Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What you can do to help your ADHD child be successful this school year

As a parent or caregiver, you can greatly influence the success of your child's school year.
First, go and meet the teacher before school starts. Most schools host an open house for families and students to see their new classroom, locker, teacher, and classmates. Meeting your child's teacher will help ease some of the anxiety your child might have. This is also a great time to let the teacher know about your child. You can ask to schedule a short meeting with them before school starts or try to relay information to them at the open house. The more the teacher knows before school starts, the more they can be prepared.

Tell the teacher about things that worked last year and things that didn't. Did your child do better sitting close to the teacher's desk or the front of the class? Did they struggle with keeping their area clean and organized?  Did you child have a special tool they used to help them focus, like clay, a pencil grip, or standing in the back of the room?  Learn the teacher's plan for sending home papers, communicating with parents, and dealing with negative behaviors.

Another thing you can do before school starts is to practice organization. ADHD kids often struggle with losing homework and assignments along with feeling overwhelmed. When you get your school supplies try to develop a simple file system that your child understands. Have fun role playing where different things go and how to keep track of his school work. This will build his confidence and help him feel ready for school. Continue to practice and work with your child many, many times on this over the first month of school. Repetition is key for ADHD. You will still have to check in on your child's organization throughout the year.

Once school gets started there are other things that you can do to influence your child's day. All children benefit from structure and routine. The predictability provides safety and security. However, ADHD children need this so much more. Without it they can feel lost. Start your mornings with predictability. If you know last year your child struggled with waking up on time, then practice before school starts and discuss with your child what works so you have a plan. Maybe this year he can shower at night and have his clothes already picked out. Maybe you keep an extra deodorant and toothbrush in the car because it was a battle every morning last year. You can pre-pack the car with his backpack and homework so he doesn't have to worry about forgetting it. I even had one family where if the child got up on time they were able to have yummy waffles or a similar hot breakfast they liked, but if they overslept they were stuck with a granola bar in the car. You will have to be creative and see what works for your family.

When your child gets home from school try and take 5-10 minutes to check their homework planner and see what they need to accomplish. I have found that it works best to have ADHD children do their homework right when they get home because all too often they forget or it turns into a battle. If you have a child who tends to rush through their homework so they can go play, try setting a timer that they can see and know they are expected to work until it goes off. Some ADHD children are easily distracted at home and the last thing they want to do is focus any more. This is especially true if their medication is starting to wear off. Try to find something that will motivate your child. Maybe for every 20 minutes of homework they do, they get 10 minutes of outside or video game time. I am a big proponent of positive motivation. As grown ups this is a part of our world. If you work hard at your job you are rewarded with a pay check and sometimes even a bonus. We can use this same sort of behavior training to help children see the value in their work and efforts.

During the school year, keep in close contact with your child's teacher(s). Make sure your child is succeeding. Often times parents feel they didn't know their child was behind or causing disruptions until it is too late. The more you communicate with the teacher, the more knowledge you will have.

Praise, praise, and more praise. Recognize your child's successes. What may seem small and trivial to parents was actually a lot of work for an ADHD child. Try to find something, even small things, to let your child know they did a good job and you noticed. Maybe it was getting up on time 4 out of the 5 days. Maybe it was only forgetting one homework assignment this week. Maybe they remembered their lunch balance was low and asked for money before you had to check. School is very hard for ADHD kids and can do a number on their self-esteem. Your encouraging words can help ease the stress and struggles of a bad day.

Warning signs you child is really struggling and might need further intervention:
- he has a large drop in his grades and can't seem to recover
- his mood has become increasingly depressed and sullen

- he seems to be holding in a lot of anger
- his teacher comments that he can't stay in his seat and is continuing to disrupt others, even after multiple interventions
- he doesn't seem to be retaining what he learned in school even though you know he is very bright
- he has not been able to make or keep his friends or has been in fights
These are a handful of signs to watch for, but it is not an extensive list. If you ever have concerns, talk with the teacher and counselor at your child's school. They will be able to help you in deciding what is best for your child.

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108 E Central Ave.
(On the square, above Table Mesa)
Bentonville, AR 72712

About Me

Licensed Associate Counselor, Licensed Assoicate Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist