I trust that this letter finds you well. I hope you have had a relaxing summer holiday and are feeling relaxed and replenished after a busy year. I look forward to meeting you and getting to know you over the coming school year.
I hope that we will work well together. The way I see it; my child’s successful education depends on teamwork, with you and I understanding and supporting each other.
I want to start by expressing the gratitude that I have for your dedication and devotion to being a teacher. I am in awe of the work you put in; those restrictions placed on you, and those long hours required to do your job. I know that finishing work for the day is not the 3:15 pm I once imagined. After attending to you and your family’s own needs – dinner, chores, and time to connect, you still have to sit down and plan tomorrow’s lessons, mark your pupils’ work, and reply to parents’ emails. The list goes on. You probably even had to work over the summer holidays too; labeling books, and doing much more to prepare for this school year.
My child will be joining you this year,
He/she has a diagnosis of ADHD.
They may or may not be medicated.
He/she is not defined by their diagnosis, they are themselves an individual person like you and me, but with their diagnosis brings some slight differences I think you should know about.
Perhaps you have taught pupils with ADHD before or someone in your family shares the same diagnosis. If so, I am sure you know lots about ADHD already. Hopefully your school supports extra Special Education training for staff
I hope that teaching my child this year will be fun and rewarding for you. He/she really is a sensitive, caring, energetic, and passionate child. I hope he/she will make you smile with their quick wit and sense of humor.
He/she does fidget a lot. They may scribble or play with pens while listening to you to help them. For your own reassurance, check that they are listening but please don’t assume that they are not and take that pen/item from them. I can provide a few unobtrusive fidgets to use in the classroom.
My child doesn’t want to zone out when you talk, but if you notice that they are; I find a little break helps. Ask them to either fetch you something, get a quick drink from the water fountain or my child’s favorite; some jumping jacks somewhere private.
This little burst of activity really helps reset and refresh his/her brain.
My child is a chatterbox. Be assured he/she will butt in when you talk or forget to put their hand up. He/she doesn’t mean to be rude but may worry about forgetting the answer and keen to impress you with their knowledge and questions.
He/she isn’t great at taking turns when playing with classmates or friends. They don’t mean to be a bossy-boots. A bit of gentle prompting about give and take, or encouraging a change of game works well at home. I am working a lot with him/her at the moment about friendships, sharing, and being respectful.
He/she can be forgetful, disorganized, and appear unmotivated to start tasks.
He/she just doesn’t know where to start and so needs some gentle encouragement and perhaps help to initiate or better organize their task. I find that I have to really break tasks down for them into small steps and provide lots of repetition. Executive functioning and working memory are the culprits.
He/she has suggested to me that they would like to discuss with you a “prompt” that you can both agree on to help them know when it’s time to start work. Something gentle and friendly, please. You see they are afraid that you may say something that will embarrass them or draw attention to them.
My child really wants to work hard for you this coming year. He/she has talked excitedly about you all summer; what you might be like, whether you wear glasses, and what golden time treats you may give the class as a reward.
Sometimes he/she just doesn’t have that ability to wait for a later reward. It may be a bad day for paying attention, for being more hyperactive, or he/she may have slept poorly or is feeling nauseous from their medication. But hopefully, you can learn to detect a bad day from a good day, reward the good days, and be understanding of the bad.
Be assured that we both want what’s best for your class and my son/daughter to ensure a successful and happy new school year.
See you very soon,
A parent of a child with ADHD ❤️
This is an open letter written by Nochola Parody to articulate the thoughts and worries a parent of an ADHD child may feel when their child starts school. Nicola is an ADHD and Learning Disabilities advocate who hosts the Facebook page, Heidi and Me: Our Neurodiversity Journey.
The letter had an incredible response. ❤️ It was shared by 23 SEN/ADHD and relevant charities and advocacy pages in Europe and got as far as Canada and the USA.
More importantly, it was read and shared by many parents of other neurodiverse children. ❤️
Heidi and Nicola’s photo found on Facebook (Heidi and Me )
Stigma, misinformation, and fears about ADHD continually flood us with negative messages. Pre-conceived ideas, ignoring scientific evidence, and misinformation combined with a bias against medication make getting diagnosed and properly treated problematic throughout most of the world. The truth is out there, but spreading the news is a never-ending battle. Having a month devoted to sharing information, encouraging treatment, and even celebrating a common experience can provide relief for many.
This month you can find many different sources to help you understand and treat ADHD. Take advantage of everything that is offered as it meets your individual needs.
Participating in ADHD Awareness Month We list a number of online events for this month as well as ways to find support throughout the year. You can spend just a few minutes, listen to short daily presentations or attend longer Webinars. Whatever you choose, you can get a great education in ADHD and experience a powerful feeling of belonging.
