Back to School with Positive Communication
It’s so hard to prepare our teachers for our ADHD children. The teachers start the year with an IEP (if you have one) and very little else to prepare them for our little Super Heroes. I wanted to start with year with a pinch of positive communication.
This year I decided to send a detailed letter to the teachers with all the background, historical, and special tidbits of information they would need in order to understand and help my son. I included a text he received from a classmate as a result of teachers consistently treating him differently or exposing his limitations to the class, not intentionally or maliciously, but with little regard of how his classmates would view or treat him later.
I also put together a video of all the things he loves to do outside of school. Just a reminder that he is more than his Math Grade or STAAR test scores.
I encourage you to write a similar letter. I’ve had great feedback from his school and it prompted a meeting with one of his teachers and now she has a better understanding of how to help him.
Good Morning Teachers,
Welcome back to school! I wanted to give you a week or so with Sam before I bombarded you with information about him….and started asking for favors, sending chocolates, amazon gift cards and requesting lots of lots of your patience.
Sam is one of my most favorite people…I’m not saying this because he’s my son. He has a glowing personality, a wicked sense of humor and an uncanny intuition about what’s happening around him.
When Sam was in the first grade he struggled with reading, following directions, and focusing on and completing a task. Initially, he was diagnosed as ADHD and medicated, but stimulants never helped improve his focus, they only made him lethargic without any real benefit.
Over the years, we searched for other options, but few have helped him focus. Eventually, we landed on a blood pressure medication that took the edge off his hyperactivity to make him slightly less impulsive. It worked to some degree over the years. With a bit of maturity, a mostly clean diet, free of artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup, and a strong sense of self discipline, I believe he has learned to control his hyperactivity and impulsivity. Cross your fingers and say a prayer that setbacks and relapses are few and far between.
At the end of first grade, he was evaluated for special education services and qualified due to a deficit in Long Term Retrieval and a mild delay in Processing Speed and Short Term Memory. As a result of losing an entire year without any accommodations and very little empathy from his teachers, he was too far behind to be promoted in second grade and had to repeat.
Being Left Behind In Spite Of Hard Work
He’s often discouraged as he sees his first and second grade classmates move on in the class ahead of him. He tries exceptionally hard, doing more homework and studying longer and harder than his sister who barely studies, does little to no homework, but makes straight A’s while he makes B’s and C’s (with Accommodations). It’s defeating and a true test of his pure grit, that he hasn’t completely given up.
Here in the Real World
Due to these limitations, it’s difficult for Sam to score well on tests since he needs long term retrieval, short term memory and adequate processing speed to excel. It’s also because of these difficulties that Sam struggles in the classroom setting.
Imagine, if you struggle with long term retrieval, working memory and processing speed and the teacher calls on you to answer a question about a chapter you were supposed to read last night. You read it, but can’t remember the most basic components….you stumble thru your answer and your classmates laugh and giggle at your lack of an answer and your teacher probably makes a sarcastic and condescending comment about how you definitely didn’t do your homework…see below, the pic of a text that Sam received last year from a classmate…this is what life looks like at 13 years old with a learning disability.
So I ask, beg, and plead with you to please be discrete when applying his accommodations. Please don’t bring attention to him unless you have given him fair warning and you know he will respond with the correct answer.
Life is difficult and often unfair at 13! Life is difficult in a classroom when you have a learning disability, without the other students knowing your limitations. It’s impossible when everyone knows that you can’t remember your math facts, much less the definition of a hyperbole vs simile, or the exact location of Zimbabwe.
I ask that you please remember that he will always live with this disability, so if he doesn’t learn his vocabulary words on the revolutionary war, or a quadratic formula, or the formula for methyl acetate, that’s ok. What he needs to learn to be successful, is HOW TO FIND answers.
I want him to always keep trying and moving forward. In reality, he’s not likely to pursue a job in academia, or an office, or anything that requires him to sit for long periods or write long articles. His purpose in life is to move, to jump, to climb, to encourage and motivate others. He might be a game warden, police officer, camp director, sky dive instructor, fishing guide or a YouTube star. Nothing is off the table and he can do anything he chooses, but his direction will likely be an active direction.
His standardized test scores do not predict his level of potential success, BUT HIS SELF WORTH DOES. I ask that you help him pursue functional skills that will enhance his future? Guide him to learn the skills needed to find answers, pursue his strengths, find new strengths, but mostly just keep moving forward.
Let’s talk about his strengths….Sam excels on physical projects. He’s a builder, creator, and inventor. He also has a business mind and is continually looking for ways to make money, negotiate better deals at home, or strategize an existing arrangement. He’s also very good at pushing boundaries. He is excellent at reading people. Even with the best poker face, he knows when you’re annoyed, disgusted, happy, angry, being sarcastic and/or condescending.
He Wants You To Know
He wants you to know that he HATES his accommodations! He hates being different from the rest of the class. He hates that his friends and classmates see him as different. He hates having to leave the class to take an oral exam, or use a calculator when no one else does. He hates that he has to do fewer problems than anyone else. He hates that he has to leave the room to do his STAAR test on the computer and others don’t. He hates that he has to study longer and work harder than his classmates to make mediocre grades, while others barely try and get A’s. He doesn’t want to be different. He wants learning to be easy so he can fit in and not singled out.
What I Want You To Know
You have the hardest and most important job on the planet. You’re pulled in a dozen directions from parents, to peers, to admin, to government regulators. I respect the job you do and I know it’s not easy. I only ask that you be kind, patient, and giving with Sam. If he feels like he’s being called out, he’s likely to distract the class from his lack of answers by being a class clown. I’m sure you’ll see this as disrespectful or acting out. Please see it for what it is. What happened just prior? How about his last class? Try to encourage him. He responds more to positive reinforcement. He’s highly independent (as most teens are), but he is never allowed to be blatantly disrespectful to you. An important life lesson is being made accountable for your actions, and he will have to be accountable for his. He needs to know there are consequences to his actions…both good and bad.
Having ADHD and a learning disability does not make him less smart, or less likely to succeed in life. It’s simply a different way of thinking. Some of the most notable and distinguished people of our time, and in history, have been known to have ADHD and learning disabilities. Below is only a small sample.
Frank Lloyd Wright
I hope you have a fantastic day and week.