One of the cornerstones of ADD/ADHD treatment is strategies which help at school. Academic challenges are one of the main reasons that people are referred for assessment and treatment of ADD/ADHD.
Treatment of ADD/ADHD needs to be ‘multimodal’ – i.e. more than just medication! We need counseling, strategies, as well as parenting strategies and school strategies.
When it comes to school strategies – parent-teacher communication is one of the cornerstones of the strategies that work.
Why is this?
Because your child is with the teacher for so many hours a day, and the teacher is the one who is evaluating your child, giving feedback to your child, and helping (or not helping) your child to get the right resources in the school.
Best Approaches To Good Communication With The Teacher:
- Respect the role that the teacher plays
- Understand that the teacher is often under tremendous pressure
- Book a meeting early in the school year, with regular follow ups
- If all else fails, Part 1: get help from the office
- If all else fails, Part 2: aim for the right teacher next year
Now let’s go through these one by one.
1) Respect the role that the teacher plays:
Teachers play a tremendously important role in our children’s lives. They teach our kids, and they also model good behavior, and evaluate how our children are doing. As they evaluate, they get an idea as to whether our children have increased symptoms of inattention, or hyperactivity, or sadness or even anxiety, for that matter.
Teachers can’t diagnose ADHD, and they can’t recommend medication, but they can let you know that your child may be having difficulties, and you should talk to your doctor.
Remember – the teacher will see your child in different circumstances than you see them in – so your child may display symptoms in a different way in school (i.e. you don’t see them doing math work in a class with 25 other children…). It is important to respectfully listen to the teacher’s feedback, and then take action on it. Don’t get defensive! This can just make things harder…
2) Understand that the teacher is often under tremendous pressure:
Realize that teachers are often asked to give more and more to their classes, with less and less resources. Even great teachers can get tired and frustrated with administrative issues and financial pressures. Be sure to share your appreciation for what your child’s teacher is doing to help your child to succeed. Like all people, teachers like to be appreciated. And they will be more likely to do more to help when they feel that what they are doing is helping and being appreciated.
3) Book a meeting early in the school year, with regular follow ups
Many parents wait for the teacher to call them for meetings. If you know your child has ADD/ADHD, be proactive. Contact the teacher early in the year, and let him or her know that your child has ADD/ADHD, and you’d like to touch base to discuss strategies that work. Even when teachers have notes on your child, the beginning of the school year is so hectic, that the teacher will usually appreciate the opportunity to hear from you about what works best for your son or daughter.
This first meeting also sets the tone of you being a proactive parent, who wants to keep in touch and work collaboratively with the teacher about your son or daughter. That can help a lot as the months go on through the school year.
Aim to have regular communication with the teacher. You can either ask to meet in person every 6 weeks, or if the teacher is OK with email, you can use that for weekly updates. Maybe a parent-teacher communication book would be ideal. Ask the teacher, and then work on your end to support that mode of communication. Remember – you should be more flexible! So, if the teacher wants to write in a communication book, and you prefer email – just accept the communication book!
4) If all else fails, Part 1: get help from the office
Sometimes, despite the best efforts (on both the parent and teacher’s side) the communication doesn’t work well. There can be frustrations and challenges. If that is the case – seek help from the office.
Often times a guidance counselor, special ed teacher, or even the Vice-Principal or Principal can get involved to help to smooth things out with the teacher if things aren’t going well. They may also be able to get more resources into the classroom to help your child on a day to day basis.
5) If all else fails, Part 2: Aim for the right teacher next year
Actually, this idea holds whether your child has had a great year, or a not-so-great year this year. In the spring, ask the teacher, or the guidance counselor, “who would be the best teacher to help my son/daughter next year?”
Although staff in the school would never say: ‘make sure that Jim doesn’t get Mr. Smith’, they would say that, ‘We think Jim would do much better with Mr. Jones.’ This allows them to try to find the best match for your child.
Be sure to ask early enough toward the end of the school year to make sure that the school can have time to put the recommendation into effect for the next school year. Shouldn’t they do this already? Maybe… But they have so many administrative things to think about, that they may not come up with this without your reminder/request.
Hopefully these recommendations can help you to communicate well with your child’s teacher. Good communication with the teacher can make a great difference in your child’s outcome for any given school year.
Please share your thoughts and comments below.