Aug 23, 2010

Back to School with ADHD

It's that time of year again.  The backpacks are filled with school supplies and the gym shoes are gloriously clean.  Everything is set for the kids to go back to school.  But if you have kids with ADHD, you'll also be packing some extra worries for that first day as well.

This year as I prepare my First and Second Graders for their first day of school, I must also recognize that I am sending two children diagnosed with ADHD to school.  My oldest was officially diagnosed just before entering Kindergarten.  After finishing preschool a little on the rocky side I was a little nervous about how things would go with him being in school full day.  To my great relief, now on a low dose medication he did exceptionally well.  When my next son began school, I realized he was also a little active but compared to his brother he was considerably less active and inattentive.  We waited to see what his teacher thought before pursuing anything with the Dr.  It wasn't until after Christmas that his teacher really admitted that he was overactive or trouble at all.  By early spring she was urging us to take him to the Dr.  He was quickly diagnosed with ADHD as well once we got the ball rolling.  And once he was on a low dose of medication he too began to do well. 

Having their symptoms well under control with medication, one might think that the worries should be over.  But because of their use of medication we are required to disclose this to the school and because the effectiveness of the medication can change based on growth or the demands put on them, we need to make the teachers aware of their Dx so that they can help us in measuring their continued success with this treatment.  So far we have been blessed with wonderful teachers who have seen the great qualities our sons possess and learning of their ADHD has no ill affects on their attitude towards my kids.  But I know many a mom who go to great length to keep this information from the schools so that their children won't be labeled.

I believe this is choice that each individual family has to make, whether or not to share any type of mental health information with anyone, school family or friends. But if you do plan to share openly with your school. Here are few things I've found helpful. 

I always reach out early and often to teachers.  Once I find out who their teachers will be I will email them before school even starts to introduce myself and my child.  I will very briefly explain that they have ADHD but that they take medication and thus far have been doing excellently in school but that both my husband or I are always available should any issues arise.  I will also reference successes they've had with their previous teacher even though I clearly know they have regular contact with the other teachers, I want to make sure that I include many positives in this email.  While I want their teacher to know they have ADHD, I do NOT want them to ONLY see that they ADHD.  If we value our children for all that they are, it is easier for their teacher to do as well. 

Then, after a couple days of school I will email them again.  After just two years, I've realized that every teacher can have very different expectations and ways of doing things.  I like to do my best to figure out as much as I can up front.  This helps me AND my boys by being proactive.  If I can better understand the teachers expectations I can help my kids be better prepared and make sure they understand procedures and expectations outside the chaos that can be in the classroom sometimes.

Remember, ADHD doesn't have to be a death sentence to your kids joy of school.  If you keep a positive outlook on things and are proactive, you'll be setting everyone up for a more enjoyable school year!


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