A New School Year for Your Child with ADHD...Line Up Your Support Team!
Updated: Sep 22, 2017
It’s the start of another school year, and you struggle to keep the lump out of your throat as your child with ADHD heads out the door. You want to be excited for your child, but you know what lies ahead. You push the worries out of your mind and think that maybe this year will be better.
You’re already struggling to manage home life with your child; you know what I’m talking about. He can’t find anything he needs before school, doesn’t finish his homework, forgets his phone, or lap top, or paper he needs to turn in (you can just fill in the blank here), took him two hours to get through a fifteen-minute assignment, and so on.
You think to yourself, he’s older now, maybe this year will be different. Maybe, just maybe, he’s matured and grown out of this ADHD thing. You hold onto this hope for a few days, maybe even a week, until the first email arrives from the teacher. The content includes something like, “incident at school today,” or “not turning work in,” or “needs help staying still in class,” or “makes it hard for classmates to focus.” Your anxiety returns, and you really are not sure where to begin.
This scenario is really frustrating but typical for many parents whose kids struggle with the symptoms of ADHD. Equally challenging is knowing how best to intervene and find support for your child. Typically, a new group of teachers will be working with your child every year. A new homeroom teacher, or new language teacher, or new resource or learning specialist. The list may feel endless and daunting. You wonder how you will ever figure out who to talk to, when to talk to them, and how to have a conversation that feels supportive and productive. Will they see all the amazing qualities of your child or just focus on his struggles? You don’t want to offend the teacher or put the teacher on the defensive. You remember how this felt the last time this happened when your efforts to get extra support for your child did not work out as you hoped.
The first thing to consider is getting support for yourself. Yes, support for yourself! This is often left out. Who has time to get support for themselves when they can barely figure out how to navigate the complicated world of support needed for your child? I am here to tell you that you must find a supportive space to talk about all of this. Don’t be afraid to talk about your child’s struggles with other parents. You may be surprised to find that many are experiencing a similar issue. Connect with a local or national organization (CHADD is a great one) who offer invaluable education and links to local support. Contact a local therapist who specializes in ADHD. Once you have your support in place, then you can approach the situation from a much calmer and more organized perspective.
From a calm space, email your child’s teacher, or teachers, and ask to set up a meeting to talk about your child’s diagnosis and what this has meant for your child. I encourage you to have a meeting rather than grabbing a spare minute during drop off or pick up. If there is an IEP plan review what the accommodations are and determine what will be most useful this new school year. Discuss what helps him in the classroom and at home. Ask the teacher what her ideas are or what she has seen in your child so far this year. Many teachers are gifted classroom managers. Making strong connections early in the school year will help you feel supported and make for a smoother year for you and your child.
Now you can start to breathe again and make a plan for the year. Make sure that plan includes regular support for you and for your child.
Jessica Strassman, LCSW
Providing therapeutic support for Marin children and families
Individual and family therapy
Parent support groups/ADHD