As an educational therapistin private practice and the mother of an ADHD 12 year old, I knowfirst hand how serious things can be at school and home thistime of the year. This is the time of year things start fallingapart for ADD students and their families. In my practice, Ido liaison work to try to keep families and teachers/districtstalking to each other in a civilized manner. This is not easy!! Why does it all seem to be so much worse in the late spring?What leads up to this terrible situation? In this article, Ihope to help you through this time by analyzing what happens andgive some practical advice to prevent this next year.
||Why is it Getting Worse? How Does This Happen?
By this time in the schoolyear, teachers and students are getting on each others' nerves, Teachers' fuses are shorter as students push their limits. Small, but constant or repetitious annoying behaviors that weretolerated during the year seem to make adults or peers react morenegatively now. People seem to have just had it with ADD students. Why can't they ever get anything turned in on time? Why doesit take so long to start? Their constant interruptions are soannoying! And why the heck can't they just sit down and staythere for one whole period?!? Deep down, I believe most teachersand parents think that their student (son or daughter) will finally"get it" and the behavior will start to change. Whenthis doesn't happen, they feel more frustrated and even angry,as they don't know what to try next. By this time, the studenthas been reprimanded, criticized, has failed in academics and/orin social situations, and is fast losing his self-esteem. His/herattitude is probably going downhill, as well.
||What Can You Do Right Now?
No this is not anotherone of those lectures about having family meetings, going to meetingsand counseling, etc, etc, etc. Instead, here are some immediate,realistic suggestions to help you deal with the frustration ofthe situation.
- Remember to breathe,count to 10-(well, maybe 5) before you act.
- Talk brieflyto your child about his/her attitude & try to use the "I"messages. Believe me, I know how tempting it is to give him along list of the "stupid" or "irresponsible"things that he has done. Keep reminding yourself that that willsurely stop the discussion and send him packing .
- Let the child talkwithout being interrupted; he tells things from his point of view. (He must then listen to your opinion without interruption) Makethis talk personal, as most ADDs respond to emotion rather thannagging.
- Keep your temper;if you have to "vent", run or swim it off, talk to anotherparent with similar concerns. Keep a journal: not anything fancy-justa tablet open at all times so you can just jot something down,date it and look at it later. Put down things that seem unfairor make life harder for your child or your family.
- If you have a behaviorchart or point system already, go to it rather than yelling allthe time at your child. Even you are only able to get to it oncea week, it is worthwhile doing.
||How can we prevent this from happening next year?
Resolve right now that by September of next year you will have a folder of information on your child for the teacher, principal, and other support people.
There are no guarantees because a lot depends on the type of teacher, learning environment and expectations at the school. HOWEVER, going into the school year in September with the best information you can gather, is an excellent strategy for success. You are your child's main "case worker." Start collecting now!!
Bring in this information early in the year.Make the sections short, concise, easy to read.You have all summer to work on it.
This folder shouldcontain:
- at least one diagnosisof ADD by a medical practitioner, a counselor, and/or other professional
- check lists for ADDthat have been filled out by someone in the school setting aswell as outside the school. It should be a thorough one likethe Anser System by Dr. Levine, not just the short one pagerthat most schools give out. Check Academic Therapy Publishersin Navato, Ca for other lists.
- a few samples ofwork, showing both strengths and weaknesses. If possible havean educational specialist evaluate his learning style and anylearning disabilities that might complicate his situation on topof the ADD. Do not mix the LD problems with the ADD, even thoughADD symptoms impact performance in the classroom.
- Give learning styles,things that work with your child. Make it generic for anyoneto use. (Tactile, visual, auditory learner? Likes hands-on activities?)
- Your ideas aboutwhat works academically or behaviorally for your child-what canthey expect him to do when things get tough and what are someideas to help him make a safe place for him to go, let him takea walk or move, have more time on assignments, shorter writing,etc.