It can be a personal revelation to attend a conference with other members of the ADHD “Tribe.” It’s also good to see those many professionals who want to learn more about how to treat ADHD effectively.
Both the United States and Canada have conferences coming up. In Canada, October 4th– the 6thare the dates for CADDRA’s 2019 Conference and Research Day in Toronto, Ontario. (Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance) Sorry for the late notice. Save the date for next year’s conference now.
The 2019 Annual Conference onADHD: Better Together is being held November 7 – 9 in Philiadelphia, PA. – Individual ticket – $390. $60 discount with membership in CHADD, ADDA, or ACO, (Children and Adults with ADHD, ADD in Adults, and ADHD Coaches Association)
Getting educated about ADHD and finding some form of support for your journey is so important. But, beyond a feeling of community, there is a lot of personal work involved in coming to your own awareness of the unique way that ADHD is expressed in your or your loved one’s lives.
“The ADHD brain works by its own rules. There’s a perpetual need for stimulation or novelty-seeking behavior that’s characteristic of the condition. Creating structure and developing routines helps, as does an interest in the task or subject, a sense of urgency, or immediate consequences or rewards for their actions to help successfully manage their life…just knowing about ADHD isn’t enough.
There’s a process involved after you first become aware. First, there is the issue of getting a diagnosis. Then comes the process of getting treatment, Medication, therapy, coaching, and/or other tools and strategies only work when they are used.”
All too often, we only dwell on the negatives of ADHD. Andrea Nordstrom reframes the way we often perceive Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder purely as a deficit in The ADHD Manifesto. (2 ½ minutes) It’s a great pick-me-up if you’re ever feeling down about “being different.”
“We don’t do life the normal way. we do it the ADD way! We are not broken. We are whole. When we fuel ourselves properly, our drive accelerates us.” ~ Andrea Nordstrom
There is hope with ADHD. Educate yourself. Do the work. Understand that your child WOULD do better if they COULD. Support them emotionally, create structure and help them learn self-regulation. Accept yourself just as you are. As you can, do better, but remember to leave the criticism behind. It doesn’t help anything.
There are roughly 8 million adults in the US living with ADHD. Less than 20% of those who meet the criteria have been diagnosed, and even fewer seek help. Source Unfortunately, living in denial prevents some people from realizing that life can actually get better.
I lived this way for a long time, so I know how that feels.
There is still so much stigma attached to any kind of mental health diagnosis. And yes, ADHD falls under the category of mental health.
In the fall of 2010, I had a 2-month-old baby. He cried incessantly. I didn’t realize at the time that he had sensory issues and could not regulate the incoming input from his senses, so I thought I was doing something wrong. Spending all your time nursing and listening to your child scream is not how most women picture themselves after giving birth.
On top of this, my house was falling apart. All of the plans I had for cooking, cleaning and becoming the consummate housewife went out the window.
One afternoon as I sat on my bed crying and nursing, I realized that I needed help for my ADHD. I needed something to help me prioritize. I needed something to help me manage my life. So I started to open up about my ADHD. After all, I was diagnosed when I was only 12 years old.
I had been lying to myself for a long time.
5 LIES I TELL MYSELF ABOUT MY ADHD
NOBODY NEEDS TO KNOW
For so long I thought if I led a highly structured life, nobody would suspect that I was drowning. I never told my employers directly, though I did tell a few close coworkers. Discussion of ADHD within my own family wasn’t an issue because my brother didn’t want to talk about it either. I didn’t even tell my fiancé directly until after we were married. Even then, I glossed over it. After our son was born, it became so obvious that I dropped all my defenses and just told him I needed help.
There are benefits to keeping it a secret. You get hired, people trust you. But when you do screw up it is much harder to explain.
I JUST NEED TO MAKE LISTS
List-making is a favorite pastime of mine. I make lists for housecleaning, grocery shopping, prioritizing tasks, and God knows what else. The thing is– the lists made it worse. You and I look at a list and realize there is no way in hell it can all be done. Then we get frustrated and angry.“Why can’t I just do things like a NORMAL person?!” We end up screaming in our heads, which is never a good thing.
Now when I make a list, it has no more than 3 major items. Or I use Kanban flow.
MEDICATION WILL FIX EVERYTHING
ADHD medications are very effective for many people. Indeed, I experienced success with medication. But still, I quit taking them at some point. Now, I’m revisiting my decision. Previously, I disliked depending on medication to cope with what seemingly came easily for other women. Now, I have come to realize that taking medication is not a cop-out and it doesn’t make you lazy.
But medication alone will not fix everything. You will still need support in the form of counseling and/or coaching. Despite the many people who do not take lifestyle into consideration, I still contend that for your medication to do its best work, you need to have a healthy lifestyle.
