To succeed, a child diagnosed with ADHD-inattentive needs the best of two worlds: home and school. Good communication between parents and teachers paves the way for a winning strategy for your child. Here are seven ways to improve two-way “reception”:
1. Meet early and agree on the frequency of meetings. Don’t wait until a problem presents itself. Be proactive and set up an appointment early in the year or semester to give the proverbial word to the wise. Think ahead about where your child is now and where you hope he is in 6 months. What are realistic goals? How can those goals be achieved? How often should you two meet?
2. Note this. The reality is that everyone’s time is limited, and we all need to be good stewards of scheduled time. If you’re considerate and write down the points you want covered in the meeting, you’re a few steps ahead of everyone else. You won’t be kicking yourself later for forgetting something important, and your child’s teacher will probably notice and appreciate your concise approach.
3. Sharing works two ways. You know your child’s history, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses like no other. While it’s true that you’re your child’s best advocate, don’t forget to listen. Your child’s teacher has insight into your child’s abilities and habits among others within a small group or classroom setting. She or he also may have the advantage of experience with other students with similar needs. What sorts of strategies have been successful in that experience?
4. How to initiate a running conversation. Between meetings, life marches on, and changes are constant. Ask the teacher what kind of communication works best for him or her. Does she email regularly? Would a home and school communication notebook be useful to him? What about the PAC-kit – the planner, agenda, calendar that worked for our boys. During our children’s middle school years, email was a terrific way to communicate. If something huge at home is happening — whether it’s a new baby sister on the way or a piano recital or a volleyball tournament — give the teacher a head’s up. If you need to change medications or stop medication for a time, share that information with your teacher as well.
5. Accentuate the positive. it’s tempting to only speak up when there’s a problem. When something is working, by all means, let the teacher know. We all could use more good news in our lives. Even when there is a problem or concern, the circumstances can be presented without casting blame. The last thing you want to do is force a defensive position from the person whose support you seek.
6. Be consistently consistent. Children and teens with ADHD respond well to structure and consistency. When parents and teachers can employ similar methods at home and school, the child’s successful efforts can be rewarded when specific short-term and long-term goals are met. Think about the appropriate rewards for both types of successes that will motivate.
7. Call in reinforcements. If communication with your child’s teacher does not prove fruitful and your best efforts fail, it’s time to solicit help at the school’s office. During Lesley’s 7th grade year, a new speech therapist was hired at our school. She ended up being our very best advocate, and her intervention made a world of difference. If you feel like your child’s needs are not being addressed, take your questions to the next level. A guidance counselor or an assistant principal may be your best support.