- a summary regardingthe child's social-emotional needs
- a report on a completephysical by the family doctor. Keep it current. (within 6 months)
- report cards or commentsby teachers if they point up true weaknesses, (and strengths)not just negative comments
- a section of thingsthe student is good at: soccer, drawing, clubs or activities,computer skills and knowledge, etc; short notes from anyone praising(there must be some of those around!); awards of any kind
- a letter requestingeither Student Study Meeting or testing (or both) by theschool and district
A Student Study Meeting is a process where information is gathered, questions areposed about the student's abilities. Student needs and progress are explained,Brainstorming is done for strategies in the classroom and at home to help himsucceed. Academic and psychological testing may or not be indicated, depending onthe individual case.
||Other Important Pieces of the Puzzle
Build up your child's health
Investigate, read, researchalternatives to drugs: dietary changes and/or vitamin therapyis one I strongly recommend and can give specific informationon one that has proven results with many ADDs.
Find a support group or support people (do not do this alone!!)
- Find a support groupor just another parent of a similar child and talk periodically.Check resources like PHP (Parents Helping Parents) CHADD or similargroups across the country. They run support groups, send outhelpful information, connect you with other parents, and linkyou up with various resources to help. (www.PHP.com)
- Check out video oraudio tapes on ADD/management. Leave around house for othersto watch too.
- Is there a mentor,someone who understands your child , in the school? Ask for theirinput and invite them to come to any meetings about your child.
- Talk to your bestfriend, let your frustrations out in a safe way.
Behavior Management, Reports from School:
Give the teacher break & take care of yourself, too.
- Work out strong,specific positive reinforcement plan to be done by teacher withfollow-up at home. Stick to it.
- Get a plan with yourspouse or other adult to back you up and stick together.
- Have a weekly reportfrom the teacher(s). Use rerward at home to reinforce it.
- Acknowledge to theteacher that this is usually a tough time and ask how you canfollow up at home
- If things are reallyheating up, take your child out for an R.and R. Day. If you can,do something with him that you both enjoy and relieve the tension.( If you can't afford a whole day off, pick him up early or sleepin late one day)
- Do something to makeyou laugh; go to see a movie like "Liar! Liar!"
- Go to the gym, getyour hair cut, buy something new,plant flowers,..you get the idea.
||By all means, do not give up, or lose heart.
By all means, do notgive up, or lose heart. Hang in there another few days. You area vital part of your child's success. He really relies on you,no matter what his behavior or words say. Just think, soon he'llbe home for the summer!!
||What is an Individual Educational Evaluation?
This is a veryindividual evaluation that is different for each child. An EducationalTherapist or Educational Psychologist can do it when theysee the child in person at their office. If you are local (Santa ClaraCounty in California), call my office at (408)496-1660. If not, you cango to the website of the Association of Educational Therapists(AET@aol.com) to find one in your area. Also, you can go to a veryhelpful website PHP.com (Parents Helping Parents) and go to theirnational referral center to find similar resource centers near you You also have a legal right to request that the school and district dothe evaluation, but sometimes because of the number of studentsand limited resources, this evaluation might not be done in as muchdepth as a private assessment.
There are three areas which this evaluation should address:
I hope this is helpful to clarify this issue. Please do not mix upan Educational evaluation with an I.E.P. which is a legal document(Individualized Educational Plan) made up for children who qualifyfor special education)
- academic assessment (where is his reading level? How isdecoding,comprehension? How are math skills? Word problems vscomputation? Definitely get a writing sample from a reliable test ofwritten lang.
- social-emotional (is he/she moody, reistive? emotional? problemsmaking friends or cooperating? A psychologist or a marraige and familycounselor can check out what is going on)
- physical body (have a check-up by doctor and collect info onallergies, vitamin therapies-they can make a huge difference in abilityto focus, be organized, take in information better etc.).
||For More Information
To get an individualized educational evaluation, or more information about any information about any of the resources mentioned above: