As a professional who works with people with disabilities, I have attended many meetings for school accommodations and services. Now that I'm a parent of a child with a hidden disability, the tables are turned. I find myself feeling stressed, anxious and intimidated about the upcoming school year.

I would like my child to have a good school year. Achieving success would be nice, but more importantly, I want him to have access to an environment where he can participate and learn. Federal legislation such as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act(IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 ensure children with disabilities have access to an education. ADD and ADHD present educational challenges. Accommodations are intended to help moderate the effect of the limitations that are caused by ADHD. Children with ADHD need accommodations at school to help him succeed. It is not special treatment. Rather, it is assistance that provides an opportunity to participate in education as any other child.

To lessen your stress as a parent and assist your child this school year, there are some steps you can take. First, take a deep breath. Next, smile. As a parent, be kind; your positive attitude will help. Remember that you, your child's teacher and the principal will be working together for the year.

To help your child with ADD or ADHD in the classroom

  • Discuss your child's limitations with the teacher.

  • Consider writing a letter to the teacher and the principal requesting the need for services and accommodations.

  • Be willing to share your ideas and consider suggestions from the school in order to have a positive and collaborative experience.

  • Provide documentation of your child's disability to the school, or the school will conduct an assessment to determine if your child qualifies for services.

  • Continue communicating with your child's teacher about the effectiveness of the interventions and whether or not changes need to be made.

  • Involve your child in the process. Talk about the accommodations that are meant to help. Eventually, have him attend school planning meetings.

  • Get your child's opinion. I talk with my son about how the teacher will remind him about his homework or his snack. I want him to try and understand his needs. He may not completely understand the process now, but it begins the pattern for the lifelong process of recognizing his needs and accommodations.

Accommodations for distractibility

  • Children with ADHD are easily distracted by activities outside the classroom and conversations of others. Sit near the front of class to hear the teacher and limit distractions in the classroom.

  • When sitting at a desk to complete assignments, a child can have access to a privacy board (three-fold presentation board) to limit classroom distractions.

Accommodations for organization

  • A folder with pockets for homework items.

  • Once your child is home, review the assignments. At school, his teacher can prompt your child to turn in the assignments in the folder.

Accommodations for excess energy

  • A "safe zone" where your child can retreat or move around without getting in trouble for being out of her seat. This safe zone can be chosen by the child in collaboration with the teacher.

  • A taped boundary around her desk where she can move freely without being punished for being out of her seat.

Accommodations for testing

Children with ADHD are easily distracted and have difficulty completing a test, especially when the assessment is timed. These accommodations help with the limitations:

  • Tests taken in a separate room with minimal distraction.

  • Responding to questions directly in the test booklet rather than on an answer sheet.

Helping your child at home

  • Have a special place for a backpack and other school items when entering your home. This sets a pattern and helps reduce the frustration of looking for items.

  • Create a checklist. For my son, we have a checklist for his homework. It helps him manage his time and gives him a sense of accomplishment.

  • Give incentives. Again, we have a chart to earn stickers and rewards. For example, when he finishes math homework, reading, and spelling lists he gets a sticker on his chart. If he gets all of his stickers, he earns a reward: 15 minutes of computer time, choice of a surprise from the basket, or one-on-one time with a parent. Vary items and the time when rewards are earned. This keeps novelty and anticipation as an incentive

Children with ADHD can have success in school. It may require some creativity, patience and communication. However, providing your child with problem-solving skills to effectively manage the symptoms of ADHD in the classroom will ultimately prepare him for future work experiences and interactions with others.

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