Each fresh start to the school year is filled with paperwork to complete. Inside each packet of papers is always a sheet asking if there is anything that you should know about the student. Yes, there are some things you should know as we all head back to school.
He has ADHD
Meaning the executive function part of his brain is smaller than his peers. It is a physical, scientifically proven condition. If you are not educated or experienced in what ADHD is or if you believe it’s just some overprescribed condition for kids that don’t want to listen, please let me know immediately so that we can get my son to a teacher that is more equipped to handle his education. No need to burden you or further increase his dislike of school.
He has ADHD, he is not ADHD
ADHD is a spectrum disorder, similar to Autism. Not all of him is affected by ADHD, really only about 1% of his personality. That 1% belongs to emotional regulation. Expect him to behave 3 years younger than his chronological age anytime he is dealing with his emotions.
The other 99% of him will behave age appropriate. Sometimes this will confuse you into thinking he has outgrown” his ADHD. This is a physical impossibility and this line of thinking can become a trap for both of you. Look beyond the 1% and appreciate the incredible person his is and also remember to deal with him as though you would a student is 2 grades lower for any emotional outbursts.
Keep in touch, just don’t become dependent
Please don’t call me for every little thing. Yes, I want to be involved, but I cannot correct what happens in the classroom. You must handle it when it does. With ADHD children the issues must be addressed as they happen, not after the fact. Those with ADHD have short term memory challenges and by the time he gets home it’s unlikely he will clearly remember what happened.
Home is his sanctuary and we focus on family time here. There is no reason to carry over the already burdensome school day at home. All day he will struggle with paying attention to topics that do not interest him, keeping his body in a seat, and constant correct from everyone around him. Home is where he gets to seek refuge, unwind, and be accepted for who he is.
Routine, routine, routine
Most children thrive in an environment where they can predict what will happen next. This is especially true for him. If you need to take a day off, be prepared for an unflattering report from the substitute and an irritated student the following day. He thrives in a scheduled, routine, predictable environment. Change or bend the rules and he will go into a free fall. If you allow him to do things he is not typically permitted to do, he will assume this is the new “normal” thinking every day he will get to do these things. If he is not permitted to do activities that he typically does, he will become rebellious.
Since he was a baby he has strongly imprinted on his caretakers. You are now his best friend, his family away from home. His planet now circles your sun. What you say and do deeply impacts him so be sure to choose your words wisely, correcting his behaviors and never attacking him as a person.
Hold him accountable (Don’t take his crap!)
“What works at home?” is the number one question we are asked. We are stern. Our house is a dictatorship. We tried democracy once and it was a disaster (see Routine, routine, routine above). The rules stay the same, period.
Also, ask him what he needs. He will tell you, maybe not plainly, but you will know. When he’s upset you can ask him if he needs a few minutes alone in the back of the classroom or if he needs to talk. If he gets up and walks to the back of the room you have your answer. If he doesn’t move and is quiet, he needs to talk but is having trouble finding the words. Be patient, it may take a few minutes.
Be sure you are seeking issue with a solvable problem. Remember that his emotional age is 3 years younger than his chronological age due to ADHD. So ask yourself, ”Is this normal for a Kindergartner?”, before deciding if this behavior is something that discipline or accommodation can correct.
Follow through on threats. If you are inconsistent then you have lost all authority (see Routine, routine, routine above).
We live in a time where teachers are discouraged from touching students, but touch is one of the best techniques when dealing with an emotional meltdown. A gentle hand on his shoulder can pull him out of an emotional freefall or snap him back into the lesson at hand when he has drifted off into imagination.
When discipline is required, the same hand on the shoulder will help stay focused on what you are saying. Kneel to his level, look him in the eyes and sternly tell him his behavior is inappropriate. We use these words at home and he knows clearly what they mean.
Don’t take away recess
Taking away recess will have the opposite effect you are looking for. Let this child run off the emotions building up within him. All day he hears “no”, “stop”, and “don’t”. He needs recess like you need your lunch break.
Take away technology. Trust me he understands thoroughly how to operate computers, ipads, games, etc. If you want him to comply, discipline by taking away technology privileges.
He learns by doing
Keep him moving. Make him the class helper that runs paperwork to the office, turns the lights on/off, passes out papers to his classmates. The more you keep his body moving, the more his mind is engaged. If you make him sit at a desk all day working on projects, you will lose him.
Homework may not get completed
Yes, I know school is important, but here’s the thing. You have my son for 6.5 hours each day. His attention span will likely not last until lunch. When he returns to class after lunch it is sheer willpower for him to stay on task fighting against a lack of impulse control for three hours.
When he gets home he’s going to ride his bike, jump on the trampoline, play army with his nerf guns, or pretend he’s a dinosaur. I’m going to let him do that for hours because he went against his own human nature for 6.5 hours today.
Pick one thing, ONE, that you want us to work on at home and we will. Last year we chose reading. He read every night and all summer. Don’t expect us to complete worksheets at home, practice spelling words, complete projects, and read. You tell me what the most important task is and that is what we will do.
I am not being difficult, but rather realistic. There are many battles to fight at home and homework doesn’t make the list. While you are teaching him reading, writing, and math we are busy at home instilling morals, character, and love. We both have a job to do so I cannot take on more than is reasonable.
I appreciate you
Thank you for teaching, for deciding to train up young humans. This is my little human and nothing will ever be more important to me. I understand he can be a challenge and exhausting, all kids can. At home, we are challenged and exhausted too at times. Know that I appreciate what you are doing here and I will support you. Reach out if you need to.
You will never know
These are all the things I want to tell you on the first day of school, but I won’t. I won’t share these things with you because it will change the way you look at him. Some teachers have labeled him a handful and others a lost cause. He is neither. He is a young human capable of love, joy, and creativity. He doesn’t fit into the box with the masses because he is his own unique person.
So this school year I hope that you will be the one to love him, to truly see him as a gift. I hope that you will be that one teacher that changes the way he thinks about school and makes a significant impact on his life. I hope you will be the teacher he remembers for turning things around for him when he is an adult.
So here’s to an ambiguous start to a new school year. May this be the year that surprises us all.
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