As the parent of a learning disabled child or a child with ADD/ADHD, it can be difficult to navigate your way though the educational system. Your child will have good teachers and some that are not so good. They may be receiving specialized services, but do you know what is really being accomplished in those sessions? To begin you must make a commitment to become involved in your child’s educational program. Regardless of your LD or ADD/ADHD child’s grade level, do not assume the teachers will always provide the best learning strategies for your child. Although teachers have the best intentions, they may not be trained in the latest techniques for teaching children with your child’s type of disability. They may also sometimes overlook or make assumptions about your child’s learning style. In addition, it can be difficult for teachers to stay on top of everything all the time. The following recommendations will help you get the services and support your child deserves.
Know your child’s rights as an LD student or ADD/ADHD student and advocate strongly on child’s behalf. Know the Individual Education Plan or 504 plan. The IEP recommends specific objectives for your child to focus on during the school year. The 504 plan provides specific accommodations. Educate yourself, and your child, and teach your child to advocate for his or her rights from an early age.
Make sure that the specific accommodations recommended in the IEP or 504 are being provided. Your child may be entitled to extended time on tests, the use of resources like calculators, laptops, large print, note taker, etc. Ask how accommodations are to be made, and who is responsible for coordination and follow-up. All teachers are responsible to provide the proper learning environment for your child.
Call the teacher when your child is struggling one day with a concept and then the next day he or she is working on a different concept. Find out how and when the first concept will be addressed again. If you are told all of the other students understand it, ask why your child does not. Request additional help for your child, with alternative strategies or support services to assist your child in achieving success with that concept. Make sure that concept is addressed and your child learns it. It will probably be a foundation for another concept later down the road.
Go through the directions for any new project or assignment brought home completely with your child. If you find some portion of the instructions unclear, talk to the teacher immediately to clarify the directions for the both of you.
Be certain you and your child understand the grading criteria for important assignments, projects and homework. If you do not understand the criteria, you can be sure your child does not. Contact the teacher before starting the assignment and ask for a rubric listing the levels of criteria expected.
Look at your child’s finished projects. Ask questions about the project to see if he or she comprehends the work that was completed. If there is not complete understanding and/or you are told the teacher said it was fine, call the teacher! Find out the expectations for the assignment and determine if they are appropriate for your child’s learning level. The project may need some sort of modification.
Make it a point to see all of your child’s tests, writing assignments and projects, afterthey have been graded, even (especially) if it is the policy of the teacher to keep the student’s work. Do not wait to see the work at the end of the school year in the student’s portfolio. If you don’t understand the grading system, ask the teacher about it. It is important that you and your child know what was done right and wrong, so the next time the expectations will be better understood. Students benefit greatly when the teacher goes over the graded assignment with them individually.
If your child receives a modified grade level program, be sure it is noted on your child’s reports. It is important for future teachers to have appropriate expectations that will keep frustration at a minimum for your child. It is also important that you and your child know which grades have been modified, and have this documentation for the future.
Ask what it means when you are told your child is at “grade level.” Be sure to ask to see samples of other grade level work to have a comparison.
Set an appointment to conference with all of your child’s teachers at the beginning of the school year. Share information about your child. Discuss the grading system, classroom management styles, and the expectation of teachers, student and parent.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! You must talk to your child’s teacher regularly. You should never feel as if you are pestering the teacher. How else will you know what is going on with your child academically and socially? In order for you to know that your child’s needs are being met, you must communicate regularly with all those involved with your child’s program. Do not be shy about calling any of your child’s teachers at any time! Your child’s education is a collaborative effort and the responsibility of both home and school. Your questions and concerns regarding your child’s education are valid and important.
It is crucial to remember that most of the teachers working with your child are not trained as special educators. You must stay involved in your child’s schooling for him or her to receive all the services or accommodations that are mandated. If you do not understand anything you are told, ask for further explanation. Keep records of the meetings and phone conversations you have with those involved in the program. Finally, if you still have questions about your child’s educational program or need help advocating for your child, contact a professional educator of children with learning differences.
Finally, in addition to these tips, attend workshops and read up on Learning Differences (disabilities) and ADD/ADHD. Join your local chapter of advocacy groups like the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). These opportunities will keep you informed on learning strategies, technology, support services and entitlements for your child.