Here are 10 tips for preparing your child with ADHD for the beginning of the school year.
1. As soon as school begins, look for information on Back to School Night and plan on attending. You will receive information on what to expect in the upcoming school year, get a chance to meet your child’s teachers, including teachers for the extra subjects, like art and music, see where your child will be spending every day and meet some of the other parents. This isn’t a night to ask specific questions about your child, but to gather information that will help you help your child succeed this year.
2. Plan a meeting with your child’s teacher as soon as possible. If your child has ADHD and struggles in school, you probably don’t want to wait a few months for the first parent-teacher conference to speak directly to the teacher. Instead, send a note asking for a convenient time to meet within the first week or two of school. This gives you an opportunity to let the teacher know a little bit more about your child and how he or she learns, go over any specifics in either a Section 504 Plan or IEP that the teacher may have questions about and set up a communication schedule between you and the teacher for regular progress reports.
3. Set up a morning routine to help get your child out the door, on time, each morning. Make a list of all the tasks that need to be completed, i.e. eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, gathering supplies. Once you have the list completed, break it down into small chunks and set up a schedule so your child is prepared when it is time to walk out the door.
4. Make sure you have a homework area at home. Where does your child normally do homework? Is there somewhere your child will be free from distractions? Do you have it stocked with homework supplies, such as pencils, pens, rulers, paper? If not, take the time to create a “homework area” to help your child focus.
5. Use the kitchen calendar to mark important school functions and events. Using a large kitchen calendar helps everyone in the family know what is going on each day. Mark dates such as the first day of school, Back to School Night, and parent-teacher conferences. Include dates your child has activities, including sports practices and band rehearsals. Get in the habit of having your child mark on days he or she has tests or projects are due.
6. Find a spot at home to keep school items, such as back-packs and lunch boxes. If you have a designated spot, it is easier for both you and your child to find information that is needed. You can check, once homework is completed, if all papers and supplies are back in the back-pack. In the morning, both of you will know exactly where to find everything he or she needs for school.
7. Plan meals. Some children with ADHD have a decreased appetite because of medication issues. Plan your meals accordingly. Maybe a breakfast shake, with nutritious ingredients will help your child eat breakfast. Plan lunches that are nutritious but that your child will eat. Talk to him or her about what would be good. Make a trip to the grocery store together to allow him or her to choose a few healthy lunch snacks to include in the lunch box each day.
8. Create a routine for checking papers each night. Children, especially in the younger grades, bring home tons of paper each school year. Some get lost, some never get looked at, some get tossed. Set up a bin in a central area for your child to deposit all papers from school that you need to look at. Each night after dinner, set aside 10 minutes to look through the papers, sign what needs to be signed (and immediately put in the backpack), file information you may want to refer to later and throw away unnecessary papers.
9. Set a bed time routine. Children do better in school if they get a good night’s sleep. Decide what time your child should be going to bed based on their age and set up a routine that begins about one-half hour to one hour before with bedtime snack, bath, reading a story. This will help your child mentally prepare for bed and for sleep.
10. Read with your child every day. Set aside 15 minutes each night to read together. In the early elementary years, you will be doing most of the reading. As your child learns to read, some of the time should be spent with you reading, and some with him or her reading. Eventually, your child will read on their own, but you should still monitor that at least 15 minutes each night is spent reading.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.