Finding a school where your ADHD child will be successful depends largely on your child. Many ADHDers are capable of coping in a mainstream school if their treatment is successfully managed. Some ADHDers though, manage far better in a small, specialised school. If you are looking for a school like this, check that they are registered with the department of education and don’t assume that small classes and individual attention automatically mean they are equipped to help a child with ADHD and LD.
Once you find a school, the first thing to do is tell your child’s teacher he or she has been officially diagnosed with ADHD. So often we as parents don’t tell our ADHDers teacher about his or her diagnosis and treatment because we want to “see if she notices anything” first. Not telling your child’s teacher to try and prove a point, or to avoid the school “labelling” your child means that your ADHDer doesn’t benefit from concessions they are entitled to- like extra time in tests and exams- from day one!! And it’s unfair to the child and the teacher to expect them to fumble through several weeks of drama before telling the school what’s up. If your child was diabetic or asthmatic, not telling the school would not even occur to you! And it has been proven that children with ADHD have a worse quality of life than asthmatic children!
If the school knows early on that your child- who is most likely just one of several special needs children in his class- is neurologically-atypical, his teachers will be able to focus on him from day one. When it comes to special needs children, teachers need the parents’ help. They are a part of your treatment team and are often the first people to pick up that something is wrong.
The important thing to remember is that you want the teachers on your side, and you want them to know that when you enter their classroom you are respectful of their training AND you are your child’s advocate. It’s a tricky line to walk but if you prepare for meetings it is possible. Make notes before you go to the school, and take a notebook with you to meetings. Give the teacher a copy of your notes afterwards so you have something to follow up on when next you meet. And taking minutes in your parent-teacher meetings is immensely (and surprisingly) empowering! Give out your email address and contact numbers and stress that you are open to communication from the teacher.
And of course, speaking to the school from early on means you can ask for things like:
- Emailing homework assignments to you.
- Not writing letters to you in your child’s homework diary.
- Allowing your child to do the running around and board cleaning and book collecting, aiding in getting rid of some of his hyperactive fidgeting and making him feel useful and important.
- The teacher’s contact details!
Be open to communication from the school and keep calm!