ADHD Accommodations: Working with Teachers
Need help securing accommodations for your student with ADHD? Form a partnership with your child’s teacher! If you work as a team, you’re more likely to get the help your child needs to perform well in school.
It’s important to think of your child’s teachers and school administrators as members of your team, rather than adversaries. Most children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are legally entitled to school help, including accommodations in the classroom. This can mean he’ll get extra time on tests, a seat near the blackboard, or even a full-time aide.
A good relationship with your child’s teacher can help your child get these accommodations. Here’s how to form one…
Starting the Conversation
Contact the school to schedule a meeting just before the beginning of the school year, or if that doesn’t work out, wait for the second week of school (the first is often too busy). During your initial conversation, give the teacher your phone number and e-mail address, and let her know that you’re always available to talk about your child and the challenges he or she faces.
Talk openly with the teacher and use constructive language that doesn’t present your child as a problem. For instance, “He does better if he’s sitting toward the front of the room” is better than “He just doesn’t listen and I don’t know what to do with him.”
Also, find out how much the teacher knows about ADHD. This can start a discussion about what strategies the teacher has used before and what might work best with your child. You’ll also be able to get a sense of whether the teacher is flexible and open to accommodation suggestions.
No matter how the teacher treats you or your child, treat her with courtesy and respect. Making accusations or being confrontational is likely to backfire. If you expect the worst, you set a negative tone from the beginning.
Foster Open, Positive Communication
Keeping communication open makes sure that vital information is shared. Send notes back and forth in your child’s backpack, or keep a journal with daily updates from you, your son, and the teacher. This way, you will all be aware of how things are going, and will be able to prevent small problems from turning into big ones.
Be specific to get results.
When discussing your concerns with the teacher, give her specific information. If your child has trouble finishing his homework, for example, time him and let the teacher know how long the assignment took. This information will help the teacher get a sense of what she can do to help solve the problem. In many cases, minor accommodations can solve major problems.
Keep the relationship positive.
If you come across as rude or impatient to the teacher, she and other school officials may be slow to provide the accommodations you request – if they grant them at all. In some cases, officials withhold accommodations to “punish” parents they deem “difficult.”
When the Teacher Can’t Help
Classroom teachers often have their hands full and may not always be able to be your partner in attending to your child’s special needs. If that’s the case, look for someone else in the school to enlist like a guidance counselor, a media or art teacher, a nurse, an administrator, or even a very concerned enrichment teacher.
Ask for an evaluation.
If your child’s teacher is unwilling or unable to provide accommodations, request a meeting with school administrators to state your concerns and ask that your child be formally evaluated. By law, the school has 60 days to evaluate the child and draw up a plan on how to help.
In the worst-case scenario where this doesn’t happen, you may request a “due process” hearing before a judge.
No matter how cordial (or not) your discussions are with school officials, it’s always a good idea to create a paper trail. Make copies of all correspondence and record the details of every meeting and phone conversation (dates, times, what was discussed, who was present, and so on). Put everything in a three-ring binder, along with report cards, test scores, doctor’s evaluations, every note sent home by the teacher, and copies of your responses.
Good documentation can do more than jog your memory. It can act as evidence if you must seek legal help to persuade the school to meet your child’s academic needs.