ADHD in School: Parent Teacher Communication

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:

  1. Respect the role that the teacher plays
  2. Understand that the teacher is often under tremendous pressure
  3. Book a meeting early in the school year, with regular follow ups
  4. If all else fails, Part 1: get help from the office
  5. 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 onĀ  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.

Best,

Dr. Kenny

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Comments

  1. After 2 years with a teacher who had a wonderful grasp of our daughter’s strengths and weaknesses, our daughter started high school and it was really tough. I am a teacher and fully appreciate both sets of “shoes,” but it wasn’t easy for any of us, most importantly our daughter.

    Interestingly, instead of remaining passive, our daughter requested a meeting with all her teachers, so they met with her over the lunch hour one day. I helped her put together some notes, but my role at the meeting was mostly to support and observe. The teachers were stellar. I was so impressed that they gave up a lunch to spend time listening to her. They asked great questions and several new “a-ha” moments were had by everyone – including our daughter.

    The most important result of the meeting was that our daughter’s voice was heard. She knew all her struggles wouldn’t disappear, but she came away knowing she had spoken up for herself.

    A lot of kids with ADHD are often punished for self-advocating, because they often do it in awkward, difficult ways that get misunderstood. And so they learn that no one is going to care or listen to them. One of the biggest things we can do is to assist them in learning who, where, when, why and HOW to self-advocate.

    All the best!

    Carla

  2. Thanks for your article. It is very helpful, and I’ve tried to remember that the teacher is stretched in many ways in his/her role. We are fortunate to have many caring teachers. I do hold the Ministry of Education accountable for the fact that ADHD is not recognized as a special education disability in Ontario, and thus there is little focus on accomodations and strategies for ADHD children. My understanding is that the USA approaches the diagnosis differently from an education standpoint and that there is a formal process and a “voice” for children with ADHD in the school systems there. Can you comment on this difference?

  3. Good article. I plan to share this with my parents in hopes that it will help them with their children for the next school year.

  4. I agree with early communication with the teacher. I try to get the e-mail address from the prinicipal as early as possible to send an introduction letter. This explains my son’s needs and opens the door for ongoing communication.
    I would like to slightly disagree with the means of communication. I have tried communication books with many teacher in the past. They seem to get forgotten not only by my son but the teacher as well. I would strongly push for e-mail or phone calls (with the suggestion that positive feedback would be welcome as well.)
    Also you do not need to stop at the principal if you are having ongoing issues. The superintendant or trustee may be your next step. Join your local chapter of the Learning Disabilities of Ontario and take their parent advocacy program. You are you child’s only advocate! Try to maintain a positive relationship with the school but do not be afraid to get things accomplished.

  5. My son has had both great and bad teachers. The great one actually read up on ADHD on his own to help understand my son better.
    The bad one told me she doesn’t have time to deal with his behavior as she has 20 other students in the class. Intervention was done very quickly with that teacher, via the principal, and things did improve.
    I always write the teacher a note at the beginning of the year explaining my son’s situation and try to meet with them one on one to talk to them. I make it a point of being in touch with the teachers througout the year and they don’t hesitate to call me if challenges arise.
    I find the earlier you are aware of the problems, the easier it is to try and solve them.
    One point I do stress to the teachers is to make sure my son doesn’t use his ADHD as an excuse for “normal boy misadventures”. (It does take time to figure out the difference between ADHD behavoir and what isn’t.)

  6. Our problem with the school Davonte attended was that it didn’t have special classes that were geared for children with A.D.H.D. they predicted a dire out.come for him saying that he might end up in jail later as he was constantly criticized . sometimes other children picked on him and he did retaliate . There wasn’t much equipment in the play ground and the kids wouldn’t let him play on it. He did much better at an Aisling run class in another school and other people have commented on what a nice boy he is. It seems that there are not enough schools with special classes and the ones that have, one are not in a good area and have a lot of students,many who are rough and it will be a problem if he has to go there. His current program is not available after he turned nine. I agree that A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. needs to be recognized and prepared for. It needs to be available for teachers to be taught how to teach these children and classes need to be available for them. Otherwise there are going to be many children who fall through the cracks and do get into trouble Nora

  7. I am raising my grandson, he is now 11. For the last 2 years we had great teachers that worked with me and him. He had good grades and was improving on behavior. Kyle has a 504 in school so when he started 5th grade last year I thought the teachers would be aware of this, but they were not. So he had a bad start last year, I would e-mail teachers, have another meeting with the social worker. We agreed on certain things but nothing was done. Hopefully next year he will have a better start in Jr High.
    Teachers dont know what ADHD is, all they see is bad behavior. Sabine

  8. Dear sir, Im Meela occupational therapist,, running chartible trust in chennai, in (India). Im happy to do services for our child in free of cost . Nowadays in my trust im getting ADHD child were going normal school. thrrough Your ideas and therapy approaches i can see better prognosis from my child. Now i plan to conduct a screening program about ADHD in normal school. So, please, guide me how could i approach school. Just for giving visiting cards to school principals i got poor responses. Here we suppose to meet principal. so please help me for my screeing program. They wont sit a long time to read my assesment. so i requesting you to give guidance to form one screeing tools For normal child. Age level (5 to 10 years).

    Our trust in tamilnadu (india), our services are occpational therapy, sepcial Education for poor childrens. In free of cost. . . our space about 700 to 800sq.ft. Its difficult to run within this space but we giving therapy as best as possible.
    By god blessing, we collecting local funds near our areas. We dont have enough equipments and toys for our child. Please visit our website

    http://www.evershinecharitabletrust.org

    A child waiting for help

    All the best sir
    with regards
    Meela.

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