Preparing for school with your ADHD child
Each year we are filled with anxiety because our kids are about to start a brand-new year with a brand-new teacher and regardless of what you had in place the year prior, in the new school year we start again. It is hard to let go of the relationship you build with their teacher and just when things are finally balanced out and the kids and teacher know each other well, they move up to the next year level!
My name is Katie, I am a wife & mother who now has all 4 of my children in school (ages 9, 7, 5 and 4). During the past few years have developed a bit of a system for how to introduce our kids to their new teacher. My children are diagnosed with a variety of different challenges from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Anxiety, Elhers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD). Navigating the strategies that work for them has been kind of like finding the meaning of all the acronyms they have been diagnosed with.
My husband and I work together with a powerpoint presentation for their teacher complete with photos, information about their strengths, weaknesses, diagnosis and their therapy team. We don’t actually present to the teacher, although, give my hubby half a chance I bet he would. He loves getting creative with these, adding photos into the document and making it visually appealing. It’s so much better now he has brought his Project Manager touch because my old documents were a boring word document. We also include suggestions for classroom supports, details of any medication and times they need to take it. Its like a one stop shop for all things to do with that child. Finally, we include goals for the children that we are working on. We do short, medium and long term goals and the best part is when I updated it, I could see the kids had hit their short and medium goals so that just fills me with joy. It also lets you look back and see how far you come each year and adjust those things that are or are not working.
We start prepping for the new school year, the year prior. Our school is really supportive and we have a good relationship so in Term 4 we find out which class our kids will be in the following year. They then start transitioning over, meeting the new teacher and having a look around the class. They do this a couple of times until they are familiar with the new class and where it is. In the week before school begins we go into the school again, this time to meet the teacher and the kids pick out their desk, have a look around the class, the younger kids do a puzzle and older one’s chat to the teacher asking all their questions and getting a sneaky peak at who will be in their class. We find this helps with any pre class jitters.
Its also a great opportunity to start to develop a relationship with the teacher. I personally like to give teachers space and provide them with information about the children rather than tell them how to teach. I like to assume that all teachers are expert at teaching, but I never know whether they are familiar with ADHD and what it might look like in the classroom. This year I was so pleased when the teacher started talking about movement breaks, doing classwork outside in nature, having a quiet zone at one end of the classroom to chill out when you need to. She was speaking my language. I give the teachers a little update as to their therapy and what they are currently working on and let them know which therapists will be coming to the school. Our kids have speech, physio and OT all come into the school to do their therapy so its important they get a chance to meet each other and mostly the teacher feels he/she has control over the appointments and when the therapists come in.
I do not want to interfere with the class dynamic as my kids don’t want to be singled out and as they get older they are more aware of their differences. Last year we had to adjust my daughters supports within the class. Suddenly her fidgets were drawing too much attention from classmates. She then decided not to use any of them which resulted in months of her stroking and pulling her hair instead. The teacher at first thought she was putting her hand up but she was actually trying to fiddle with something to help concentrate. A few creative moments and swapping it out with a ribbon pinned inside her pencil case meant we could find more discrete ways for her to regulate herself.
It blows my mind that now simply by communicating with each other, being able to trust and sharing our knowledge parents and teachers can work together to support the child regardless of disabilities, neurological and developmental disorders and learning difficulties. Teachers and parents are now allies and working together to ensure the children are supported in a way they can thrive. So it’s a week into school now, and I can breathe easy knowing the kids are in good hands. We are overcoming the first week lost hats, textbooks that have suddenly disappeared and the tears (mine and theirs) and exhaustion (mine and threes too) that comes with return to school.
Here’s to another year and let’s hope all these supports that are put in place assist our kids to bridge the gap between what other kids find easy and ours find so incredibly difficult. As always, I’m such a proud mum and this has been a week that tugged at my heart strings. When other families are posting their first day school images these are the thoughts that run through my head. When I post my own, I breathe a sigh of relief and tell myself I have set them up for success.
Katie is a mother of 4 children and is also diagnosed with ADHD. She was diagnosed as an adult and has learnt so much from her children’s diagnosis that she wishes to share her stories in a hope to connect with other families in the same situation. We welcome Katie to the Peel ADHD Parent Support team as our monthly blog writer!