FIVE THINGS YOU MUST DO TO INSURE YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL SUCCESS
1. Become a partner with the school rather than an adversary.
You get more with honey than you do with vinegar. Remember that your child needs to spend six or more hours in school every day and you want it to be as beneficial as possible. Be respectful.
Teachers and school administrators are probably the world’s best experts in normal childhood behavior since they see more normal children and teens than anyone else. When they identify a problem behavior, work with them to turn the situation into an opportunity for growth. By fighting the teacher or denying the existence of the behavior, you lose a chance to help your child learn how to deal with difficult situations and create a hostile atmosphere that can negatively impact on your child.
Bite your tongue, even if you think the teacher is off base. Try to understand the context within which the teacher is operating, that is, try to look at it from the teacher’s shoes. Using this type of empathic response, you can partner with the teacher to help your child be more successful and the teacher to be more effective.
For example, the teacher calls you to say that your child is pushing and shoving in line before lunch. Ask the teacher what might be the best way to handle the situation. Brainstorm with the teacher what might work. Add information that you know about your child that may inform the discussion and try to collectively try a solution. If you seem to be getting nowhere, suggest that the two of you bring in a third party, i.e. the social worker, principal or other school personnel. You are all on the same side. You all want your child to be as successful as possible. Keep it in mind.
2. Be Knowledgeable and Organized.
Create a file of all communications that you have with the school. Keep report cards, notes from teachers, conference summaries, evaluations. These documents are invaluable when attending multidisciplinary conferences, IEP meetings, etc. If you need to pursue outside services, these documents can help your consultants understand what has happened thus far.
Keep up with news and information about ADHD. Read this newsletter, participate in our teleconferences, join CHADD and/or ADDA and attend meetings, learn about your rights regarding IEPs and 504 plans, etc. The more you know, the better able you are to help your child.
Develop an ally in the school system. By having an ally, you can get helpful guidance prior to, during and after meetings. It reduces the likelihood that you will be blindsided by something you did not expect.
3. Create a positive experience for your child.
Attend to your child’s self esteem. Your goal is to help your child feel some success in school. An ADHD child is constantly being reprimanded, scolded and directed by adults. They often give up and identify themselves as ‘bad kids’. When you see this beginning to happen, talk to your child’s teacher and work on solutions. Change expectations so your child can feel some success. Also, discover your child’s interests and feed the appropriate ones. Your child may be fascinated with cars. Use that interest as a vehicle (get it!) to develop academic skills and build self esteem.
4. Develop an Accountability System for Grades and Homework
Since ADHD kids lack an internalized ability to monitor their own behavior, we need to create a consistent external environment to support their success. Assignment sheets, regular conferences, notebooks for teacher and parent comments to be shared can all be used to develop that accountability system. Experiment with what works for your child. Because writing was such a struggle for one child, the parents and teacher arranged an audio assignment notebook whereby the child read the assignment into a small tape recorder. (With strong positive incentives to not lose it!!)
Daily report cards can also be utilized toward this end. Choose what works. There are many possibilities. Be creative.
5. Develop an Accountability System for Behavior
The justification for this is the same as for academics. Behavior modification programs with points, stickers, checks or whatever is motivating to your child, can be highly effective tools when implemented properly. Coordinate these programs with school personnel. Use the feedback received from school to impact on your behavior program at home. Children can earn points at home for good days at school and can experience consequences for having bad days. Coordination is key. The more that your child expects that behavior will be responded to, the greater the likelihood that change will occur.
Follow these five principles and you and your child will have a happier, more successful school experience.