You may hate to admit it, but you are probably looking forward to having your children go back to school. You know that there is a lot to do before school starts, like back-to-school shopping. You also know that for your child who has ADHD, there may be more to do…
Mary Robertson, RN explains, “Before school starts, be sure to meet with your child’s doctor and/or therapist to develop a medical plan (expectations) for the coming months.” She also says that it is important to meet with your child’s teachers to discuss the child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any specific concerns. In addition, it is helpful for parents to talk with their child’s teachers to decide on which method of communication works best; today many parents and teachers prefer e-mail. She adds “Before the first day of school, ‘walk’ through your child’s schedule. Where is their locker? Will they be able to stop at the locker between classes? Where are the restrooms, water fountains, etc.?” Lastly, Robertson states, “If your child continues to struggle after parent/teacher conferences, your child may require more than simple classroom interventions.” To better understand your child’s educational rights, Robertson recommends that parents visit the U.S. Department of Education at http://www.ed.gov/policy/landing.jhtml?src=ln.
Pediatrician Dr. Bruce Man states, “I don’t think it’s different for a parent with or without a child with ADHD, but with ADHD, a parent especially needs to make sure the child keeps up with their summer assignments. Many children let things slide, but children with ADHD may not have the resources or attention to catch up if they get behind. Don’t necessarily ‘trust’ your child when they say they are ‘doing fine.’ Be sure to ask for specifics; find out what they have been assigned and have them show you what they have done, such as papers they’ve written or books they’re reading. Set some time aside for the child to show you their work, and monitor, monitor, monitor. Also, the parent should help the child be aware of when school is going to start. It might be a good idea to make a time-line or schedule for completion of assignments. Many children don’t transition well, and summer-to-school is a big transition. Another issue that comes up during the summer months is sleep. Children get on a sleep schedule that is usually hours off of a school schedule (waking up at the crack of noon). A week or so before, the parent should slowly transition the child back to a “normal” sleep-wake schedule.” Dr. Man also adds that during the summer, many parents will give the child a ‘medication vacation/holiday’. He recommends that parents get ready to re-start the medication before school starts. “Usually a child will re-start on the same dosage as before, but I usually recommend starting up to a week ahead of school to allow the child to acclimate to the medication again or to see whether the child needs an adjustment in dosage. This also allows parents to see whether they are running low on medicine and get a refill without worrying about a last minute crunch. Also, they will need to have paperwork signed and ready for school, if their child takes medication during the school day.”
Marc Atkins, Ph.D., states the following tips for preparing a child for ADHD to return to school: “The most important aspect of preparing your child for school is to decrease anxiety and to increase your child’s sense of competence. Because most children with ADHD have struggled in school academically, behaviorally, and/or socially, approaching the first days of school can feel overwhelming for children and parents alike. For some children, easing into routines at home for sleep, meals, and after school activities (including homework) can be helpful a week or more before school starts, with the goal of helping the child prepare for these routines and avoiding battles during the early days of school. It’s important to emphasize academic strengths and favorite activities, but acknowledge anxieties, as well. Most children do not want to talk about school but will appreciate their parent’s acknowledgement of the effort that is involved.” If a child is taking medication for ADHD and has been off medicine for the summer, Dr. Atkins advises giving the child medicine a few days before school to make the adjustment process a bit easier. It is also often helpful to get in touch with your child’s teacher, either by phone or to set up a time of a meeting. “Most teachers will appreciate hearing from parents who express their concerns, and this can be an important first step to establishing good communication between school and home throughout the year.”
Dr. Stephen Hinshaw offers the following three pieces of advice: 1: “Get to know your child’s teachers early in the school year. Let them know about any official accommodations your child might have through an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) or through Section 504. Or, fill them in on the kinds of tips (seating your child up front; shorter bursts of homework lessons) that optimize learning for your child.” 2: “If you have found an effective treatment for your child, START THE SCHOOL YEAR WITH SUCH TREATMENT IN PLACE. Too many families and clinicians take the approach that, ‘well, my child did well last spring, so let’s start the school year without treatment (e.g. medication, behavioral treatment, tutoring) and see later on if she needs it.’ The problem is that reputations with teachers and with peers form very quickly; and by the time (e.g., October) everyone decides to re-instate the previously successful treatment, it may be too late to overcome the reputation of being a lazy, careless, hyperactive child. In other words, begin the school year with the best foot forward; later on, try different doses of medication, with a reduced reward program but not at the beginning of a new school year if the treatment(s) have been successful previously.” 3: “In conjunction with #2, meet with your child’s clinicians or providers before the school year begins, in order to make sure that your child has the best chance of getting off to a good start.”
It is important to remember that all children are different, and they all have different needs. However, all of our experts agree that communicating with the staff at your child’s school, getting your child into a routine before school starts, and talking to your child about his or her feelings about returning to school are most important.