How to Go Back to School With ADHD Kids By Lisa Aro
There are two times of the year I hate going to the department store: the fall, because I really don’t want to know how many shopping days I have left until Christmas, and back-to-school season. When those school supply displays pop up, I have to use breathing exercises and avert my eyes in order to survive. It’s a reminder of the pressure, stress, and struggle that each school year presents for my ADHDers.
But there comes a time right around the end of July that I have to face the music. I’m in that place right now. Ready or not, school starts for us in less than two weeks. As I was trying to get my mental list together so we’re prepared, I realized much of my list revolves around meeting the family’s ADHD needs.
Dust Off That IEP/504
The end of summer is a great time to break your IEP (Individualized Education Program) or 504 and give it a good once over. I like to take a good hard look at those accommodations and modifications. Did they work? Were there gaps or new needs that should be addressed? Maybe there are some that your child has outgrown and doesn’t need anymore.
If you don’t have an IEP or 504, now’s a great time to learn more about them and consider making an appointment with your school to create one.
Get Back on Schedule
Transitions are hard on ADHDers. But making the mental and physical adjustments back into a school schedule can be harder if they’re abrupt. We’ve already started talking about school, adjusting our bedtimes, and gathering our school supplies. Our morning routine doesn’t change whether we’re in school or not, which is one less transition for us to make.
Brush Up on Social Skills
It’s no surprise that one of the greatest anxieties our children struggle with this time of year is what school will be like socially. Social skills for our ADHDers aren’t innate; they have to work at them. This is a great time to talk about worries and concerns individually or as a family. Addressing those stressors head-on can help alleviate anxiety and prevent problems. We’ve used social stories and role playing to work on some of the social skills that we know are going to be difficult.
Meet Teachers and Map the School
A map of the school and walk around the halls has helped our children with anxiety over new classrooms and routines. A chance to meet their new teachers, see where they’ll be sitting, and get a feel for the classroom makes the first day of school not nearly as overwhelming. It also gives me a chance to talk teachers, give them a little background about ADHD and learning disabilities, and set up a good way to stay in touch.
August 13 I can pretty much guarantee will be almost sleepless as my three school-aged children buzz around with excitement. August 14 they’ll be vibrating with energy – some nervous, some happy – in the anticipation to see friends and return to the structure and routine of school. They’ll be polished in new outfits with backpacks full of shiny new school supplies and forced to stand somewhat still as I try to get another First Day of School picture. All the preparations, exhausting as they can be, will pay off in those happy and exciting moments.