Start the School Year with Positive Parent and School Communication
Children have returned to school. For many families this time of year includes scheduling meetings to begin or update academic plans or just to get to know their children’s new teachers. When students have ADHD, the lines of communication between home and school take on special importance.
“Communication is key,” says Jennifer Ciran-Debban, MA, LMHC. A family education partner at Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she helps parents to request educational accommodations for their children.
Set up regular communication with teachers and other staff members early in the school year, she suggests, to address any concerns instead of waiting until there is a crisis. Share information from the previous school year and be sure to talk about your child’s strengths and successes.
Requesting academic accommodations
When requesting an evaluation or accommodations for your child, make your request in writing. Include all teachers and support staff, including the school principal, who work with your child.
“It should clearly state the request, list objectively stated reasons for the request, and politely indicate a reasonable timeframe in which the parent expects to hear back in writing,” says Karen Thompson, executive director of Iowa’s Ask Resource Center, one of nearly one hundred Parent Information and Training Centers in the United States. “Reasonable is usually around ten days. That doesn’t mean the meeting will occur in ten days. It means you should hear back in writing within that timeframe with a clear plan to schedule a meeting with all parties.”
The beginning of the school year is busy for teachers and school administrator, she adds, so be patient with them. School administrators should respond promptly when they receive a request for accommodations, however, and parents should ask for an evaluation or a meeting in the first part of September. If there are delays, check first whether the tasks of opening school or the volume of requests is causing the delay, and then work with the administrators to receive a response as soon as possible. If these are not the reasons for a delay, remind the administrators that you expect an answer as soon as possible.
Revisit the information with your child’s education team during the first meeting and be sure everyone involved has the information they need to begin informal planning ahead of time, says Ms. Thompson. If your child already has a 504 plan or an IEP and you want to make changes to it, make sure that you do so by communicating in writing with your child’s teacher or education team as early in the school year as possible.
It is important to ask your child’s teachers if they are currently making classroom accommodations and ask them to document those accommodations in your child’s 504 plan or IEP says Ms. Ciran-Debban.
“Teachers are great about accommodating on the spot, but we don’t often think about getting those [accommodations] documented,” she says.
Talk with your child, especially if they are in middle or high school, to get their input on what accommodations they think will be helpful. This is also important, because it helps your child learn to self-advocate. When you bring your child into the conversation, you reduce the likelihood of including accommodations they won’t use.
Transition from summer activities to school
The first few days of the school year are a big adjustment for every family. Children and family members who may have been sleeping later are now getting up to meet early bus schedules or before-school activities.
Some students are dealing with “summer slide” or “summer learning loss” in addition to needing to adjust to the school year schedule. Spending a little more time on homework or using refresher resources or worksheets can help them ramp up to meet educational goals.
For students with ADHD, the adjustment period may take longer and there may be a greater learning gap, so talking with your child’s teacher is critical.
“Communication plans between families and educators are essential because consistency for the student is key,” says Ms. Thompson.
- ADHD Back to School Resources
- Tips for Talking to Teachers About ADHD
- Strategies to Help with School Success: A Toolkit for Parents of Children with ADHD
- You Don’t Know Jack: The Teacher Letter
- Pro Tips for School Team Meetings
- What Should Parents Look for in a Good Evaluation for ADHD?