ADHD Awareness Month: Tips for Building School Communication
October is ADHD Awareness Month—a time to spread awareness and share information in Canada and the United States about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. While it’s a known term that is very popular in use, it’s often misunderstood and misused. After all, who doesn’t procrastinate and have trouble focusing from time to time?
On the official website of The Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC), the disorder is explained as “one of the most common disorders in Canada and it doesn’t discriminate. It impacts people from all walks of life and backgrounds. It affects more than a million Canadian men, women, boys and girls of all ages.”
In my opinion, this month is about letting parents know that support is within reach once a diagnosis has been made. For this reason, I connected with an expert in the field, Laura MacNiven, Director of Health Education at Springboard Clinic. My question to her was how to build an action plan that encourages home-school communication.
ADHD affects more than a million Canadian men, women, boys and girls of all ages.
Based on her extensive professional experiences, Laura shared the following scenario. Perhaps your child has been diagnosed with giftedness, ADHD, a learning disability or has been experiencing mental health symptoms that are impacting his/her ability to focus or meet full potential. It can feel like a tough decision to disclose information with their school team. While it’s not a straight-forward answer, open dialogue between home and school can help families feel engaged and empowered.
Here are Laura’s five tips for parents to effectively communicate with their child’s teacher and school team:
- Start early. Try to be a step ahead and connect with your child’s school team at the beginning of the academic year. Bring examples that have worked in the past, and take the time to connect as early in the fall as possible. I know, you may be thinking, but maybe this year we don’t need to put in strategies. But, it’s usually better to over-prepare than be surprised a few weeks/months in!
- Come equipped with knowledge. If appropriate, have a psycho-educational assessment, meet with your child’s doctor, or spend time asking their tutor what works best for your child. The more information you have, the more you can help your school team strategically support your child.
- Always start with strengths. It’s a policy at Springboard to always ask about an individual’s gifts/talents before talking about challenges. It helps the dynamic and it keeps everyone on the right track. So don’t forget to share positives first.
- Set up a sustainable plan to check back in. With experimentation and change, there are often steps forward, and often steps backward. Agree to meet again. Getting the right strategies often takes time, so try to meet more regularly for shorter periods of time. It sets everyone up for more success.
- Have empathy. Remember your child’s teacher is juggling a lot. Take a minute to “stand in their shoes” before breaking into your discussion. Empathy goes a long way and it can be hard to even imagine how many priorities they are managing.
Joanne is a Director at Teachers on Call, a personalized home tutoring service with over 30 years of experience, providing one-on-one instruction in all subjects and grades. In addition to regularly blogging about educational news, learning strategies and the latest in student books, Joanne is a busy new mom and Co-Chair of the Corsage Project, a non-profit organization in partnership with the Children’s Aid Foundation.