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How to Choose a Boarding School for Boys with ADHD & Conduct Disorders

How to Choose a Boarding School for Boys with ADHD & Conduct Disorders

The challenges of raising a troubled teen can feel overwhelming for any parent. One potential path is a specialty boarding school for boys with ADHD, Defiance or Conduct Disorder.

Therapeutic boarding schools specializing in helping teenagers with a lack of motivation and emotional or behavioral problems offer an essential and necessary pause and intervention in a teenager’s life. These schools remove the child from a hostile environment and support both academic and personal growth.

Ultimately, these boarding schools focus on helping teens with for teens or boys with ADHD or ODD transform into healthy adolescents ready to embrace life and reach their full potential. 

These dream outcomes can become a reality for your family if you choose a residential school that focuses on root causes and not just behaviors or symptoms. 

Understanding the Needs of a Teenager with ADHD

Pinpointing the specific reasons behind your teen’s difficulties is essential. There’s a significant difference between a teen with ADHD, a teen with ODD and one who struggles with substances or suffers from anxiety or depression. While many of these conditions overlap, having an accurate diagnosis is critical to choosing the right school

For parents of teens struggling with many conditions, RTCs conduct comprehensive assessments upon admission to determine the optimal treatment plan.

Finding the Perfect Fit: Boarding Schools for Boys with ADHD, Conduct Disorder or ODD

There are many boarding school options today. Some offer therapy programs for depression, substance abuse, ADHD or ODD. Many feature outdoor and nature therapy and specialized therapeutic programs for teens grappling with emotional mayhem, self-harm and those in need of a change of environment.  With so many options, choosing a school that aligns with your teenager’s specific issues is critical.

A Focus on ADHD, Conduct Disorder, and Demotivation

If you are the parent of a teenage boys who struggles with ADHD, conduct disorder, ODD, and lacks motivation in general, then you are likely desperate to find the right solution. It is nearly impossible for boys with  ADHD to focus and thrive in a traditional school.

According to the CDC, teens with ADHD face more obstacles in school than the average children. Why? Because they are unable to plan ahead, they can’t manage their impulsivity or regulate their attention, resulting in boredom, struggles with the transition between activities and subjects, and added stress and tension.  Ultimately, all of these factors lead them to feeling disinterested, failing grades, and even refusing to go to school.

Conduct Disorder and Demotivation

Conduct disorder and ODD can manifest as anger outbursts, defiance, and aggression, creating a complicated and often volatile situation in school and at home that affects everyone in the family.

Teens with conduct disorders often get in trouble at school and have more social issues.  They act aggressively, are not trustworthy and challenge authority. This behavior creates conflict with teachers and their peers and results in higher rates of suspension and expulsion.

These children fall into a vicious cycle of feeling bad, having poor grades, low self-esteem, disinterest, and lacking motivation.  These intertwined behavioral issues amplify each other, making it critical to find an effective intervention as early as possible. 

New research has found that children who have been hospitalized and have two or more mental health diagnoses (comorbidities) are eight times more likely to not graduate from high school. 

For an adolescent dealing with these mental and behavioral disorders, finding a school program that addresses their individual issues (ADHD, ODD, and conduct disorder) is essential and can significantly impact their future. It is just as important to ensure they participate in behavioral therapy and have family support. Additionally, a 504 or IEP plan is crucial to assist these teens when they return to regular school. 

Boys and girls with a single mental health disorder have a 3x higher risk of dropping out of high school and those with multiple diagnoses are 8x more likely to.(1)

Considering these factors is essential in your decision to send your teenager to a specialty boarding school or RTC.  As you evaluate possible school or therapeutic programs for your struggling teenager, ask yourself:

  • Does the boarding school for boys with ADHD offer a Structured Environment?
    • Are there clear expectations?
    • What are the daily routines?
    • What positive reinforcement is in place for the students?
  • If you are considering a boarding school, do they offer Therapeutic Support?
    • Are there qualified therapists on staff?
    • Do they offer anger management classes
    • What are their methods for helping students develop emotional regulation skills?
  • What level of Academic Support is offered for teens with special needs or comorbidities?
    • Do they provide specialized instruction for ADHD?
    • Do they offer smaller class sizes or one-on-one support to help your child catch up educationally?
    • Do they provide time management training?
    • How do they tailor teaching methods to accommodate different learning styles?
    • Is there ongoing communication between teachers and therapists?

 This level of support can make all the difference for a teen struggling with ADHD or other mental health challenges.

  • What are the School Strengths? Look for schools that identify and nurture your son’s talents to rebuild self-esteem. If your teen issues stem from ADHD, does the school offer:
    • individual or group therapy?
    • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
    • behavioral therapy?
    • social skills training?
    • executive function coaching?
    • What measures are in place to handle emotional crises or behavioral emergencies?
    • How involved are parents in the treatment and educational plans?

