During the academic year, a child will be in school anywhere between 6-10 hours each day. This means most kids spend at least 25% of their time, if not more, in the presence of adults other than their parents, most often educators. Whether you have just found out about your child’s Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or have known about it for years, talking to their teachers and counselors and keeping them informed of your child’s treatment is of utmost importance.
Sometimes, these discussions may become a heated debate between what is best for the child and who is responsible for meeting those needs. This is why having them early on and establishing a plan of action going forward is necessary, in order to find a middle ground that works to ensure your child’s success in the long run. Here are some tips to ensure that these conversations go smoothly:
1. Start before the school year begins.
Don’t wait until your child is already in school. First impressions can be lasting, and you don’t want them to make one that is hard to shake in the long run. Being proactive is important here, so make sure you take the time to write their new teacher (be it in a letter or an email) to inform them of your child’s ADHD, their behaviors and requirements, and make them aware of any learning programs such as the 504 Plan or IEP (Individualized Education Plan) by providing them with a copy. Express a desire to meet in person so that you both can talk things through, ask questions and figure out solutions.
2. Schedule a meeting, but not for the first week of school.
Scheduling a one-on-one meeting with their teacher instead of trying to catch them for a few minutes before or after classes is the best way to ensure both of you are able to give this discussion your full attention, but try to do it for the second or third week of school, when things have had a chance to calm down a little, and the teacher has had a chance to get familiar with your child and their behaviors.
Come into this conversation with a positive attitude and approach the teacher with a sense of teamwork rather than a list of demands. Make sure to ask questions so that you may both, together, work towards solutions that work best to meet your child’s needs. Focus and consistency is paramount when dealing with ADHD, but there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to working through it and your child will have a much better chance at success if you can maintain a calm, open line of communication with their teachers.
3. Be specific in how ADHD affects your child.
Since ADHD presents differently in every child, it is important to let their teacher know what they are most likely to see in class. Do they have a hard time controlling their emotions? Perhaps they tend to talk out of turn, or are easily distracted? No one knows your child better than you – what frustrates them, and what rewards are meaningful. All of this is important information that will help their teacher choose good strategies in the long run.
If big changes happen, whether at home, with their medication or their treatment, keep their teacher in the loop. This helps them adjust in class, and helps you keep an eye out for potential side effects and symptoms.
4. Communicate regularly.
It is very important to keep this conversation going throughout the year, sharing what seems to have worked and what hasn’t (both in class and at home), and adapting things as needed. You may want to establish a Daily Report Card (DRC) comprising of three or four target goals for which your child gets regular, visual feedback – these often help to keep a child with ADHD focused. Ask them if it is possible to set up some form of brief, weekly communication (such as a phone call, email or note to be sent home) and arrange for regular meetings to monitor your child’s progress and make any necessary adjustments.
How TLC can help:
If you need help coming up with the right words to approach their teacher, want to discuss strategies that would best work in the classroom or perhaps would like us to write a letter, please talk to your therapist. We’re part of your child’s treatment and would love to help however we’re able!