Helping Your Child with Learning Disabilities or ADHD Get Ready for School

It’s almost that time.  The time that parents look forward to or maybe dread.  If your child has ADHD or learning disabilities, you may have found the summer a blessed relief.  Parents in this category dread going back to scenes in the morning, scenes about homework, lost papers, and so on.  On the other hand, you might be ready for your child to be in school for six hours a day.  Summer can also be a challenge with changing routines and much more together time.

Here are ten suggestions for preparing for school.

  1. Go to school a few days before it opens to find the new classroom and meet the teacher.  This is not a time for a conference.  The point of this visit is to reassure your child that she can find the room and that the teacher is a kind person.  It’s a quick visit, respecting that the teacher is trying to set up her room.
  2. If your child is going to a new school, walk to school a few times so that she is confident she knows the way, even if you will walk with her.  You are trying to remove as much novelty as possible.
  3. Go shopping for school supplies on your own at an off peak time.  I got this idea from a friend of mine many years ago.  She went to the local office supply store and stocked up on paper, pens, crayons, notebooks, whatever she thought her children might need.  When they got their supply list from the teachers, they chose items from the “home store.”  She later returned whatever they didn’t need.  This saved her a stressful trip with three kids in tow.  I was pretty impressed.
  4. Consider morning routines with your child.  How did last year go?  What worked and what didn’t?  Talk with your child about how you think things should go. Find out what she thinks.  When would you like her to get up, be dressed, have breakfast?  What will the rule be for TV in the morning?  None til you are dressed or none at all?  Many children will be helped by a list posted where they can see it–in their room or in the kitchen–where they can check off the steps as they accomplish them.
  5. Consider homework and bedtime routines.  Again, go over this with your child and be willing to negotiate (within reason).  Is there a break after school before homework?  Is there TV before homework is done?  Is there a limit on how much screen time (TV and computer) is allowed each day?  What is bedtime?
  6. Try to move bedtime earlier a few days before school actually starts.  While I think this is a good idea, I have also seen it really backfire, especially with middle school and high school kids.  For the older kids, you might just let them suffer through a few days.  They’ll get it.
  7. Once school is started, call your child’s teacher (or teachers) and ask to meet soon so that you can explain your concerns about your child and go over the IEP.  It is best to do this early.  That way the teacher knows you and you can establish a good working relationship. Establish how you and the teacher will stay in touch.  Parent-teacher night doesn’t allow time for this.  And you certainly don’t want to wait until a problem comes up.
  8. Look at your child’s room and other places in the home where her things are kept and organize these spaces.  Make sure that she knows where her things are.  This means shoes, backpack, jacket, lunch bag.  Of course, these arrangements will need maintenance, but it’s good to start off clean.
  9. Have you done the paperwork for any medications that will be taken at school?
  10. Set out the expectation that it will be a good year.  Communicate some excitement and talk about the interesting things that will come up in school.

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