Case Study: Michael's Triumph Managing His ADHD

After a year, Michael, now more confident and able to regulate his emotions, has returned to his traditional school. He is improving every day. 


  • He sees a therapist twice a month.
  • He uses the strategies he learned at the therapeutic boarding school to manage his daily routine.
  • He is much more comfortable in his own skin.
  • He makes efforts daily to improve and consistently does better.
  • He does not have crazy, scary fits or rages anymore.
  • He seems more at peace with who he is.
  • When he fails or struggles, he doesn’t give up.

Our approach is also different; we don’t worry as much anymore. We see him as a normal kid with a condition who tries hard every day, and we are thankful for his progress.

Without a doubt, we made the right decision to send him to a school where he could learn to manage his ADHD. 


Faith Based Schools

If you are a parent who wishes to prioritize faith in your child’s education while also seeking to help your teen with his ADHD and behavioral challenges, some faith-based boarding schools offer therapy and counseling alongside a structured academic program emphasizing Christian beliefs. A faith-based school offers a path that can provide a strong spiritual foundation while helping your teen’s personal growth.

A few options are: 

  • Pine Mountain Academy
  • Timothy Hill Academy
  • Master’s Ranch
  • North Carolina Academy for Boys

The Benefits of Sports and Outdoor Activities for At-Risk Youths with ADHD and Emotional Issues

Many boarding schools emphasize sports and outdoor activities. These boarding schools can be especially helpful for at-risk youth; they provide healthy outlets for energy and promote physical and emotional well-being. A boarding school review is a good source if you are interested in these types of schools for teens with ADHD.  You can also search for schools with experiential learning and therapeutic benefits for teens with ADHD.

Boarding School vs. Other Treatment Options

Understanding the Alternative ADHD Treatments

While specialized boarding schools offer a unique environment, it’s essential to consider all your options when it comes to your teen’s well-being. This is an important decision and investment in your child’s future. 

For some teens, especially those with behavioral and mental health issues, or substance misuse or addictions,  residential treatment centers provide a more intensive and comprehensive level of care by combining clinical care, therapeutic methodologies and academics.

For teenagers who are struggling and actively want to improve, a combination of intensive outpatient therapy, medication management, and support within their traditional school setting might be effective.

Let’s weigh the pros and cons:

  • Residential Treatment Centers: Offer a structured and therapeutic environment similar to boarding schools but with a stronger focus on mental health care and rehabilitation. These centers are ideal for teens facing severe psychological issues, providing constant supervision and an array of therapies. This option is intensive and can significantly change a teen’s environment, which might be necessary for those needing more robust intervention.
  • Boarding School: Offers a completely immersive environment, 24/7 support, and a structured program tailored to specific challenges. This can be particularly beneficial when home life contributes to negative patterns.
  • Outpatient Programs: Can provide treatment while maintaining a connection to home and familiar routines. This may be less disruptive for some families. However, it requires considerable effort from parents to implement therapeutic techniques at home.

Choosing the right path depends on both the severity of symptoms and the family's dynamics. Some teens require the intensive environment of a boarding school for significant progress, while others can thrive with a well-structured outpatient program and strong parental support.

Involving Your Son in the Therapeutic Boarding School Selection Process

It is always best if your child recognizes the need for improvement and wants to learn new strategies to deal with his daily challenges. Although it may be difficult to persuade your teenager to try a new school, even for a year, if they are receptive to the idea, involve your son in the decision-making process. Sit down and openly discuss your concerns and his frustrations.

Explain how a therapeutic boarding school for teens with ADHD offers a structured program that can help him improve academically and develop better coping skills. If your teenager is willing to collaborate, help him set realistic goals for his time in the program. 

Finding Success: Selecting the Right Boarding Schools for  Your Son

Just as there are many troubled teens, there are many boarding schools designed to meet their specific needs. It can be confusing, but it is crucial to choose a school that offers a personalized program tailored to your teen’s challenges.  An educational or therapeutic consultant can be very helpful in the selection process. 

To recap, consider different schools, including therapeutic, faith-based, and those focusing on outdoor activities. If your teenager struggles with multiple conditions or both behavioral and emotional problems, investigate teen residential treatment centers, as it may be a better option for your son’s situation. 

It’s crucial to take your time in making the best decision for your struggling teen. As mentioned earlier, whenever feasible, involve your teen in the process and motivate them to seize the opportunity to gain a solid education while transforming their life for the better. It may not always seem like it, but trust us, your teenager yearns for a better life; they don’t want to continue feeling as they do now. 


