As a parent of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD ADHD), you are the best expert on helping her succeed at school. No one — coach, teacher, or therapist — knows more about her strengths, her passions, or her dreams than you do. What’s the best way to convey your insights and practical knowledge to her teacher?
For many parents, the home/school checklist has been the answer. Developed by the Learning Disabilities Association of Minnesota, the document serves as an MRI of your child’s learning profile. It requires you to identify academic shortfalls — everything from difficulty in completing assignments to poor handwriting — and the strategies you’re taking, or have taken, to solve them.
This handy tool works in several ways: It facilitates communication between you and the teacher, and it sends the message that you are a valuable resource and part of the team. The checklist may also prompt the teacher to share classroom strategies that can help at home.
The home/school checklist is especially useful at the beginning of the academic year, but can be used at any point during the semester with good results.
- Start at the beginning. List your child’s skills and passions on the cover sheet (see a sample below). The categories include Best Qualities, Strengths, Favorite Activities, Motivators, Interpersonal Skills, and Three Most Important Things to Know About My Child. The cover sheet will create the initial impression of your child for teachers, principals, or coaches, so keep your statements upbeat and affirmative.
- Share what you write. Tell your child what he does well and how much you value him. Talk about his favorite activities and what motivates him. Children often need help recognizing their strengths, and encouragement to stay focused. Explain that, as he grows, so will his abilities.
- Fill out the checklist. The checklist itself has two headings—“When You See This” and “Try These.” Your job is to assess your child’s academic difficulties honestly and to list, specifically, how you, or previous teachers, have dealt with them.
For instance, under “difficulty following a plan,” possible strategies include “set long-term goals,” “break the goal into realistic steps toward attaining it,” and “use visual organizers.”
The checklist delineates for the teacher what you know about your child and what has worked. Especially important is a section on the last page called “What We Will Do at Home to Support Our Child.” This demonstrates that you are not just handing over a list of things you expect him to do, but you are committing your own time and effort to a long-term plan.
- Set up a meeting. Send the cover sheet and checklist to the teacher, along with a note requesting a brief meeting—no more than 30 minutes. (If your child has more than one core teacher, make sure that all teachers can attend and that each has a copy of the document in advance.) A teacher needs time to process what you have written and to formulate his own suggestions. Ask the teacher to check off the behaviors and strategies he thinks are most important to address before the meeting.
- Listen and learn. Go to the meeting with an open mind. You may not agree with everything the teacher says, but don’t accuse her of being mistaken. The goal of the meeting is for you to learn what goes on in the classroom, and for the teacher(s) to learn what goes on at home. Children often act differently at home than they do at school. If the teacher says your child is performing well, ask her to list, in detail, his areas of strength.
- Give and take. Be receptive to the teacher’s suggestions. Try to agree on areas of academic difficulty that both of you will work on, how long you will try each strategy, and when you will confer again. If you find that a strategy works at home, tell the teacher.
- Wrap it up. Before leaving, assure the teacher that you know she has many students to attend to and that you are appreciative of any help she can provide. Tell her that you will do your best, as well.
Thank her for her time and for the hard work she is doing for your child. Follow up with a thank-you note or an e-mail. If the teacher has been especially helpful and cooperative, pass your compliment on to the principal.
This article comes from the Summer 2008 issue of ADDitude.
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