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How To Have The Best Semester Yet (part 3): Learn the art and science of communicating with teachers 📧

Updated: 2 days ago

NOTE: This post is part of a series called "How To Have The Best Semester Yet." Each post is inspired by the course, The Semester Success Blueprint, which is designed for parents or educators to complete alongside students with ADHD or Autism, to help prepare them for a successful school semester. Try a free preview of the course by clicking here.

If you want to go back or skip ahead and read the other posts in this series, click on the links below:

I know you've heard it from your student before:

I'll just talk to the teacher in class.

Stop worrying so much -- I've got everything under control.

Just let me take care of this.

Still, the missing assignments pile up, the teacher feedback calls for 'more effort' and you continue nagging to 'help' your student be successful. 😫

But what if there was an easier way? A way that leverages our fundamental and human attraction to simplicity, clarity, and conciseness.

Lucky for you, there is, and you've stumbled upon it.

In an ocean of corporate blogs and repetitive and cliche advice, you are about to get the inside scoop from me, Sean!

And after developing this method from my work with hundreds of students and families, I am 100% sure this will benefit you in some way.

Let me show you how.

What is the method?

The method is called PING and it is a structured approach to helping students with anxiety, Autism, and ADHD, communicate their needs effectively with teachers or other authority figures.

PING stands for:

Pleasant introduction
Inform and inquire
Negotiate your need
Gratitude for their assistance

How do I use the PING framework with my students?

Let me walk you through each step of the process so you can implement this with your students or child.

Step 1: Use a "trial yes" to get a small buy-in from your student

Many students have unconsciously developed advanced techniques for avoiding communication with their teachers when prompted by parents or other educators in their lives.

This might look like:

  • Deferring communication to class times when it can't be monitored by parents

  • Gas lighting parents by telling them to "stop being controlling" even when the student needs additional support

  • Simply saying "no" and leaving parents or coaches unable to negotiate another pathway

To counteract the potential defenses in place, start by asking your student for a small form of buy-in, rather than a commitment to communicate. This could look like:

YOU: I noticed you have a missing assignment. Are you up for emailing your teachers to find out if you can still turn this in for credit?

STUDENT: No, I'll just talk to them in class.

YOU: Since we are here sitting together, what if we just draft out what you want to say, then you can decide if you want to use it or not. Would that work?


One of my favorite quotes is:

Persistence overcomes resistance

To make this strategy work, you have to keep trying, each time switching up your approach, aiming for smaller and smaller "buy-ins" every step of the way.

Since I KNOW this strategy is going to benefit the student, I never take a full "no" for an answer. It is either "not yet" OR we will try your way this week, but I need you to commit to another way in our next meeting. Check out how that could look:

YOU: I can see that you are not onboard with writing out an email to your teacher that you might send. I hear you saying that you are going to talk to them in class to resolve this missing assignment.

STUDENT: Yup, that is my plan.

YOU: OK, if when we meet next week, (assignment name) is still missing or is still a (current grade on the assignment), would you be willing to try my method then?

STUDENT: Ya, that sounds good.

As I tell students, parents, and just about anyone who will listen: everything is negotiable.

Step 2: Reduce cognitive overwhelm by having them choose a communication template

If they completely refuse to participate, or you see they have limited energy in your interaction, the next step you can do is have them choose an appropriate email from a list of templates.

Lucky for you, I've seen just about every type of situation a student can experience in my years as over the years of providing executive function coaching for middle, high school, and college students, and have created templates for each of them.

In the future, you can teach your students how to craft an original email using the PING framework, but if you want to quickly help them see the value of this process, have them choose a relevant template based on their situation.

Check out the different templates that I've made available to you using the opt-in form below:

In that document, you can find templates in many categories including:

  • Requesting a test re-take

  • Asking For Extended Time

  • Correcting Attendance

  • Help With Understanding An Assignment / Clarifying Directions

  • And more!

You can download all of these templates using the opt-in form, below:

Step 3: Have them save the email they write or choose as a template in Gmail

If your student complete this task of writing up an email and sending it or copying over a template from the document, they may say to you:

Thanks for showing me this, but that took a long time. I don't think I'll be able to do this everytime I need to problem solve with my teacher.

Then, you can reply, "Well, actually, you can save that email as a template and just pop it up as needed! All you need to do is change your teacher's name and the assignment name, and you are good to go!"

I've shared with you an easy to follow video below on how to do this, and I'll also list out the directions below, for those of you who prefer to read.

Steps to enable templates in Gmail

1. Open Gmail

2. Click on "Settings" (the little gear button in the upper right corner), then "see all settings".

3. Go to the "advanced" tab and click "Enable templates"

5. Press save

Steps to create your first template

  1. Open a new email, then when you have your text written, click on the three dots in the lower right corner of the email

2. Hover over "Templates," then hover over "Save draft as template," then "Save as new template".

Why does PING work?

Because many students are afraid to communicate directly with their teacher, PING serves as a "fill in the blank" framework, that makes navigating the nuances of teacher communication easier for students with ADHD and Autism.

Why do students with ADHD and Autism struggle to communicate with their teachers?

Every student is unique, but here are some common struggles of students with ADHD and Autism.

Common communication struggles of students with ADHD

  • Previous negative experiences of being labeled as "lazy," "doesn't try hard enough" or other insensitive comments

  • Rejection-sensitive dysphoria makes communication anxiety-provoking

  • Lack of explicit instruction around communication skills and nuances

Common communication struggles of students with Autism

  • Lack of understanding of subtle nuances of conversation

  • Intense focus on topics of high-interest with difficulty considering the perspective of others

  • Lack of explicit instruction around communication skills and nuances

Can you show me an example of how to use this strategy with my students?

Absolutely! Check out the video below to see how


This series of posts will guide you through small steps that can have a HUGE impact on your student's success this semester.

If you want to take things a step further, consider enrolling in the Semester Success Blueprint course.

The 'Semester Success Blueprint' isn't just a course; it's a concise, actionable tool designed from years of expertise in executive function coaching and special education.

If you're looking for a strategic, effective approach to improve the educational experience for students with ADHD and ASD, this course offers practical solutions. It's structured to provide just what's necessary, avoiding overload while maximizing impact.

For those ready to make a real difference in how they or their loved ones manage academic challenges, I encourage you to explore what the 'Semester Success Blueprint' has to offer.

Click on the link below to start your journey towards more efficient learning and better educational outcomes today.

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About the author

Sean G. McCormick is a former public school special education teacher who founded Executive Function Specialists to ensure all students with ADHD and Autism have access to high-quality online executive function coaching services. 

With this mission in mind, he then founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains schools, educators, and individuals to learn the key approaches to improve executive function skills for students.

He is also the co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, a business with a mission to provide adults with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, access to high-quality executive function coaching services that can be accessed through Self-Determination funding.

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About 👋

EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

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