By now, SA schools are all reopened and most of our kidlets are back and have been assigned new teachers, schedules, and classrooms.
I’m sure most of you can remember from your own school days how stressful it is to try and get used to a new teacher, new classmates, and a new subject time table, let alone all the new work you have to do, and for an ADHDer that stress is quadrupled!
I know you may not want to tell your child’s teachers about his ADHD for fear of your child being labeled- believe me I know where you’re coming from- but not telling them can have serious consequences that can take months to repair!
Formally diagnosed ADHDers are entitled to small concessions in class in South Africa, with the proper notifications from your child’s doctor, and if the school doesn’t know he or she is an ADHDer, he will not be granted these allowances.
My advice, for the beginning of the year, is to arrange a meeting with your child’s teacher (or teachers if possible) and tell them about your child’s diagnosis and treatment.
There may be a parents’ evening and such fairly early in the year- but by then it may be too late, especially if your child has completely new teachers or has changed schools.
Try not to go into this meeting on the defensive, guns blazing, and tell them what you want and what your child needs- this was a lesson I learnt the hard way– you don’t want to alienate them! You want to keep them on your side and you want them to help your child. And you MUST remember that they ARE trained professionals- even if most teachers have next to no training when it comes to dealing with special needs children.
Keeping teachers positive and involved but being firm about your standpoint makes it a very fine line to walk when you meet with them. You must be sure to let them know- and understand- that you are not only your child’s parent but his advocate as well, and that you will be on his side at all times. At the same time however, you want them to understand that they have your support when it comes to dealing with your child’s ADHD in the classroom.
One thing I always battled with when my son was at school was getting his teachers to understand that they were to call me as soon as something went wrong, not a few months or weeks later when it was too late to do something about it. This was a recurring issue and I do hope your teachers are a little more cooperative.
When asking teachers for help in the classroom, be sure that they understand the repercussions of not assisting.
Here’s an example. Your child takes his first dose of Ritalin at 7am and must have another one at 10am. You’re not at school to give it to him, so it will most likely fall to a teacher to do so. A teacher who agrees to give your child his second dose of Ritalin at 10am or so, must understand what will happen if she decides he doesn’t “need” his second dose on a particular day. ADHD is not only a school day issue- it affects every aspect of a child’s life. Not giving him his second dose may mean aftercare is then a nightmare; he won’t be able to focus on his after school sports and he probably won’t be able to do his homework. This also means his evening at home will be a fight over homework, bath time, supper time and and and… and in all likelihood, you won’t believe your poor ADHDer if he tries to tell you he didn’t have his meds! If you find something like this is occurring, you need to take it up with the teacher and the relevant department head immediately. The teachers are never allowed to play doctor and make decisions on a child’s medication.
And of course, if you meet with several teachers (as in late primary school or in high school), there will most likely always be one teacher who “doesn’t believe in ADHD”. This will upset you, and it will make you want to explain, rather take this attitude with a pinch of salt, and include this teacher in any and all communications.
And don’t stop after your first meeting. These teachers need to recognise your face and they need to know you’ll be contacting them regularly. Any changes in your child’s treatment or diagnosis need to be communicated to the school as well. And they need to have your contact details so that they can get hold of you as and when necessary. And remember- if they do contact you with an issue- you asked them to do so, so try not to lose it with the teacher…
Make yourself visible. Be a class mom. Volunteer for class activities as and when you can. Meet with your child’s teachers. Be approachable- but do not be a pushover.
Best of luck!
You can read more about “to tell or not to tell” in a previous blog post: Something Caught My Attention
…come play on my rollercoaster…