Develop healthy habits and routines that help you get restful sleep, schedule regular exercise times, eat real food, control your blood sugar and your stress level. For success, don’t rush to do everything at once. Take it step by step. Small changes make a big difference.
I DON’T NEED MEDICATION
Have you ever fallen into this trap?
Granted, some people can function without medication. Chances are many of these have a lot of support and help from others, just as all of us need. Some have accepted the way their brain works and have created a work environment and life that promotes their strengths. This helps make their weaknesses less visible and impairing. I know of several entrepreneurs who are ADHD, but they have an entire staff to keep their lives together.
Accept that your brain works differently. Trust me, you will feel less inadequate this way. I came to the conclusion over time that being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The key is figuring out how to work around it.
My schedule will always overwhelm me, and my house will always be a little messy. So what? I’m working on it.
MY MEMORY ISN’T THAT BAD
This is a big one for me. I cannot remember anything. It is incredibly frustrating. At least twice a day I look at a website or read an article and I think, “Oh I can find this later.” Do I find the article later? Nope. Forgetfulness is so common with ADHD that it becomes comical in certain circumstances.
My newest tool is writing everything down. I have notebooks all over my house and in my bags. I figure if it’s good enough for Richard Branson, it’s good enough for me. My memory sucks. It is what it is.
I had been lying to myself for a long time.
What lies do you tell yourself about ADHD?
About the author: Liz Lewis of A Dose of Healthy Distraction offers “Solutions and Strategies for Women Living, Laughing and Parenting with ADHD.” She blogs regularly. Sign up for her email list to follow her work. Liz also hosts a private Facebook Community, works with individuals and created the Coaching Corner group. Her goal is to help women understand how ADHD impacts their lives, explore strategies to help, and live well.
The ADHD Character Traits (ACT) surveyuses the Strengths and Weaknesses of ADHD Symptoms and Normal Behaviour Rating Scale (SWAN Rating scale) If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste: https://synapse.research.sickkids.ca/act/welcome
Tests for both Parents and Children from WebMD (Link works) – For you and your child – Online questions, includes short videos to inform you. Provides screening for symptoms and also accesses how well you’re doing with your current treatment.
Are you Totally ADD? (5-minute unofficial online test) May need to Copy and paste URL: http://totallyadd.com/totallyadd-unofficial-adhd-test/
Dr. Daniel Amen’s Adult ADHD Symptom Checklist Online version with scoring. (4-minutes) Includes Amen’s proposed 7 sub-types of ADHD. After determining your type, you will receive a full, comprehensive report including an ADD Action Plan with natural and targeted treatments that you can start from home. (Don’t be surprised if your results show a lot of overlap.)
Structured Adult ADHD Self-Test (SAAST): Test Yourself for ADHD – 22-question self-test differentiates between two distinct components of ADHD diagnosis (namely, inattention together with hyperactivity/impulsivity) and is also sensitive to factors which typically preclude a diagnosis of ADHD.
Adult ADHD Spectrum Self-Test helps you assess the full spectrum of ADHD traits, including both strengths and challenges. 55 yes or no questions. Informal assessment designed by therapist Don Baker. (Link works or cut and paste http://www.unpackingadhd.com/resources/adult-adhd-spectrum-self-test/)
23 Signs You Don’t have ADHD – Link works or Copy and paste URL: http://totallyadd.com/23-signs-you-do-not-have-adhd/ – A humorous ADHD test. – From the always entertaining Rick Green of TotallyADD
Yet another Totally ADD Unofficial ADHD Test in a 30-minute video – Link works or Copy and paste URL: http://totallyadd.com/totallyadd-unofficial-adhd-test/ Find out if you might have ADHD. And have fun at the same time. (If you make it to the end, you deserve a prize.)
“Image courtesy of Luigi/FreeDigitalPhotos.net”
Modified on Canva – www.canva.com
Mary trains educators and parents on ADHD, emotional challenges, and classroom management practices. An internationally recognized expert on ADHD, she is the author of four books, including the bestseller, Maybe You Know My Kid (3rd edition), Maybe you Know my Teen, the original CHADD Educators Manual, and 20 Questions to Ask If Your Child has ADHD.
“Think of this book as facts with personality. Answers are written in an easy-to-read, conversational style from a parent who’s been there”. Organized into four easily manageable categories:• General/Medical Information • Social/Emotional Well-being • Home Issues • School Issues. ($10 on Kindle – $13 for paperback)
Whenever I present a workshop for teachers, I ask audience members to describe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in their own, non-clinical words. It’s been compared to a remote that never stops switching channels, the Energizer® bunny, loose papers in a strong wind, being lost in the fog, and electricity without a cord. Their similes capture the essence of the core symptoms of ADHD: inattention and /or impulsivity and hyperactivity. They also help us imagine what it must be like to have ADHD. They foster empathy and a desire to help.
