School & Learning

Get a Head Start: A Back-to-School Checklist

Easy steps that parents and ADHD children can follow now — before classes begin — to ensure a stress-free start of the school year.

ADHD Back-to-School Checklist: Organization and Accommodations
ADHD Back-to-School Checklist: Organization and Accommodations

Review your child’s current IEP or 504 Plan.

Just as our kids with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) master new skills and face new challenges each year, the accommodations they receive from school will need to grow with them.

As you evaluate your child’s services, consider which goals have been met and which areas remain trouble spots. Then, schedule a team meeting before the start of the school year.

Bring copies of all educational assessments, report cards, notes from the teacher, even individual tests and homework assignments — anything that will illustrate your child’s current achievement levels. Discuss the strategies that worked last year and the accommodations and goals you’ll focus on this year.

Organize school systems together.

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.

Stock up on school supplies.

Assume that your child will eventually need poster board or a protractor. Buy notebooks and pencils, 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 this year’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 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.

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.

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.

Being able to foresee deadlines gives children a sense of control over their lives.

Start by having a conversation with your child about daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. Discuss and 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 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.

Set goals together.

Sit down with your child and brainstorm what he might achieve in the school year. Focus on strengths, as well as on areas that need improvement.

Make the goals attainable. Meeting goals empowers a child to meet tougher challenges later in the year.

Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., is the CEO and founder of LearnGarden and the author of The Three P's of Parenting: Advice for a Lifetime (Teachers College Press).

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