ADHD in the Classroom: Making the Midyear Check-in
The middle of the school year is a good time to take a second look at the academic accommodations put in place for your child back in August or September.
“A midyear check-in on your child’s progress in general and in relation to the IEP goals specifically—with all the professionals at school that are working with him—is a good time to make adjustments to the school program if the expected progress has not been made or new issues have popped up,” says John Brady, PhD. Dr. Brady is professor emeritus of school psychology at Chapman University and a member of CHADD’s professional advisory board.
Revisit your plan
Even though your child started the school year with an academic plan in place, it’s possible things haven’t gone as expected.
“IEP or 504s are certainly set up with good intentions, but they’re fairly vague and leave room for interpretation that can lead to inconsistent implementation. Parents really need to be advocates for themselves and their children,” says Joshua Langberg, PhD, co-director of the Center for ADHD Research, Education and Service, and director of the Promoting Adolescent School Success (PASS) Lab, both at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Langberg is also a member of CHADD’s professional advisory board. “Schools are busy—they’re overwhelmed. So it’s on the parent to take the initiative to, in a non-threatening way, reach out and say, ‘How are things going?’”
A need or an accommodation that seemed important or useful in the early days of a school year may be less necessary by early January. Dr. Langberg says you’ll want to keep two things in mind:
- Goals: What behaviors are you concerned about? What are you hoping the teacher will do in response to those behaviors? If your child has trouble staying on task, for example, and his teacher has agreed to help him get back to his classroom work and follow through, what will that look like?
“I would want to know how often the teacher’s going to help,” says Dr. Langberg. “Is it going to be an everyday thing? Is it going to be once a day? Are you aiming for multiple times a day when this student would be prompted? Otherwise, you feel like this is a good thing, but the teacher may or may not be thinking in the same terms that you are thinking.”
- Measurement: How will you know whether the accommodations are being made? Will you need to check in with the teacher? Will you get feedback from the school regularly? And perhaps most importantly, how will you know whether the accommodations are working?
Meeting with the academic team
Once you’ve scheduled a meeting with your child’s teacher and others at the school, Dr. Langberg suggests spending time preparing. He encourages parents to brainstorm questions and even practice asking them. It’s important for you to feel comfortable asking as many questions as you have. Thinking about your concerns and the information you’re looking for ahead of time can help keep in check some of the emotions that often come up at such meetings.
“You’ll want to consider the words you’re going to use that are going to make what you want from the school most likely to be well received—and that’s hard,” says Dr. Langberg, adding that in his work, he often practices role playing with parents. “It’s one thing to go in there upset and yell, but often, that’s not going to lead to the outcome you want. So think about how you can be calm, direct, and logical to get the outcome you want for your child.”
If you feel you’ll have a hard time staying calm, consider bringing someone with you. Besides your child’s other parent, it might be an aunt or uncle, for example, or a close adult friend—someone who knows your child well but is a bit removed from the situation and can help you say what you really mean. You might also choose to bring a professional, a psychologist, or an educational advocate who can speak for your child from a professional standpoint.
In this together
Dr. Brady says you should think of your efforts as a collaboration with the school—and make sure the team knows you see it that way. He suggests that if you haven’t already, you might consider saying something to them along these lines: “You, the teacher, and we, the parents, are in this together. We all want what is best for our child, but the process often puts us at odds because we aren’t communicating well. We suggest thinking of this as a problem-solving process in which both the school staff and the parents are responsible for creating and implementing a program of success for our student.”
These kinds of conversations don’t have to call for formal sit-down meetings, either. Dr. Langberg suggests any meeting between parents and their child’s school should include an understanding of any follow-up. Maybe you’ll agree to touch base by email or phone once a week or every other week to see how things are going from the school’s perspective, and whether any adjustments need to be made. You may decide to contact the teacher or someone else, such as a school psychologist or guidance counselor, for the routine check-ins.
Looking for more?
- Ask the Expert Webinar: How to Select the Best Classroom Accommodations for Your Child with ADHD
- Tips for Working with the School
- Tips for Talking to Teachers About ADHD
- Classroom Accommodations. Tips for educators that may give parents ideas for appropriate requests for their child.
- Educational Rights