Still, in the day-to-day grind of teaching, when problems emerge, our best intentions and sensitivities are tested. Wiggling, ﬁdgety, loud, disorganized, disruptive, hurried, careless and off-task behavior coupled with messy, incomplete, or missing work are tough challenges in the classroom, even on a good day.
The chronic nature of ADHD school-related issues has been known to frustrate more than a few teachers (and parents). This frustration may have to do with the expectation that interventions can cure ADHD. They don’t and they can’t.
Here’s the real deal: the manifestations of ADHD are seldom (if ever) ﬁxed once and for all because these problems often arise from environmental expectations, conditions, and triggers. Thus, these students are highly susceptible to the world around them and the world within them.
Most ADHD problems can be called “POP” or “point of performance” problems where students have difficulty being on point or on task.
What is on-task performance?
• Doing what you are supposed to be doing.
• When you are supposed to be doing it.
• In the way you are supposed to be doing it.
The “what” or “it” can be following a rule, working on a task, using a social skill, etc.
Some students lack the necessary skills to perform appropriately. Generally, students with ADHD know what they are supposed to be doing. It’s just that where the rubber meets the road—at the point of performance—they lose traction and don’t do what they know. Distractibility, hating to wait, restlessness, losing materials, or missing pieces of the whole interfere with their best intentions to do what is expected and to do it well.
Typically, the off-task or off-rule behavior of students with ADHD is not a matter of choice. It’s a symptom of ADHD and an indicator that an intervention is needed. Here’s the good news: ADHD point of performance problems can be managed effectively (not to perfection). Most ADHD management is not a problem of knowing what to do. It’s a matter of doing what we know.
Here’s what you need to know and accept about ADHD interventions and strategies:
They have to happen in the here and now on an as-needed basis.
• They work when they are used.
• Their use often requires coaxing and coaching from an external source (teachers, parents, peers, visual cues, and/or technology).
• They may be needed throughout the school day, month, year, or lifespan.
Teachers often ask, “Shouldn’t these students learn to use these interventions on their own?” The point is this, if they didn’t have ADHD, they would be doing what they know! We can provide self-awareness and self-management strategies. Still, these students (and adults) will require coaching to do what they know.
In students with ADHD, “think ﬁrst” or “wait” do not enter into the self-control picture. So what can you do?
A POP intervention wouldn’t try to curb the need and impulse to call or blurt out. Instead, the teacher would direct the student to write down the thought. Or, if the student has difﬁculty writing or is a young learner, you might anticipate and call on this student frequently (or immediately). Or, use a silent signal as a cue to wait. Silent signals work because they are visual and thus don’t compete with the words the student is trying to keep in mind the way your verbalization does.
For the case where the student is unsure or anxious about what to do, you may assure the student that individual attention will always be given as soon as everyone else is on track.
You might also try a technique known as the two-response answer method. Let students know ahead of time that you will be asking every question twice—even if the ﬁrst answer given is correct. This method encourages students to listen to one another, signals students to wait, and allows students who might not volunteer to participate. It also allows you to call on reluctant students and gives them an opportunity to shine.
Raising a hand before speaking is a behavioral expectation. Behavioral expectations are but one type of POP problem. Off-task behavior is another. The ﬁrst type of problem may be a nuisance, but it doesn’t generally have a signiﬁcant impact on academic performance. Off-task behavior, however, is a signiﬁcant academic issue. It affects all aspects of the learner’s performance, especially the quality and quantity of task output.
The GPS (global positioning system) is a navigational system that works in the here and now. It is goal-oriented. It is problem-driven and solution-focused. When a driver needs to know how to get somewhere, the receiver calls upon every positioning satellite in the sky to devise a meta-strategy—a plan. The GPS then monitors the course as the car moves along. The “voice” gives corrective feedback whenever necessary.
Let’s say you want to drive across the swamp. The GPS doesn’t wrestle with alligators it meets along the way. It doesn’t get hung up in the past and the future. The GPS lives entirely in the present time and its aim is to get you to your destination (across the swamp) even if that means charting a new course.
Though I sometimes worry that one day my GPS will go “bonkers” because I’ve gotten so far off track, to date my receiver hasn’t lost its cool or showed any irritation. No yelling, no blaming, no shaming, no name calling, no idle threats, no long diatribes. When I miss a turn or get off track—it simply says, “Recalculating.”
Students with ADHD go “bonkers” when improving off-task performance requires teacher-driven “recalculations.” If you ﬁnd yourself wrestling with alligators and drowning in the swamp, there’s an easy solution. Let go of the alligator: be goal oriented, problem-driven, solution focused and ﬂexible. Be prepared to go back to the drawing board.
Remember, students with ADHD either lose sight of the goal (they fail to focus and sustain), or they’re not sure what the goal is (they have difﬁculty selecting the most important versus the most interesting information). These behaviors are not a matter of choice but rather an outcome of the neurological underpinnings of ADHD. Most students with ADHD don’t require different teachers. They require cool, calm, “recalculating” teachers who use effective and hands-on approaches.
There are three essential GPS components for all ADHD interventions:
The scaffold—these are the structures, strategies, supports, and skills you put into place that enable the student to improve performance. ADHD strategies are not so much an issue of knowing what to do but of doing what you know. ADHD scaffolds work when you use them. They belong in the here and now. Teachers often say to me, “If I do this for a student, then next year…” Or, “If I make this accommodation, what will happen when she gets to elementary school and beyond?”
Sadly, I have to report that when scaffolds are not used, student outcomes become predictably grimmer as time goes by. Furthermore, most adults with ADHD continue to need interventions and accommodations and some will seek the services of ADHD coaches.
Ongoing monitoring—sometimes we select the wrong intervention. In general, ADHD interventions fail because their use isn’t monitored or adjustments are not made along the way. That approach is akin to ﬁxing a leaky faucet valve without adding a washer or using plumber’s thread as a sealant. Monitoring behavior guides and directsthe performance along the path. Be sure that you don’t confuse monitoring with “gotcha” or “see—nothing ever works with this student!
Positive feedback—I once asked a student, “What does ADD mean?” He replied, “It’s just another way to call a kid ‘bad.’ I think ADD should stand for Adult Deﬁcit Disorder.”
It’s no wonder that he came up with this answer. Recent research as reported by Dr. Sydney Zentall notes that 75 percent of the daily feedback received by students with ADHD is negative. Positive feedback helps them stay on the appropriate behavioral path and serves as a key performance motivator. Feedback encourages, appreciates, and supports the person.
In addition to using the global meta-strategy described above, here are some speciﬁc strategies you might try for some of the typical behaviors that interfere with performance.
For stimulation seeking—a lot of “off task” ADHD behavior has to do with stimulation seeking and the way stimulation affects the brain’s ability to focus and sustain performance.
The general principle of ADHD intervention for stimulation seeking is not to restrict it. Instead, allow stimulation seeking on terms that work for the classroom situation.
What do these students need to do?
ADHD expert Roland Rotz suggests “ﬁdget to focus,” or allow movement through stability balls, treadmills, or frequent breaks. You can also provide manipulatives, such as stress balls, toy animals, or plastic tangles. (AKA as fidget toys or tools)
• Add or allow arousal ingredients to tasks. (Reduce arousal if it’s too high with quieting activities.)
• Use color (e.g., overlays for the last third of a reading page).
• Use manipulatives (or fidgets) for tasks—Legos®, Wikki Stix, or colored markers.
• Switch between high-interest andlow-interest tasks.
• Create interactive lessons with games.
• Eliminate rushing by removing all external incentives to ﬁnish quickly.
For getting and keeping their attention—students with ADHD, like all living beings, are always paying attention. The question is what’s getting their attention? The attentional problems of these students tend to rotate around three concerns: ﬁguring out what to pay attention to, determining what’s important versus what’s interesting, and staying the course until completion of the goal. These learners will find it difficult to set goals, prioritize, and say “No” to distractions. Once their minds wander, they often can’t ﬁnd their way “home”—home being where they are supposed to be focusing their attention. Home may be obvious to you, but it is not to them.
What can you do to get and hold attention?
Add interest and novelty to all tasks.
• Talk less and do more.
• Use silent signals to redirect attention.
• Use speciﬁc directives
• Simplify visual presentations.
• Make task structures clear.
• Highlight directions and give them one at a time.
• Microsize—break all tasks down into manageable parts, monitor each phase, and provide positive feedback.
• Use self-monitoring strategies—tracking time on task, timers, graphing daily performance.
For working memory and executive function issues, imagine if you had trouble saying “No” to distractions but still had to keep certain information in your mind so you could complete a task. For instance, you’re silently reciting a new phone number you want to program into your phone and the phone rings. If you’re at all like many people, if you haven’t written that number down, you know where it goes—somewhere far and away probably never to return again.
Now imagine that you have ADHD and your attention constantly gets pulled to an internal or external distraction and needs to be redirected. Like these students, you’d probably lose a lot of information from your mental desktop—that place known as working memory. You can tell working memory (or working with memory) has been disrupted when you catch yourself saying, “Now, where was I?”
Working memory allows us to hold information in mind while we work with bits and pieces of it or with something else entirely until we are ready to come back to the info on the mental desktop and use that information to complete a task. This can be tough enough for many of us. Now, add some impulsivity—the hate to wait and rush through without thinking through—part of ADHD. Couple that with some hyperactivity and shifts in attention and focus. The effect is not surprising. Working memory affects many aspects of task performance for students with ADHD.
To my mind, working memory issues certainly make a compelling case for having a “GPS system” in the day-to-day management of ADHD issues.
What can you do?
Externalize. If it can be held in mind, it can be written down to hold it in place—dry erase boards, cue cards, posted formulas, rules, etc.
• Use models, rubrics, timelines, planners, graphic organizers, checklists, daily action plans, and step-by-step guides.
Use color—it attracts attention, categorizes, distinguishes objects, and helps with organization.
• Design and monitor organizational routines—and make time for them to be used.
• Post the daily schedule.
• Provide note-taking assistance to the degree necessary.
• Use peer support when appropriate.
• Train mnemonic strategies, e.g. POW—plan, organize, write.
• Make and use ﬂash cards.
ADHD is not easy to manage. Yet, it is a highly manageable condition. We can’t cure it, but we can enable students to reduce any disabling effects of this condition. We simply have to do what we know. “Doing what we know” may seem like a Herculean task. In practice, it’s using an ounce of prevention rather than a pound of cure.
In all my workshops, I invite teachers to commit to this simple intention:
I will act as though what I do makes a difference.
When we are not making the difference we want to make, we don’t change the people around us. If we change what we do, the people around us change as a result.
By Mary Fowler http://www.maryfowler.com – Mary trains educators and parents on ADHD, emotional challenges, and classroom management practices. An internationally recognized expert on ADHD, she is the author of four books, including the bestseller, Maybe You Know My Kid (3rd edition), Maybe you Know my Teen, the original CHADD Educators Manual, and my favorite introductory book for parents 20 Questions to Ask If Your Child has ADHD.
20 Questions to Ask If Your Child has ADHD – “Think of this book as facts with personality. Answers are written in an easy-to-read, conversational style from a parent who’s been there”. Organized into four easily manageable categories:• General/Medical Information • Social/Emotional Well-being • Home Issues • School Issues. ($10 on Kindle – $13 for paperback)
“Why doesn’t my child’s teacher ‘get it?’ ” “Why doesn’t she understand how ADHD really impacts my child – that he is not lazy, unmotivated, nor intentionally manipulative?” I know this opens up a whole set of emotions for many parents out there, so before I go any further, I must clarify two important issues.
First, teachers are individuals, each with their own background, knowledge, and experience. Unfortunately, many parents and children have had negative experiences with some teachers, but there are also many teachers who have, through their compassion, knowledge and methods, opened the door to learning and personal growth in ways that have been life changing. Most teachers go into their profession with the intention of enlightening the lives of the children they touch.
Which leads me to the second issue- Most teachers, especially general education teachers, are not specifically taught about how to recognize ADHD, or how to teach and support children with ADHD. They may receive a general overview of the symptoms, but they are not given extensive education about the many issues involved in supporting a child with ADHD.
It is this second issue that creates the greatest concern and potentially devastating impact on children. Here are some of the concerns it raises:
ADHD involves a great deal more than impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness. It impacts many areas of learning, including their ability to manage their materials, time, emotions, and productivity. Without a full understanding of how ADHD is impacting the specific child in the classroom, a teacher might, unknowingly or unintentionally, make assumptions that are false about that child.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 9.5% or 5.4 million children 4-17 years of age have ADHD. By and large, these children are in the regular education classes. That means that each regular education class probably has at least one child with ADHD in the classroom.
Along with ADHD, there are often co-existing conditions which can complicate the learning in ways that a teacher may not realize. For example, depression and anxiety may be playing a role in the child’s life and this may not appear evident in the classroom.
Many parents look to their children’s teachers for advice and guidance regarding their children’s development and education. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Parents Magazine and The Child Mind Institute found that a staggering 83% of parents said that they would want their child’s teacher to tell them if he thought their child should be evaluated for a psychiatric or learning disorder. (Parents Magazine, May 2012, “Attitudes About Children’s Mental Health”). While experienced teachers may be in a position to notice atypical behavior or performance in a child, without the proper knowledge or training, they must tread very lightly in what and how they communicate to a parent. Their observations are helpful, in fact, they are a valuable component to the diagnostic process. However, they must make it clear to any parent that they are NOT qualified to diagnose, and that their observations are within the limited scope of the classroom.
I propose two specific remedies. The first involves you, the parents of these magnificent children. As you approach your teacher to discuss your child, keep in mind the following: This is the person who is with your child each and every school day. Empathize with the fact that they are responsible for managing and supporting not just your child, but also a whole classroom of children. Even if you suspect otherwise, approach them with the attitude that they want to help and that you value their insights. However, although they may have the best intentions, they may not yet understand how to help your child, and in fact, may be unknowingly frustrating, alienating and perhaps even harming your child. If repeated experience with this teacher leads you to conclude that they are not supportive of your efforts to collaborate, then you may want to involve the guidance counselor or school principal.
The second remedy involves educating the teacher. For many parents, this is a real awakening – the recognition and acceptance that, for better or worse, your child’s teacher does not really know how to best help your child. So much of what we know about ADHD and how to treat it effectively we learned within the last decade. You as the parent have had to become an expert in ADHD and your child. With due respect, and without judgment, request to share with the teacher some of the knowledge, tools and strategies you have learned. There are wonderful written resources available that you can share with your teacher, but no one besides you can create the shift and reframing necessary for your teacher to see your child through the lens of compassion and insight about the challenges your child faces like you, the parent, can.
Invite them to ask you for insights about behavior that may seem frustrating or illogical. You must help the teacher understand why certain accommodations and modifications are truly beneficial. For example, having “note taking” as a goal may be more frustrating than helpful at certain stages of development. Providing a set of class notes for your child allows him to focus on the teacher since his working memory makes the act of writing while listening too challenging. If appropriate, you can explain the impact medication has on your child (for example, that perhaps your child isn’t ready to eat during lunch but may really benefit from a power snack around 2 pm as the meds wear off, or the fact that the end of the day might be particularly challenging for your child to learn new material or remember to pack up properly).
For a true, systemic change to take place in the education of children with ADHD, we will need our teaching colleges to mandate a more in depth training of new general education teachers regarding the latest research on ADHD and the best practices for teaching and supporting these children. We also need our current teachers to be provided with in-service training regarding the same. (Note from author: I personally welcome the opportunity to speak to any group of current or future teachers who will have me. Located near New York, NY)
ADHD is a neurobiological disorder. It is not an excuse for poor behavior, and it is not the result of poor parenting. Yet, unfortunately, I still hear many stories from children and parents that their teachers do not “believe” or “understand” that the challenges the children face in the classroom and with homework are not fully under the child’s control. If they could… they would
Keep in mind – kids do well IF THEY CAN. If not, it’s up to the adults in their world to help them figure out why and to help them succeed – either by helping the children develop the skills, or modifying the expectations or environment until they can. Teachers are on the frontline of education – we must ensure that they are well equipped with knowledge, skills and strategies to support all children.
Here is a list a list of things you may want to help your teacher know.
12 Things Teens with ADHD would like their Teachers to know
by Eileen Bailey
1) I forget things, even important things.
2) I am not stupid
3) Please be patient
4) I really do want to do well.
5) I do complete my homework.
6) ADHD is not an excuse
7) I need help to succeed.
8) If you notice me acting in inappropriate ways, please talk with me in private. Please do not talk to me in front of the class.
9) I don’t like having “special accommodations” in the classroom. Sometimes they are needed to help me succeed and do well. But that doesn’t mean that I like it. Please don’t call attention to any special treatment in front of other students. Please do not draw attention to my ADHD.
10) Detailed explanations of your expectations will help me. I work best when I know exactly what you expect from me.
11) Learning about ADHD is one of the best ways to help me.
12) Although I have ADHD, I am not ADHD. I am a person; I have feelings, hopes, and expectations. I have needs. I want to be liked and accepted. I want to feel good about myself. All of this is important to me. Sometimes I act out to hide my embarrassment or shame. This does not mean that something is not important; on the contrary, it means that it is very important and I am hiding my disappointment that I failed.
If you are a parent of a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and you have big time problems with homework, explore these seven questions with your child to create the best environment for him or her to succeed. Understanding how your child’s brain functions will help you find the strategies that work best.
When we are interested in something and are good at it, such as math, or English, interest stimulates the brain and aids focusing. For people with ADHD, the greater the passion, the easier it is to pay attention. Kids who have an interest may be a walking encyclopedia for their favorite topic, like dinosaurs or basketball, but be hopeless about school. The problems arise with subjects that are not interesting and may be particularly difficult for your child.
New research supports this experiential evidence.
Recent research has identified two separate areas in the brain which are used to focus attention. The parietal cortex reacts to external stimuli; the prefrontal cortex is active when you must choose what to pay attention to.
