School has been in session for several weeks now, but it’s not too late to equip your child’s teachers to help your child have the best year ever. Unless a teacher is certified in special education, most have little to no training in how to help students with even the most common learning challenges. You have spent many hours learning everything you can about your child’s diagnosis, treatments, and accommodations so that your child will have every opportunity to succeed. No one understands your child’s diagnosis and accommodations better than you and your child, and most importantly you know what makes your kid the special person they are more than anyone. You probably spend a lot of time helping your child so they can do their best to leverage their strengths to overcome their challenges. This makes you uniquely qualified to help their teachers. You can prepare their teachers for your children's unique sets of strengths and challenges. Don't assume that last year's teacher, their school records, or even an IEP, 504 plan, or Student Learning Plan has prepared your child's teacher(s) for how they learn best. This is especially important if your child has ADHD or a learning challenge.
How you do this will depend on the age of your child and their unique needs. What we found works for our family is to reach out to teachers as early as possible to make sure they have what they need.
With younger children, as soon as you know who their teacher will be, reach out to them. Share first your enthusiasm for the new school year. Share your child's passions, things that bring them joy and their strengths as a learner, and how the teacher may embrace them. Then share your child's challenges, being as specific as possible. Include their accommodations and how to best implement those accommodations with your child. Promise to be an open and active part of the teaching team with the teacher. Make sure to include a copy of your child's learning plan. These often take a while to get to teachers after school starts.
With teens, your teen should share this info themselves with their teachers. I have my teens draft an email and share it with me. We really focus on their strengths. They need to write or type those strengths themselves to especially remind themselves they have more strengths than challenges. Having them think through their challenges, accommodations, and how best their teachers can support them gives them agency over something that frustrates the heck out of them. It also reminds them that their teachers are there to help and we are all on the same team.
I follow up their email with one of my own. I give some background on how far my kids have grown and the amount of effort it takes for them to function at the level that they do. I also include some more information about how ADHD affects Executive Function. I ask to be kept in the loop early and often if my kid is struggling, thanking them in advance for being a partner in helping my kid not only learn their content area but to learn skills to increase Executive Function. I check in periodically, and never hesitate to share new research on Executive Function and ADHD or any new strategies we are trying including changes with medications. We've had so much positive feedback with this approach and I hope that you do as well.
Below is an article I found from ADDitude magazine that has some other helpful suggestions for talking with teachers about ADHD. https://tinyurl.com/2fpkbdey
Linda Kennedy M.S. – TLC’s Dallas Fort Worth area Associate, is the mother of 17 year old twins, Shane and Savannah, and wife of 26 years to Shane, a physician. A former high school and college level science teacher with a masters in Biology, Linda is a busy stay at home mom and community volunteer. After nearly ten years of marriage, Linda and Shane welcomed their twins following IVF and a high risk pregnancy that ended on bedrest and an early delivery at 31 weeks and long NICU stay. A long time member of FWMoM, Linda has served in many capacities including as Programs director and President, where she developed a program and curriculum for expectant moms of multiples and parenting infants and toddlers. This came out of her own experience, and what she learned from the other moms in the FWMoM community. Her favorite thing to tell expectant parents is find your multiples parents group, to help you figure out how to care for multiple babies at once because you are going to be too tired at first to figure it all out. She continues to be an active supporter of moms of multiples finding their own parenting style, becoming confident making choices for their children that bring joy and wellbeing to themselves and their family. You can reach Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our Dallas Fort Worth services.