Step Three: Get Help For Your Child in the Classroom
BCPS has a regimented process to assist children with learning differences. The Department of Special Education provides oversight for this process and ensures adherence to federal and state mandates. The local school follows this process to identify support strategies for a student and determine if the student qualifies for an Individualized Education Plan or 504 Accommodation Plan. (IEPs and 504s). Not all students will qualify for such plans. These are formal documents that set forth clear expectations in terms of the type of help your child will receive from the school. There are resources below to help you learn more about the IEP/504 process. Do your homework. The more you know about the plans and the process, the better you will be able to advocate for your child.
For parents, the first step is to request a meeting with the school's Student Support Team (SST) - but come prepared. Your goal should be to walk into this meeting with some level of confidence about where your child is struggling and what support he/she needs in order to be successful in the classroom. There are lots of outside resources to help you make this determination (see below). At this meeting you will learn whether your child qualifies for a 504 Plan (or IEP) and, if so, the process for obtaining such a plan. At our school, the vice principal chairs the SST.
It is important for you, the parent, to document, document, document. Take notes in the meetings and make sure you receive a copy of the meeting minutes from the SST chair. Before you leave the room, make sure you know what will happen next, by when, and who is responsible for doing it.
For follow-up school meetings, come prepared to demonstrate whether the documented plan is being followed and whether it’s effective. If you believe plan modifications are needed, come prepared to discuss your recommendations.
How to Handle Your IEP/504 Meeting This is a checklist for what to do before, during and after your child's IEP or 504 meeting.
Best Practices in the Classroom Knowing what strategies might help your child is an important step in getting a successful individualized plan. This is a list of best practices used by teachers to help kids with ADHD – and all kids – in the classroom.
ADHD and Education: When and Why ADD Students Need Formal Accommodations & How to Get Them
Another great article from ADDitude, the leading and free resource for ADHD educational support.
40 Best School Accommodations for Your ADHD Child
This list include in-classroom strategies for managing impulsive behavior, incomplete assignments, lack of classroom focus, and disruptive behavior. These are a few examples of specifics that are included in IEP/504 plans.
ADHD Book of Lists Practical strategies and info to help kids and teens with ADHD
Teacher Resources and Tips on Helping Kids with ADHD This guide is intended for teachers but is also useful for parents too. It discusses the importance of rules and routines, positive relationships, and at-home strategies for completing assignments.
Pre-Referral Intervention Manual (PRIM) A teacher friend calls this her “teacher bible.” It maps out strategies to address every difficulty a student is having in the classroom. It's expensive, but you can find a reasonably priced used one online.
Step Four: Get Help For Your Child Outside of the Classroom
Your child's support doesn't end at dismissal. They need help at home as well. We used a coach to help our child with study skills and organization. These are two areas where ADHD kids (and all kids) struggle. Yet, schools do not seem to provide much help in these areas.
The coach was able to help us organize notebooks, lockers, and other materials to prevent things from falling into a black hole. We developed checklists to help with daily routines and chores and to teach our child strategies for studying. Coaches are not easy to find and they are expensive. But we found that the cost was worth the benefit.
When searching online, I found lots of academic coaches that help older students (high school and college). It is hard to find someone who helps younger kids with ADHD. And, it was difficult to find someone in the Baltimore area. To find a coach, ask your therapist and pediatrician for recommendations. We found our coach through our advocate.
Here are some online coach databases: ADHD Coaches Organization and JST Coaching LLC.
Other resources that I found useful:
Ten Strategies for Helping Kids with ADHD Build Self-Confidence Being different can take a toll on a child's self esteem. While working on self-control and self-management issues, be sure to boost their confidence too.
123 Magic This is great discipline book for any parent. I found it particularly useful because kids with ADHD often have difficulty with impulse control and managing their emotions. How you discipline your child can make that better or worse. Using the methods in this book makes things better.
Loyola College in Baltimore has a program to help ADHD youth with social skills. It fills up quickly, but was recommended to me by several people. There are very few social skills groups for kids with ADHD. So, take advantage of this one if you can.
Lighthouse in Catonsville offers a similar program. It may take lots of phone calls and follow-up to get your kid into the program. I don’t have any experience with this program.
The THRIVE center in Columbia, Kennedy Krieger and the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital come highly recommended. These organizations provide various types of ADHD support - evaluation, therapy, support groups for children or parents, etc.
Stay tuned for Part III: What to do if Your Child's Accommodations Aren't Being Followed or Aren't Working.