Like all parents, you long to have your child run through the door at the end of the day, his face alight with the excitement of a new idea or experience. And, happily, this happens sometimes.
But on other days, your child slinks through the door sullen or frustrated, ready to give up or feeling put down. No doubt, as the parent of a child with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD), dyslexia, or other learning disabilities, you’ve taken concrete steps — buying your child a daily planner, having your child sit in the front of the classroom — that help him overcome some of his hurdles to learning.
What’s critical to inspiring success in a child with AHDD but often overlooked is building strong relationships with the school and teacher.
These are the relationships that can create a positive learning environment. A child with ADHD or dyslexia who feels fear or shame will not be adventurous enough to engage intellectually, no matter where he sits in a classroom. An environment of trust and hope, however, provides a place where a child can thrive.
I love to tell the story of my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Eldredge, who gave me confidence in my ability to read by being particularly supportive of my efforts. Though I had dyslexia and struggled mightily, she simply saw me as a child who needed a warm, safe place to try his hardest. At the end of first grade, I was still a bad reader, but I was the most enthusiastic reader in the class...and on my way to a career in words.
So, how do you build the relationships that will help your child succeed? The usual approach — coming fully armed with information and demanding a course of action—tends to set up conflict. A more successful approach, and one that generates empathy and mutual respect, is to approach the teacher and the school in a spirit of cooperation.
If a teacher complains that your child is disruptive in class, it will be more productive to empathize than to suggest that the teacher needs to exert better control. “I know what you mean—he can really be exasperating, right? He does the same thing at home sometimes.” Give the teacher a chance to vent, then work together to develop a solution to the problem — a solution in which you can both be invested.
You probably have gathered lots of information about ADD and your child’s needs that can be a great help to his teachers, and it is important to share it. But unwrap that information as it is appropriate. Some of it should be shared immediately, so that teachers can get to know your child’s needs, but some of it should be shared later, after you have established a strong relationship. The ground for learning must be fertile for everyone, not just for students. A teacher will be more inclined to make the effort to learn about ADD and your child’s needs if she is happily involved and doesn’t feel threatened.
As your child takes steps toward success this year, remember that you, he, and his teachers are all part of a web of relationships. Don’t demand support. Inspire it.
This article comes from the August/September issue of ADDitude.