Back to School for Children with ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Anxiety, or Mood Disorders
As an ADHD Specialist Santa Monica, one of the most common questions parents have is: Should I tell my child’s teacher she has (fill in the blank). Generally, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” If your child has a problem, the odds are high that the teacher will know whether you say so or not. Telling the teacher up-front allows him or her to be prepared to respond appropriately. If your child has ADHD, for example, and perpetually asks for bathroom passes, interrupts others, or taps his pencil instead of working, his behavior can be interpreted as “bad” behavior or as an unsurprising display of symptoms. In the first case, there would be consequences or punishment; in the second, there might be help. If your child has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or other forms of anxiety, the teacher can be enlisted to help ensure the school environment doesn’t worsen symptoms. That often means helping a child/teen face fears, or giving time for the anxiety to lessen – rather than removing sources of anxiety, which paradoxically serves to feed the fear.
If the teacher is properly informed, she can be prepared to strategize and accommodate to help your child learn. If the teacher doesn’t know, she cannot help.
Do’s and Don’ts for Back-to-School
- Don’t worry about your child being “singled-out”.
- Do make sure the teacher is “clued-in”.
- Do make sure your child has 504 plan or Individual Education Plan in place. That way your child will receive recommended accommodations.
- Do give your child or teen opportunities to talk about their worries or fears. Try to listen to the feelings being expressed. If you have good advice, first ask if they want to hear it. If not, just be there.
- Do help familiarize your child with a new school. If your child is changing schools, take a walk there so it’s not completely unfamiliar. Make sure your child knows where the office and bathrooms are.
- During the first weeks, continue to provide opportunities to talk with your child face-to-face. If they have serious complaints, investigate. Sometimes a change of teacher or class is warranted.
- Do be realistic about what the school can and cannot do. Some schools, teachers, or districts are more helpful than others.
- Don’t be afraid to be a “squeaky wheel”.
- Do be relentlessly polite. Anger is more likely (though not always) to get you “written off”
- Do hold your child accountable for his or her behavior. ADHD, LD, OCD, or Bipolar Disorder is not a license to act-out. Your child needs to feel responsible for his or her behavior. Parents and teachers can help children with challenges learn to control their behavior better – but it is still the child’s job to participate in learning.
- Do view the teacher as a partner in helping your child learn. Knowing the truth helps the teacher do her job better.
- Do remember to take care of yourself as well. This can be an extremely tough time for parents. If you need a “time-out”, take one!
If your child needs help going back to school with ADHD call Dr. Perri Zinberg at 424.248.7790, an ADHD Specialist Santa Monica