Parent-Teacher Cooperation

Meet the Teacher: 5 Ways to Improve Back-to-School Communication

When should I communicate with my child’s teacher about their ADHD? What if I can’t secure an IEP or 504 Plan? What can teachers do to accommodate homework stress? Get answers to these questions and more with the help of ADDitude editors.

Vector of happy children students runnning on a bridge handshake. Faint city background mixed with clouds.
Vector of happy children students runnning on a bridge handshake

Communication is the not-so-secret sauce that binds any good relationship. In the back-to-school season, effective communication between parents and teachers can set the stage for success. In a recent ADHD Experts webinar titled, “Meet the Teacher: How to Build Relationships This Back-to-School Season,” listeners asked exactly when and how to communicate effectively with their kids’ schools. Below, ADDitude editors answer some of the most common questions, supplemented by related resources.

Q1: How can parents and teachers best collaborate on the issue of homework or unfinished work at home?

The children who are sent home with unfinished classwork are usually the same ones who take more time to complete homework, too. Instead of pushing your child to their saturation point, parents can ask the teacher how long they expect students to spend on assignments. Reducing workload to fit within that time frame may be the best option. Don’t forget to ask your child what support might look like to them. Their preferred learning environment may surprise you!

Next Steps:

Q2: What is the best time to approach a teacher regarding getting to know your child and planning for support?

The best time to reach out to teachers is before the school year begins, two months into classes, after the winter recess, and in early spring. When communicating with the teacher, make sure to keep it clear and succinct (bullet points are your friend!). Teachers have a lot on their plates, and a concise letter will help get your message across.

Q3: When writing a letter to a teacher, how do I know what strengths and weaknesses to share about my child?

The Wheel of Life is a coaching activity designed to communicate a child’s strengths and weaknesses with things like note-taking, study skills, stress management, and organization. Consider filling this out with your child by prompting them to provide a rating for each category. The results of the assessment can help with honest goal setting throughout the school year. Knowing your child’s interests, as well as what motivates them, is also a good indicator of their strengths or “islands of competence.”

Q4: How should my involvement and communication with the teachers differ when my son enters high school?

It’s increasingly important for students to step up and self-advocate as they enter high school. While some behind-the-scenes parenting may be warranted, parents should lean toward asking for their child’s input and support. Working with an ADHD coach can help improve advocacy skills. If concerns such as homework completion and poor grades arise, establish an agreement with your child. Let them know that you may need to step in at times to communicate with the school and monitor their progress.

Next Steps:

Q5: What can I do when the school system pushes back on my request for an IEP or 504 Plan?

According to IDEA, children with disabilities are guaranteed the special education classes and services required to provide them a free, appropriate public school education. If your child is deemed ineligible for an IEP or 504 Plan, appealing this decision is an option by requesting a re-evaluation or independent educational evaluation (IEE). Securing an ADHD diagnosis prior to your request often helps. Some situations may warrant an education advocate, education attorney, and/or consultant. In the absence of an IEP or 504 Plan, you might consider reaching out to the teacher for informal accommodations in the classroom.

Next Steps:

The content for this article was based on questions submitted by live attendees during the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, “Meet the Teacher: How to Build Relationships This Back-to-School Season” [Video Replay & Podcast #413] with Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., which was broadcast live on July 26, 2022.

Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.