The prefrontal cortex is the brain part that is used for executive functions like deciding, planning and activating and is under active in ADHD. It is the last part of the brain to reach full maturity (that’s why Hertz and Avis don’t rent cars to people under age 25). Children with ADHD may be two to three years behind their age peers in mental maturity, but they do get there.
How can you use this information to help your child do his homework?
Your job, Mom and Dad, is to provide the environment that works for your child.
You do not want to do it for him or be dogmatic about how, where or when he should do his homework. But you do need to provide more structure and organizational assistance than for other children of his age.
Talk and explore with her to discover what kind of stimulation works best to help her brain stay focused, every child is different. Your goal is to provide an environment which provides the right stimulation for her unique brain.
Seven questions for you to explore.
When does he work best? He probably needs some exercise and a snack after school before settling down to do homework. A snack should include some protein for fuel for the brain.
Where does he work best? Does he work best alone in his room with no distractions or does he work better in an open area with some noise and movement around to provide stimulation? Does background music of his choosing help him stay on task?
Does he need to move often? Let him work in small chunks and take a short break to jump a bit between chunks. Explore using a rocking chair or a rubber ball seat.
Is he an aural or visual learner? Our modern world is expressed mostly through visual media, but some people learn better aurally. If your child is an aural learner have him work out loud recording his lessons on a tape recorder.
Is he a verbal or a graphic learner? Some children work better with pictures than with words. Let him use his creativity to illustrate his lessons with pictures cut from old magazines or his own drawings. Provide colored pens and highlighters to make his notes stimulating to look at.
Does he have a problem with time? Many people with ADHD have an elastic sense of time. Have your child practice measuring the time he needs to do each assignment. Prepare a chart on which he can record estimated time, start time, end time, elapsed time, and the difference from estimated time for each assignment.
Does he have difficulty starting? Some children with ADHD see tasks as one big overwhelming cloud. They need help finding where to begin. Talk with him about the steps he needs to accomplish starting with very simple actions like open your book, read the first problem.
Most important! Enjoy! Have fun! Tell a silly joke before he starts or when he takes a break. This may sound paradoxical, but laughing lowers the stress level for you and your child.
Published by Sarah Jane Keyser, Copyright 2006, all rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward or post this content in full for use in a not-for-profit format, as long as this copyright notice and full information about the author is attached intact. If any other use is desired, permission in writing is required.
Sarah Jane Keyser worked for many years with computers as a programmer, analyst, and user trainer, but her struggle with inattentive ADD kept getting in the way of her plans and dreams. Once ADD was identified and the great need that coaching filled, she added ADD Coach training to complete her preparation for a new career as ADD Coach. Her credentials include ADD Coach training at the ADD Coach Academy. the Newfield Network’s graduate coaching program “Mastery in Coaching,” and “Coaching Kids and Teens” by Jodi Sleeper-Triplett MCC. Sarah Jane coaches in French and English by telephone. (Coaching Key to ADD)
“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva
“Understanding Emotions & Motivations in High School and College Students with ADHD/LD” Video webinar presented by Dr. Thomas E. Brown for the 13th Annual Timothy B. and Jane A Burnett Seminar for Academic Achievement (2014) Based on personal stories with professional tips for coping with the roadblocks holding us back from doing our best.
“Intelligent, capable teens and adults often get “stuck” at school, work, and/or in social relationships because of their ADHD. Dr. Brown highlights the often unrecognized role that emotions play in this complex disorder. He explains why even very bright people with ADHD get stuck because they can focus well on some tasks that interest them, but often can’t focus adequately on other important tasks and relationships.”
“Drawing on the latest research findings, the book describes strategies and treatments for getting “unstuck” to move on to a more rewarding and productive life.”
If you think your child has ADHD, or a teacher raises concerns, you may be able to request that the school conduct an evaluation to determine whether he or she qualifies for special education services.
Start by speaking with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or the school’s student support team, to begin an evaluation. Also, each state has a Parent Training and Information Center and a Protection and Advocacy Agency (Link works) that can help you get an evaluation. A team of professionals conducts the evaluation using a variety of tools and measures. It will look at all areas related to the child’s disability.
Once your child has been evaluated, he or she has several options, depending on the specific needs. If special education services are needed and your child is eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the school district must develop an “individualized education program” specifically for your child within 30 days.
If your child is considered not eligible for special education services—and not all children with ADHD are eligible—he or she still can get “free appropriate public education,” available to all public-school children with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.
For more information on Section 504, consult the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which enforces Section 504 in programs and activities that receive Federal education funds.
Transitions can be difficult. Each school year brings a new teacher and new schoolwork, a change that can be especially hard for a child with ADHD who needs routine and structure. Consider telling the teachers that your child has ADHD when he or she starts school or moves to a new class. Additional support will help your child deal with the transition.