just can not sit still- is rolling around the rug, laying down, touching whoever is beside them, it is extremely disruptive to the class. I’m just a preschool teacher! I can not begin to imagine how hard it is for a elementary teacher to get what she needs to get done when a child is constantly a distraction to everyone else in class and so much of the teacher’s time and attention is focused on this one student. It is really hard situation for teachers. I love my ADHD kids! They are extremely bright, loving and love being praised just like any other child. It is just exhausting! I don’t know what the solution is except creating classrooms especially to cater to the needs of ADHD children. That will never happen but I do understand the teacher’s predicament!

  15. My son had adhd. When he was in the 4th grade he was coming home from school almost literally bouncing off he walls. After asking him about his day, he told me he had to stay in from recess. After he went outside, I called his teacher and told her I didn’t care why she would tell him that she had made a new decision, but, that he would not stay in anymore! I thought she knew that he was hyper and told her only physical exercise was the reason he did not have to be medicated. Next day, he came home from school and said “guess what? Mrs. So and so said I could go out after all!!

  16. As a Mother and Nana who has dealt with this. I say.. true! Kids need to burn the excess energy. And thank God my grandson has a teacher who gets to help. But. Her hands are full with the rest of the class as well. It makes things hard on them too.

  17. I am raising my grandson with ADHD and a few other ailments. I’ve been this route with his mother also. It is very challenging to be sure. My advice to those of you just entering this diagnosis adventure with your child, I offer this advice: Get referred to a children’s psychiatrist, get a counselor involved, request occupational therapy referrals and share with your teachers/school all that you have learned. I stay in touch weekly (sometimes daily) with my boy’s teacher…depending on behaviors. Keep in mind that meds have to be adjusted &/or changed. Remind those working with your child that he/she has disabilities (teachers, coaches, principles, etc.) If they try t o play it off as the child is showing out and give you that “Sure they have disabilities” condescending smiles…remind them of the federal rights your child has through the Americans with Disabilities Act. You should NOT have to go to this extreme…but, sometimes…..(sadly) YOU are your child’s advocate

  18. As an elementary teacher of multiple students with ADHD I completely understand then need for these children to be up and moving around regularly and to have many reminders in multi task activities. I have no problem offering that and try to be extra patient with these students. However parents also need to understand that your one child is not the only student in our classroom that we are responsible to teach. When your child is being consistently disruptive (and I’m not talking about fidgety or not remember to raise their hand to ask a question) it hurts the learning of the entire class and I can’t just let that go without a consequence. I would have complete and utter chaos in my room if all students thought they could act that way. I try and provide short wiggle brain breaks every 10-15 minutes in my classroom and for some students this still isn’t enough for them to control their behavior. So please no that when I take some of your child’s recess away from them it isn’t because I’m just trying to punish them because they are annoying me. I love your child. But ADHD or not, they also have to know that there are consequences when you have disrupted the classroom the entire day. Parents…if your child has SEVERE ADHD please do them and everyone else a favor and talk to your pediatrician about something to help your child because diet and natural remedies just doesn’t cut it and will inevitably lead to your child getting in trouble a lot and having very few friends because they physically cannot control themselves and end of driving the other kids away.

  19. Well it seems to me Recess has been used for leverage not only with ADHD kids heck at my childrens school the lose recess for just going to the bathroom for however long they are in restroom is how long the stand against the walll at recess …and as many times i have been told recess is a privilage they dont have to give it..

    1. Just out of curiousity what else would you like teachers to use as a consequence at school then? Because other than taking minutes of recess they don’t have a lot of options and just using positive reinforcement and “talking through problems” just doesn’t cut it.

      1. My son’s teacher this year has made him walk/run laps during recess, which I don’t have a problem with. I agree that there needs to be consequences for the sake of keeping it fair for all kids, but with him walking at recess, he is at least moving and getting some energy out instead of sitting against a wall and making it worse.

  20. I have ADHD. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was a freshman in college. Now days, my son has ADHD. I was prepared for it, but it is still hard to deal with him, even with my own experiences in mind. This poem really hit home for me. Thank you for sharing it.

  21. Having experienced both sides of the argument of separate classrooms for ADHD/HD students, I feel like I have earned the right to pose this question: What if we were able to fund programs and classrooms just for the ADHD kids? What would be good about it? What would be bad about it? Please comment on this. Who knows who might be reading these comments?

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