School & Your Child with ADD / ADHD

School & a child with ADD /ADHD is not exactly a match made in heaven – for anyone.  Your child may be inadvertently interrupting other children in the classroom and their parents may be up in arms, the teacher may be struggling to cope with your child day in day out, you may be stressed out dealing with your child everyday and there in the middle of all of this is your wonderful child just being his or herself.

So how can you make school easier for everyone?

Be there for your child: You are the only true advocate for your child.  Be available for the teacher if he/she needs you via phone, email, text, etc.  However, if you have the nagging teacher who calls every day to tell you that Johnny got into a fight  or didn’t listen during PE, ask them (politely) to either keep a written log, email you, or call when there is something you can actually do about the situation.  I have seen situations where the parent is called way too much, and it ends up discouraging the parent instead of helping solve the problem. Remember also that every child will push boundaries and sometimes they are just being bold. There are three sides to every story – just as your child is not ALWAYS causing problems; the teacher is not ALWAYS in the wrong either. Balance is good.

How to deal with school when your child has ADD / ADHDGet really organised:  I know that modern life is busy but the more structured and organised an environment you can create for your child, the more it should help them stay more focused. While I know this isn’t always the case, I have seen the consistent structure and organisation of home/school help students meet goals and succeed in school. Remember that not all teachers are super organised or structured, so do what you can to create that sense of structure at home. Remember, sometimes the really strict teacher may not be your child’s favourite but your child may do better with the structure and organization of the less favourite teacher.

Keep a large calendar in the house (I prefer dry erase) that shows schedules, due dates, and appointments. We have created a Hummingbird Learning Centre family planner, just email me and I will send it to you. It’s really easy to use – just print it out (A4) and pop it into a glass picture frame & write on it with a whiteboard marker. It just wipes off.

Not every teacher wants to help every child: Teachers are human too and just like in every other job, some teachers are miserable, some are overwhelmed and some are under-trained. While the majority are none of these and many absolutely love teaching & are really good at it, chances are you might encounter at least one teacher like that within your child’s school career.  My point is that you need to go into school meetings knowing that no one is perfect, and no matter where you, your child, or the teacher are in life, you need to stay as positive as possible for your child. You cannot control the teacher but you can control your response to the teacher.

This too will pass:  In larger schools, classroom teachers see your child for one year but in smaller schools, you child may have the same teacher for a number of years. That is why it is really important to develop a good relationship with the teacher. There have been situations where I have had to tell teachers that even though a student is struggling or isn’t making as much desired progress, they are still growing and have multiple years to learn and grow. While I’m not saying that we should let lack of progress go and not try to meet goals, development isn’t the same for each child.  Just remember that even if the school year is tough, it’s nine months and you can use the summer to catch up on some content if your child is struggling in the classroom. Our 10 week programs work really well for children & students with ADD/ ADHD.

Talk to other parents: If your school or area has an ADD/ADHD support group, find out which schools / teachers deal best with children who have the same issue. Schedule a meeting with the principal if you have to and express your concerns and ask which teacher you feel will be best for your child. Facebook Groups are an excellent way to find and interact with parents.

Put it in writing: An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a written document which specifies the learning goals that are to be achieved by the student over a set period of time. It should not contain everything to be taught to the student in a period of time, but rather, that which is additional or different to the main class curriculum. The strategies, resources and supports necessary to achieve these goals are also specified in the IEP

While IEPs are not as yet a legal requirement in Irish schools (they will become so when the EPSEN Act is finally fully implemented), some teachers of children with special education needs have been using IEPs or similar individual plans for some time now. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) have issued guidelines on planning an IEP, providing teachers, parents and schools the opportunity to become familiar with the process. The guidelines present a checklist of the essential elements required for an IEP, so even if your school hasn’t using them, create one yourself and bring it to the school.  It will help you focus on what your child needs and create a framework for you and the school to adhere to. It makes life easier for everyone, when everyone is on the same page.

Tips for parents of students with ADD / ADHDZip it: If you have a rough year with a particular teacher, make sure not to express too much of that in front of your child.  Children are like sponges (particularly when it suits them!). They will pick up on your negative talk and body language, and you could be inadvertently adding to the situation. You need to work to keep the teacher on your side as much as possible, and even if you get the teacher from the hell, be sure to stay positive in front of your child as much as possible. If they’re old enough to understand that some teachers aren’t always nice, explain to them that that is a reflection of the teacher and not them. (However if the teacher is excessively picking on your child or makes your child feel really bad about themselves or their academic performance, you need to intervene).  If your child is losing self-esteem or really feels that they are being singled out, then would contact the principal. Again, you are your child’s advocate, so only you know the best way to help your child through a tough year.

Talk about it: If your school has a resource teacher they can often help your child think through tasks and learn to organise their thoughts, desk, and assignments. Talk with your child about the steps you take to stay organised and complete tasks throughout your day. Ask them what an organised day would look like to them – this way they are finding their own solutions, rather than listening to what suits you. Remember that they are their own person; they need to find their own way. This is a skill that will help them for the rest of their days.

Sleep on it: I know many parents of our Hummingbirds who do ADD have commented that their child has had trouble sleeping.  Having a consistent sleep schedule can really help your child perform better in school.  This means a structured bedtime routine and bed time. Make sure that your child gets the recommended hours of sleep.  There are natural remedies for sleep disturbances but always check with your child’s doctor first, especially if they are taking medication.

The basics: Obviously, habits like eating right and exercising help everyone, so that is a given for children who are struggling with ADD/ADHD. However, I do know that some parents complain that the medications make their child lose weight and not want to eat as much. Make sure to talk to your child’s doctor for tips on how to get your child to maintain a healthy appetite.

Behaviour plans:  Children who do ADD/ADHD may be impulsive, and act before they think.  It may benefit your child to have a behaviour plan at home, school, or both to help provide motivators to stay focused throughout the day. Keep the rewards simple such as time with a pet or extra video game time. Mix up the rewards; you do not want to end up with 3 hours of extra time on the Xbox! Stay award from food & money rewards too.

Develop social cues:  Sometimes students with this condition find social situations very difficult. They can be impulsive, rude, and interrupt. However, they also can get their self-esteem hurt very easily. Develop a signal system to help them know when something is socially wrong and then talk about it in private. This could be tapping your finger on the side of your face, on your nose, etc.

Keep them moving:  All children are built to move! Having to stay still is difficult for all children, but especially so for children with ADD / ADHD. It does seem that these students really do better when they are in movement activities. Some find the martial arts excellent as the exercises are very grounding.

Take care of You: It’s very important that the parents of children who do ADD/ADHD take good care of themselves because it can be exhausting!    Many times these children are highly intelligent, which makes it even more frustrating for parents. They don’t understand how their child can be so intelligent, but can’t remember to do homework, or remember to bring home their school books! This can be very frustrating, so make sure you take care of yourself too! So join a gym or book club, take up cycling or have massage. You are worth it.

I hope this helps you see that you are the best advocate for your child and I hope you find a school and teachers who offer mutual respect and support. If you want to find out more about how our programs can help you and your child, just email me at elaine@hummingbirdlearning.com or call on 087 2996054

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