Dear ADDitude

Dear ADDitude: Will My Child Really Be Held Back?

“My son’s grades did not raise any red flags this year — until 8 weeks before summer vacation, when his teacher told me his skills are far below grade level and he needs significant help — particularly in reading. Can he be held back because of his teacher’s lack of communication and guidance?”

ADDitude Answers

Too bad this is happening at the tail-end of the year. However, there are things you can do before school ends. Ask the teacher what your son’s skill levels are. Where is he falling behind? Find out what the assessments showed, or, if no assessments were completed, how did the teacher form her opinion? What strategies has she used so far? From this information, you can create a plan of action.

You could hire a tutor to work with him a few times a week. (A good place to look for tutors is at local colleges or high school honor students in your school district.) You might ask his teacher for help, by assigning extra worksheets in the areas he needs the most help and work with him in the evenings. Ask about summer programs in your area that could help your son catch up before the start of the next school year.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

A Reader Answers

There are, no doubt, excellent programs to improve your child’s skills but there is a deeper, more serious issue — the teacher’s lack of knowledge of ADHD. (Actually, it’s worse than that, but I won’t get into it here.)

[Self-Test: Does My Child Have Dyslexia?]

The industrialized, one-size-fits-all production line approach is rarely useful for most students and it is the very worst thing for creative, distractible ADHD folk.

His teacher has demonstrated that her mind is made up. She can’t be his teacher. She will make him detest school. This, left alone, will haunt him into graduate studies and beyond. However, being a troubled disorganized college youth is a reasonably good outcome. The other outcomes are much less attractive.

I believe school matters at every age. Every year is important. The attitudes and beliefs our children have are formed in pre-school and primary school.

It is very wise of you to frame the situation as you have and decided to take steps to remediate the situation. I am also impressed that you do not judge or blame him for being in the relentlessly unyielding, anxiety-producing environment.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach

A Reader Answers

It is too bad that your son had to have a kindergarten year with a poor teacher. But it is not too late. Get a tutor that has Special Education background for the summer. He should meet with the tutor at least twice a week, for at least an hour. The concentration should include phonics, reading and beginning writing. Modern Curriculum Press is a seasoned phonics curriculum. The tutor should test him to see where he functions (making sure he knows the alphabet, sight words, beginning sounds, etc.). Then the tutor should provide books that reach him at his level. You could also take him to the library and ask the librarian to help you choose books that are at his level. You have to spend time with him on reading like it is your job. The tutor should also help him write about his life experiences. They help him relate the written words with ideas he can discuss. By the end of the summer he should be caught up with the rest of the class and ready for first grade.

[Work Together to Build Stronger Reading Skills]

You might also want to observe a first grade in your private school as well as the public school to see which will be a better fit for your son. When you go for your son’s check up discuss his progress in school with his doctor. He/she may be able to help further.

Posted by Bensonadvocates

A Reader Answers

Won’t bore you with the details, but the same thing happened to my ADHD son in second grade. Not only did the teacher write multiple notes home each week (with lots of screaming script, underlines and exclamation marks about his behavior along with EVERY piece of work he had not of completed for the day) but he was also so scared of her in class he hid under his desk. After one semester, and LOTS of school evaluations and testing to “prove” he was ADHD, the principal made the decision he needed to be moved to another teacher.

My son is getting ready to go into eighth grade and STILL remembers that teacher and how she made him feel. Every year of school at every age has had its own challenges. I used to worry and freak out but now, as long as A’s B’s and C’s are brought home, and he is treated with dignity — or at least not singled out — I find he is learning to cope in the world. But at your son’s age, you will have to be his advocate. And looping in the principal on every interaction will help, too. I didn’t think going over the teacher’s head was a good idea until it worked!

Posted by TeresaB

A Reader Answers

I had similar problems with my son’s teachers when he was in middle school, and it only got worse in high school. Finally, he became suicidal, voluntarily committed himself to the psychiatric unit at Children’s, and after a few later attempts to return to school, decided to drop out. By 11th grade he had only earned four credits. I’d like him to get his GED so he can get a job, or apply to community college later. Right now, I’m just happy to see him stabilized and regaining confidence.

[Make Reading Riveting]

My son didn’t learn to read until the third grade. He turned a corner when there was a unit on map-making and reading that for some reason inspired him. He was excited, curious, and passionate about the subject at a level that allowed him to catch up to the other kids within a few months. In sixth grade, he made another leap playing WoW online, and wanting to make the 20-something players think he was their age, so he worked on improving his vocabulary a lot. By ninth grade he was reading at a college level. Testing revealed he had a verbal IQ of 153, but his math scores were much lower, suggesting a learning disability. The composite IQ score was in the high 130s. He’s a very bright guy, and truly a Radiant Being of Light. I love him so much. He has great empathy for other people. He is an athlete. He is loving, insightful, creative, and amazing, but he doesn’t fit into the boxes the world wants to put him in. That is not his fault, or something to put a negative label on in the first place.

I wish I could say there are easy answers, but in my experience, ADHD is very poorly understood by educators (and everyone else). The system is failing these kids, and nobody seems to care — they think it isn’t their problem. They think ADHD is somehow different from other disabilities. It’s as though they believe that with an attitude change, a blind person would be able to see, if she really wanted to.

Some potentially helpful tactics:
– Encouragement for everything he does right.
– Praise for everything he completes.
– Listen to and validate his emotions.
– Try to see the world as he sees it.
– Be adventurous — try new things.

Expose him to a wide variety of environments that might present unconventional learning opportunities. Not all kids learn in the same way — music, movement, touching or building things, watching demonstrations, color coding and other visual methods of organizing information could help, travel, community involvement — going out into the world and seeing how things work, touring factories, volunteering, martial arts classes — learning doesn’t have to take place in a classroom (and often doesn’t).

All kids learn differently, and for ADHD kids, that’s more of a necessity than a luxury.

Your child will learn to read eventually, even if reading isn’t his thing. He will do it in his own time, in his own way.

Posted by rae16

A Reader Answers

I am a housewife and have a lot of time to spend with the kids. We always kept books all over our house and I would take the kids to the library almost every day. Additionally, the kids would always see Dad and I reading or studying. Our kids learned to love reading.

My kids are now in second grade and are great readers. My cousin, an elementary school principal, also recommended that we get “Junior Great Books.” They have a web site.

Hope this helps. This teacher sounds terrible!

Posted by Takeoutchick