You are your child’s best advocate. Learn as much as you can about ADHD and how it affects your child at home, in school, and in social situations.
If your child has shown symptoms of ADHD from an early age and has been evaluated, diagnosed, and treated with either behavior modification, medication, or a combination of both, let his teachers at school know. They will be better prepared to help him cope in this most trying social setting.
If your child enters school and experiences difficulties that lead you to suspect that he or she has ADHD, you can either seek the services of an outside professional or ask the local school district to conduct an evaluation. Some parents prefer to go to a professional of their own choice, but it is the school’s obligation to evaluate children that they suspect have ADHD or some other disability that is affecting not only their academic work but their interactions with classmates and teachers.
Many children with ADHD also have specific learning disabilities which need to be identified so that they can be addressed along with the ADHD. You can use this Learning Disabilities Check List as an indicator of whether your child may have learning disabilities. Share your findings with your child’s school and doctors.
If you feel that your child has ADHD and isn’t learning in school as he or she should, find out who the school’s contact person is for such situations. Your child’s teacher should be able to help you in finding this information. Then you can request—in writing—that the school system evaluate your child. The letter should include the date, your and your child’s names, and the reason for requesting an evaluation. Keep a copy of the letter for your record.
Related: ADHD Medication for Children
Up until the last few years, many school systems were reluctant to evaluate a child with ADHD. But recent laws have made clear the school’s obligation to children suspected of having ADHD that is affecting adversely his or her performance in school. If the school persists in refusing to evaluate your child, either get a private evaluation or enlist some help in negotiating with the school. Help is often as close as a local parent group. Each state has a Parent Training and Information (PTI) center as well as a Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency. (For information on the law and on the PTI and P&A, see the section on support groups and organizations at the end of this article.)
Once your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and qualifies for special education services, the school must assess his strengths and weaknesses and design an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). You should be able periodically to review and approve your child’s IEP.
Each school year brings a new teacher and new schoolwork, and this transition can be quite difficult for a child with ADHD. Give your child support and encouragement in abundance.
And never forget the cardinal rule — you are your child’s best advocate.
[Some of the above information was excerpted from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a publication of the National Institute for Mental Health (2006). NIH Publication No. 3572]