Step 3: Go on the Open House Tour
Once you've narrowed your choices, you're ready for the open-house school tour — a see-for-yourself experience that will prove invaluable. Most parents visit about five schools before deciding on one. Some things to keep in mind:
Good schools let you observe classes in progress — not just a slide show in the auditorium. At an open house, a school is on its best behavior. If you feel uneasy about it then, chances are, the uneasiness will only get worse. As you roam the halls, step inside classrooms, and talk to teachers, keep an eye out for the following:
-- Bulletin Boards. These brightly-colored displays do more than just liven up classrooms and hallways — they showcase the standard work of particular age groups. Read the essays. If the students' writing isn't on par with your child's, the school may not be the best choice for him. If he's touring with you, ask him if he has already learned about the things he sees on the walls.
-- Classroom Structure. Kids with ADHD are more likely to thrive in a structured environment because they often struggle with memory and focus. But don't confuse a controlled atmosphere with mere rigidity. Teachers who assign homework verbally and write it on the board, use specific language when giving instructions ("Sit in your seat with your hands folded and your book on the floor"), and combine gestures with an expressive voice can help your child tremendously.
-- Mainstreaming vs. Special-Needs Classes. It's virtually impossible to know if your child will do better in a regular classroom or a special-needs class until he's tried them both. Some parents lean towards mainstreaming to avoid stigma, but learn that their child isn't thriving. Others opt for special-needs classes, only to find that their child isn't challenged.
Before you decide which set-up is right for you, find out how the school runs each one. If your child is mainstreamed, will he get special help in the classroom? If he's in a special-needs class, will he still get the core curriculum? What types of students will he be grouped with? Observe both settings on your tour.