Dear Teacher: Let Me Introduce My Wonderful Child
If you had the opportunity to tell the new teacher about all the wonderful and quirky qualities of your child, what would you say? Would you say you look forward to being partners in your child’s education?
One mother did draft such a letter about her son who has ADHD. She shares it with us as an example of a letter or email you could send to your child’s teacher this school year. Of course you’ll want to talk—or even brag a little—about your child, but this example can help you get started.
Working with your child’s teacher will be an ongoing process and, like all relationships, will have its share of ups and downs. Start the conversation early and be positive. A letter to the teacher is a terrific beginning point.
Other examples of letters to help your write your own:
My delightful, smart, creative, and kind of quirky child with ADHD is your student this year. I am looking forward to working with you to make this a successful school year. I know you have your students’ success deep in your heart. That’s why I wanted to share a few things with you about ADHD and my child.
The science of ADHD
ADHD is a brain-based disorder, characterized by differences in brain structure and function that affect behavior, thoughts, and emotions. Studies show ADHD has a biological basis, stemming from brain difference as well as genetics. Exposure to toxins, such as lead, can also cause ADHD for some people.
While ADHD is not an excuse for bad behavior, these brain differences are the reason my child sometimes struggles to meet classroom expectations.
ADHD affects the brain’s executive function
ADHD impairs my child’s executive functioning abilities. Executive functions control behaviors, including (but not limited to) thinking, planning, attention, self-regulation, working memory, and processing information—behaviors directly connected to my child’s academic performance. This affects my child’s ability to function successfully in social, home, and work settings.
The brains of people with ADHD develop at a delayed pace. Students with ADHD often experience about a 30 percent developmental delay—this means a 13-year-old eighth grader may have the executive function skills similar to that of a 9-year-old. This delay causes significant problems with academic performance, social interactions, and self-regulation. I know it can be frustrating for adults and teachers, especially since it requires teachers to provide supervision and support according to my child’s developmental age rather than his chronological age.
Medication can help some students
After a lot of thought and research, my child’s doctor and I made the decision to employ medication as part of my child’s treatment plan. I know many families like ours who have done this hard work of research and have made the decision not to use medication. ADHD medications make the chemicals in the brain function more normally and help reduce ADHD symptoms, allowing students to function more effectively. When my child takes his ADHD medication, his attention span improves and he shows less impulsivity, more compliance, and increased on-task behavior. He is also better at tolerating frustration.
You can help me know whether his medications are effective enough by telling me about my child’s behavior in the classroom. Is he on-task or does he need redirection? Does he race through his work or dawdle so much that the assignments aren’t completed? Does he interrupt his classmates when they talk? Your feedback is important when his doctor and I are evaluating medication effectiveness and adjusting medication dosages.
School environments can be challenging
Sometimes, my son’s ADHD symptoms will get the better of him. He may misbehave in the classroom or lose his homework. He’ll occasionally drift off because of inattention, but in his mind he may be on some grand adventure. You might need to gently call him back through a tap on the shoulder or by standing beside his desk for a moment. For him, and many children who have ADHD, school days can present many challenges to staying on task.
Students with ADHD are often disorganized and forgetful, like my son. They may leave books at school or home, fail to turn assignments in, lose homework, and have a perpetually messy desk or backpack. They might also be restless and impulsive. They might fidget, have trouble staying in their seats, disrupt the class, blurt out answers, and have trouble following rules.
Children with ADHD do not experience symptoms at a constant level across time and settings. Their ability to function appropriately may fluctuate depending on the task, the time of day, whether their medication has worn off, or whether an activity is of high or low interest to them. Inconsistency of performance is due to the ADHD, rather than being evidence that the child is willfully choosing not to perform.
Teaching strategies can help students with ADHD
When you use direct, explicit instruction, it helps my child to deal with his weaknesses in executive functioning. Often, students who have ADHD need help dividing an academic project into small steps and deciding the order in which to tackle these steps. My son may need your help to get started on a project or transition from one activity to another.
Positive behavioral interventions can help students behave in ways that prevent classroom disruption and allow for learning. My child, in particular, responds better to positive behavioral interventions than to being scolded. Students like my child often have problems making and keeping friends, recognizing the social consequences of their own actions, and regulating their emotional responses or impulsivity.
Partners in student success
Thank you, dear teacher, for reading my letter. Please let me know how I, as your student’s parent, can help you with my child’s education.
Education and your child:
- Educational Rights of Students with ADHD
- ADHD and School: A Toolkit for Parents
- Tips for Working with the School
- Tips for Talking to Teachers about ADHD
- Recognizing ADHD in the Classroom (The Teacher Card)