Throughout my son's school years, I attended meetings. Some of the meetings were with teachers, some with administrators, some with school psychologists or guidance counselors and some had everyone in attendance. The meetings began in the beginning of the school year and continued throughout. There were meetings at parent teacher conference times, meetings when accommodations didn't seem to be helping, meetings at the end of the school year to prepare for the upcoming year.
In the beginning, I attended the meetings understanding that I was going to listen to what my son could not do well and how he was not organized or living up to his potential. As the years went on, I learned to prepare for the meetings and, in doing so, I learned to create conferences that were based on helping my son rather than on describing his faults.
Teachers have my utmost respect. They deal with many different children each day. They care about the children in their classroom and work diligently to make sure they learn. But teachers do not have the advantage that parents have. Teachers have not had years of living with your child, understanding what interests them and how they best learn. It is up to parents to help teachers understand our children better. It is up to parents to share knowledge about their children about what educational strategies have worked in the past, and which have not worked.
Begin your preparation by making a list of:
- Your child's academic strengths and weaknesses
- Accommodations you have used in the past that have worked
- Accommodations that have not worked
- What academic successes your child has had
- What academic assistance your child most often needs
- Social skills
- Self-esteem issues
Rather than trying to write this information down in an orderly fashion, instead write down all of the ideas that you think of. Please be sure to include all the areas your child excels in as well as those areas that need additional work. Once this list is completed, you will begin to organize the information.
Using a blank piece of paper, divide into the following categories (you may add or subtract categories based on your child's individual needs and situation):
- Paying Attention in Class
- Test Taking
- Projects and Reports
- Absenteeism and Tardiness
- Acting Respectful
On another blank piece of paper, list the classes your child takes during school.
Using the list you previously completed, start dividing comments and suggestions into the categories above. This will help you see exactly where your child needs help and where they have the skills they need.
An example might look like:
Paying Attention in Class
- Can pay attention when subject matter is interesting, such as hands-on science experiments
- Has trouble paying attention to lectures lasting more than 10 minutes
- Pays attention better when sitting in front of the classroom
- Often does not complete the test in the allotted time
- Knows work at home, but can freeze during tests
- Seems to do better on multiple-choice instead of fill in the blank
- Needs extra assistance with fractions
- Math homework takes a long time to complete
- Freezes on math tests
- Needs to build confidence in math
Continue to list your ideas under each category, as well as under each subject in school. This type of information will help you and the teacher work together to form a plan to help your child succeed.
Once this list has been completed, each meeting or each year, you will need to update it with age-specific or grade-specific information.
In addition to this information, I would bring the following with me to all meetings:
- A list of what I was doing at home. This might include: tutoring, working on organizational skills or reading each night. This helps to show the teacher that you are involved in your child's education and willing to work with them as a team to help foster success.
Questions for the teacher. Important information for you to know would be: What is the procedure for getting work when your child is absent? How long will they have to complete missed work? Is there a website or homework hotline for you to find out what homework is given each day? How often are reports or projects given and can you receive written communication on the project via email or a note sent home with your child?
A contact sheet with my name, my husband's name, home phone number, cell phone numbers and email addresses. In addition to listing all the contact information, indicate your preferred method of communication.
A copy of "12 Things High School Students with ADHD Want Their Teachers to Know" (This can be included no matter what the age of your child.)
With all of the information above in a packet, you will walk into any meeting prepared and ready work with teachers and other school officials. Always remember, your goal is to develop a team of people working together to create an environment that nurtures success for your child.