How to Choose the Right Therapeutic Boarding School for Boys with ADHD and Behavioral Challenges


  • Assess Your Child’s Needs: Identify specific challenges (behavioral, academic, emotional) and understand your child’s interests and strengths. If your child has several conditions or a combination of challenges, focus on finding therapeutic programs that will develop a personalized therapeutic plan to address all of their issues, not just the most obvious one.
  • Research Different Types of Schools: Explore therapeutic, military, faith-based, nature and outdoors, as well as arts-focused options. Consider schools with specialized programs for specific issues like ADHD, ODD, anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. Look into programs for troubled teens and schools in Montana and Utah.
  • Check Accreditation and Reputation: Ensure the school is accredited by a trustworthy entity. Be cautious of fake reviews written by activist groups and teenagers; not everything you read may be accurate. When in doubt, consult with a therapeutic or educational consultant who can help you find the best options for your teen.
  • Visit Schools and Meet Staff: Schedule visits to potential schools with your teen. Most schools offer campus tours, and many also provide virtual tours on their websites. During your visit, ensure you meet with teachers, therapists, and administrators and talk to current students.
  • Evaluate Academic and Therapy Programs: Review the curriculum, extracurricular activities, and therapeutic approaches.
  • Consider Location and Environment: Decide on a preferred geographic location and consider the school’s setting and facilities. For instance, schools in Montana’s expansive and serene natural landscapes can offer crucial elements for calming minds and fostering healing that are not available in urban areas.
  • Financial Planning: Review tuition costs and financial aid options. Check with your health insurance, many cover therapeutic costs. Lastly, evaluate the long-term expenses, including travel expenses for extended visits.

A Parent's Perspective

From Disruption to Hope - A Turning Point for David and His Family

Greg & Dana speak about their son David in a recent podcast.

(This transcript has been edited for clarity.)

While we lived in Texas and David was in elementary school, he became obnoxious and disruptive. I would take him to doctors for physicals, and I was against medication, so I dealt with it, but in his last year of elementary, he was really failing his grades and not focusing. He was being very disruptive and blurting out wrong answers, so I decided to put him on Adderall, a small dosage. 

Medication Helped

It did change his behavior in school, he was like a different child, but I worried because he ate less and he was already a small child in the 3rd percentile for his age group. For a few months, during the last year of elementary school, he was hardly present in school. (school refusal)

Military School Failed

I kept trying to find someone or something that could help, but nothing worked. We even tried the Military US Academy, and that made things worse. It was run by the younger National Guard members who attempted a drill sergeant approach with these kids, but it didn’t work.” Says Greg

Putting him on medication changed his behavior in school dramatically—it was like night and day. He was like a different child.

Negative Medicinal Effects: Weight Loss & Eating Concerns

He was more cooperative and willing to engage with his teachers, and his disruptive behaviors decreased. Surprisingly, he even ate less than before. I continued the medication for a few months during his elementary school years, but not on the weekends.

Homeschooling Failed

By the last year, his presence in school had dropped to about 40%. We tried everything! I had to homeschool him twice. The first time, he did okay, but then he lost interest in getting up and doing anything. He still ran around; it was so bad he would stay up all night and then sleep all day.

Defiance, Anger & Stealing

His behavior got much worse, especially towards me—he would threaten me, threaten to punch me, and became more physically aggressive. He started stealing from us, using our credit cards and making cash app transactions under $1,000.

Desperate Parents

“I was at a loss and didn’t know what to do anymore. That’s when I started looking around and found out that Tricare (health insurance) does cover certain programs, even when they were out of network. I didn’t want to put him in an environment he would hate, so I was trying to find the best fit for him.” Says Dana

Turning Winds Helped Us

As it turned out, the program at Turning Wind worked with us in every aspect to get him there, showing great patience. We communicated really well, and they were very supportive throughout the entire process and really helpful when Greg (her husband) and David (her troubled son with ADHD and ODD) arrived at the school. 

The First Family Visit

Right away, when we visited, we could see some positive changes, so we’re hopeful. Turning Winds definitely made a good impression on him.

After Treatment

They gave him some good advice, and a lot of what he learned has stuck with him and is helping him. He doesn’t always make the right decisions but today, he makes many right decisions, which is a big step forward. 

“Looking back, he has definitely learned a lot down there, at Turning Winds.” Says Greg

Education and Support for the Parents & the Teen 

It’s also been a learning process for us. We even attended a parent workshop there (parents weekend workshop), which was very informative and really good.

“Everyone involved at Turning Winds was there to make a difference for my child and for other kids who have the opportunity to go to this program.” Says Dana.

Remember, finding the right boarding school for teen boys with special needs, ADHD, ODD or Conduct Disorders takes careful consideration. Start your teen’s journey to positive change today! Please speak to our family counselors about specialized boarding schools; they’ll help you find the perfect match for your child.

Would you like to learn more about RTCs or specialized schools in Montana, like the one Dana and Greg chose for David? If so, start with Turning Winds. They offer therapy, academics, leadership training, a structured environment, outdoor experiences for teens struggling with behavioral and emotional challenges, individualized support and holistic clinical care.

Miriam Kraay

Published by
Miriam Kraay

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