Preparing for the Next School Year: Reviewing Classroom Accommodations
The end of the school year is usually a busy time, for students, parents and teachers. For parents of children with ADHD this time may be a relief, finally the long nights of homework, the calls from the teacher, the constant worrying about schoolwork is coming to an end, at least for a few months. You may look forward to summer as a break from the stress of the school year, but this is also a good time to start preparing for the next school year.
If your child has continued to struggle throughout the school year, you may want to set up one more conference with your child’s teacher to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. While many schools have already worked to set up IEPs and Section 504s for the upcoming school year, you can request changes if the accommodations listed don’t fully address your child’s needs. Besides the formal IEP or Section 504 documents, you can also set up a time, early in the school year, to talk to teachers about ways they can help.
An “exit” conference with your child’s teacher should focus on what strategies in the classroom were most beneficial to your child. Over the summer months, use this information to compile a list of accommodations and modifications you would like to see in place during the next school year. During a second conference with new teachers, within the first few weeks of school in the fall, you can talk about strategies that can be implemented in the classroom and at home to help your child continue to succeed.
Children with ADHD are often overwhelmed because there are several (or many) behaviors that need to be changed and parents and teachers want to see improvement in all of these behaviors. While it is difficult to put aside your concerns for some behaviors, your child may see more improvement if you focus on one or two major issues at a time. Therefore, when talking to your child’s teacher at the end of the year, use a conference to help narrow down areas of concern.
When setting up a time to talk with your child’s teacher, explain what you want to accomplish. Ask her to think about two or three major issues your child is still experiencing. For example your child may have problems with:
- Handing in assignments on time
- Forgetting to complete homework
- Getting up from their seat
- Inattention, lack of focus
- Following directions
- Disrupting the class
Based on your child, you may be able to add several more concerns. When you sit down with the teacher, your goal is to narrow down this list to two or three problems that are causing the most difficulty in the classroom and with your child’s success.
Once you have narrowed down your list, talk with your child’s teacher about the types of accommodations, modifications and strategies she used in the classroom. What worked? What didn’t? Remember, you want to focus on strategies for the specific behaviors you discussed as most important.
Use the summer to begin working on developing a list of accommodations and strategies to help your child improve in these areas. For example, if one of the areas you chose was following directions, you can create activities that will help strengthen your child’s ability to follow a set of instructions. Make it fun and interesting, for example, create treasure hunts and have your child follow the directions to find a hidden treasure in your back yard.
Talk with your child about what areas you want to work on. Involve your child in setting goals. Keep their age and maturity level in mind. Younger children may have difficulty understanding setting goals but older children can be involved by listing one goal for each behavior to be changed. From there you and your child can work together on steps to help him or her reach the goal. Throughout the summer, evaluate the progress and keep notes on what types of strategies work to motivate your child.
When school begins again in the fall, set a time to talk with his or her new teacher about the areas of concern. Discuss why the former teacher felt these areas were most problematic and what you have done over the summer to address these concerns. Together, you and your child’s new teacher can come up with accommodations and strategies to implement at home and in the classroom to continue to work on these behaviors. Review the progress throughout the school year and when you and the teacher both see improvement, go over the original list and choose one or two new behaviors and begin the process again.
This article was written based on my experience with raising a child with ADHD.