Off to School & In the Classroom Tips

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How can I keep up with all of the memos that the school sends home?

Syllabi Collection

Keep all of the teacher's memos,
messages, letters, and syllabi in a 3-ring binder. Have one binder per child,
or have one large binder with the children's information color-coded and
separated by grade and teacher's name. This way you will have all of the
information at hand from the beginning of the year until the end.

My child does better work when he stands. How can I approach the teacher to suggest this accomodation?

Standing Up On Purpose

If your child does his or her best work while standing up
at the desk in the classroom, ask the teacher if she will make this concession
or find a similar one that might help. It helps focus attention and reduce fidgeting for many children.

Any tips for a child who takes a long time to get dressed in the morning?

Dressed For Success

Choose an outfit the night before the next school day.
This includes underwear, socks, shoes, and outerwear. Better yet, choose five
days worth of outfits. Stack these neatly on a shelf or in a dresser drawer or
hang the outfits together with a small clear bag looped over the hanger for the
smaller items. This will save wear and tear on everyone's nerves in the long
run. It is perfectly fine for your child
to choose the outfits.

Is there a technique for awakening a "Sleepy Head?"

Rise and Shine With 15 To Spare

Getting everyone up and off to school or work on time is important. An old fashioned wind-up clock or a battery operated one along with an electric clock ought to be in every room in case of a power outage.
Obviously, running late can disrupt tight schedules and fray nerves. By setting the alarm clock at least 15 minutes earlier than usual for rising, family members leave themselves a bit of 'wiggle room' if something unexpected happens such as power outages or hot water heater failures.

Electronic devices such as the computer or television set, or handheld games, can create a lot of distraction to an already easily distracted youngster. These devices can hamper everyone's best effort to get out of the door on time, especially when a child hyperfocuses on the screen. It is best to keep these kinds of devices "off limits" until later in the day.

Is there a system to help a child when the forget to restock paper and pencils in his bookbag?

Supplies In The Cupboard

Designate a cupboard or closet for school supplies. Keep
it fully stocked with pencils, pens, paper, and other school items. It cuts
down on frustration when it is homework time or your child needs to grab a
pencil for the book bag on the way to the bus.

Are there any organizers that help organize schoolwork?

Getting It Together – And Keeping It There

Organizational issues are a problem for many children, but especially for children with AD/HD. Check the Web for vendors that specialize in these kinds of products, such as the Pac-Kit (Planner Agenda Calendar) created by the mother of four sons—some of them with ADHD. This product and many more are available online.

There are many different kinds of products available that help children stay on track with their activities. These include appointment calendars, electronic calendars designed for the computer, dry-erase boards which are used as a messaging centers, and clever containers designed to keep closets, drawers or cabinets tidy.

Color coordinated hangers for the closet can help children sort out "Sunday Best" from school clothes. Use a different colored hanger to keep track of each category of clothing. For instance, blue hangers might be used for school clothes only. White hangers might be designated for "Dress" clothes. There is also a product that helps you fold clothes uniformly each and every time. Check the local stores or the Internet for a "Flip Fold" device. They make folding laundry fast and fun. Best of all, the clothing is uniformly folded making stacking clothes on shelves or in drawers a breeze, and often with room to spare.

Baskets and storage containers that fit under the bed are ideal for smaller spaces. Small shelves, available in home goods sections, place above a desk or a bed provide instant storage for books (laid on their side) or other items.

A laundry hamper in each room, in different colors, can help make doing laundry a lot easier. Each family member can bring his or her hamper to the laundry room as scheduled.

Is it okay to share information about AD/HD with a first-year teacher?

Befriending The Teacher

Newly graduated teachers who are inexperienced in dealing with AD/HD children will benefit from your wisdom. AD/HD is a diagnosis, not an excuse. Be a friendly resource for them. Some ideas that may help are to write down your behavior plan and let the teacher know the techniques that work well for your child. You can also share your intervention strategies with the teacher. This might include redirecting or assigning the child to assist with some classroom chore. Let the teacher know if your child has processing difficulties. Too many flashing lights, for example, may agitate your child.

Ask the teacher to provide a warning to your child when a rule has been broken. Encourage the teacher to notice and comment in a positive manner when your child had successfully met a deadline or stayed on task. You might go shopping and fill a "Treasure Box" with small items that children will enjoy and donate it to the classroom. Teachers often come out-of-pocket for this kind of thing, so this donation would be appreciated by both the teacher and the students.

Finally, ask the teacher specifically what you can do to help: make copies, file papers, fill out forms or any other clerical task that will make his or her school day easier.

Teachers might appreciate hearing how you deliver praise, "I trust you to do this work..." or "Remember when you could not write in cursive? Look at you now!"

How important are routines?

The Safety of Structure

Structure, structure, structure. AD/HD children require consistency and predictability. Establish firm guidelines around homework time, meal time, and bedtime/rising time. Offer them tutorials and references that have helped you, such as a dictionary, thesaurus, and online resources. Whenever possible, lend a helping hand in the classroom when needed.

Schedules are important. Post a daily or weekly schedule in the kitchen and also in bedrooms and in the bathrooms. List the activities in the order they are to be done. The Morning Routine might look something like this: Awaken. Wash up. Dress yourself. Make bed. Come to breakfast. Brush teeth. Get bookbag and head to the bus stop.

1. Make eye contact with the child when you are making a request or giving a direction.

2. Tell the child what needs to be done, don't ask if they 'want' to do the chore. "Bathtime." Instead of saying, "Do you want to take your bath now?"

3. Ask your child to repeat back to you what you have just asked them to do. This will ensure that they understand what you expect of them, and they understand it correctly.

4. When you can, offer choices. By offering choices, you side-step many power struggles. You might say, "You need to make up your bed. You can either do it now or you will have to do it while your friends are playing outside. What is your choice?"

Allow enough time for the request to "sink in." Some children do not process auditory commands as quickly as some other children do.

Be prepared to re-explain a direction when needed. This takes patience, but when you become agitated and the tone of your voice shifts, your child may respond in a comparable way. Keep to your schedule as closely as possible. Sudden changes are not easily managed by the easily distracted - they need time to shift gears to meet the new request.

How can I manage my stress when the school calls several times in a row?

Reality is Our Friend

One of the signatures of Attention Deficit Disorder is distractibility. Paradoxically, most children are quite good at hyperfocusing (paying intense attention) on whatever they are the most fascinated with at the time: electronic games, dinosaurs, computers or sports. It is easy to assume that because they can focus so intensely in some circumstances, they ought to be able to do this in all situations. This is not so.

Be realistic in your expectations of what a child with Attention Deficit Disorder can and cannot do on a consistent basis. Some days will be better than others. Some days the child will manage to stay "on task" easily and "remember" important details, other days they can't seem to remember the simplest routines. When the school calls and asks you to come in to discuss the latest controversy with your child for the third time, it's not going to be your best day. Bad days do pass. Unrealistic expectations for what your child can reasonably manage at one time can only lead to frustration and anxiety when the parent's agenda overrides the child's capabilities. Expectations that exceed a child's ability can create unnecessary burdens for the child and everyone concerned.

What is the best way to share behavioral information with teachers?

Teacher's Pet

Share with teachers and staff the behavioral techniques that have been effective for you at home and ask them to implement them for your child at school. Consistency and continuity at home and school reinforce the expectations both environments hold for your child.

You could ask to have your written recommendations for behavior management or other notes placed in a file. Many teachers communicate by e-mail, and some by sending notes home. Whatever method you and the teacher and/or staff work out be consistent in updating the file as needed. It helps to think of yourself as a "team member" working cooperatively along with school faculty and staff. Each school has its own system. If your school has a different kind of "check in" system please take advantage of the communication and update often.

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Guru Spotlight
Patricia Walters-Fischer