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10 Steps to Take BEFORE School Starts

Every step you take this summer--before classes begin--will bring you closer to a stress-free start of the school year.

by Jennifer Jones, Ph.D.

Review Your Child's Current IEP or 504 Plan

The accommodations our ADHD children receive will need to reflect the challenges of the new school year.  Consider which educational goals have been met and remaining trouble spots. Schedule a team meeting before school starts. Bring report cards, notes from the teacher, tests — anything to illustrate your child’s current achievement levels. Discuss what worked last year and the accommodations and goals you’ll focus on this year.

Scout the School

Doing a walk through of the school before the school year starts will reduce anxiety for your nervous ADHD child. Locate his classroom and look over the desk arrangement and the classroom organization system. Find the bathrooms, auditorium, nurse’s office, and gym. If your child travels from class to class, walk him through her schedule.

Organize School Systems Together

Determine your child's biggest organizational challenges and come up with solutions before classes begin. Visit an office supply store and check out the materials designed for organizing papers, supplies, and time. Choose systems that will be easy enough for your child to manage at school and at home.  For example, if you know he loses his homework, buy pocket folders and label them for work to be completed on the left, finished work on the right.

>> If he can't find books in his locker, use the locker shelves to organize books by when his class is in the day.

Create a Home Staging Area

Use an area near the door that your child uses to go to school. Equip it with open cubbies/shelving, baskets and/or hooks. This is home to books, homework, backpack, notes, sports bag, keys, lunches, and other school-related articles. Hang a large white board to help her remember tasks and items. An alarm clock or timer will help her get out the door in time.

Stock Up On School Supplies

Assume that your child will eventually need poster board or a protractor.  Buy lots of supplies now and store them where you can easily find them later. To get a sense of the projects your child will need supplies for, talk with the parent of a child who's one grade ahead of yours.

Plan Your Child's After School Activities

Would your child benefit from more physical activity? Consider sports or dance. Does he need to practice focusing? Why not sign him up for martial arts or chess club? Try to build on your child’s routines with activities that will enhance his strengths and provide opportunities for working on challenging tasks. Studies show that scheduling exercise into an ADHD child's day increases her focus and sharpens her attention in school and at home.

Find a Tutor or Homework Helper

If you feel that your child might benefit from homework help, find some now. Try out several candidates for personality fit and skill level. and let your child make the final decision.  Don’t choose a tutor who encourages dependence in your child. The goal is to give your child ways to meet challenges on his own.

Make a Calendar with Your Child

Being able to foresee deadlines gives children a sense of control over their lives.  Start by discussing daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. Agree on routines, school, extracurricular and social activities, and other events that you and your child would like to pursue. The more input your child has about his schedule, the more likely he will adhere to it.

Review Your Child's Medication

Was your child off medication during the summer? If so, you may want to restart it a week or two before school begins. Ask your doctor and while you are there discuss whether medication changes are needed given puberty or increased demands at school.

Set Learning Goals Together

Sit down with your child and brainstorm about the goals of the upcoming school year. Let him talk; you listen. Focus on strengths, as well as on areas that need improvement. Make goals attainable. Meeting goals empowers a child to meet tougher challenges later.
>> For a younger child, have him answer questions like "I want to learn...", "I want to avoid...", "My strengths and weaknesses are...."

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