By Douglas Cowan, Psy.D.
As a parent there are lots of things that you can do to help your child with ADHD succeed in school, with friends, and in life. Here are some tips for you that just may help you in your ongoing efforts to help your child. Since we know that ultimately it is the parent's responsibility to make sure that the special needs of his/her ADHD child are met, and not the teacher's responsibility, or the school's, or the President's, we need to do what it takes daily to raise our kids. But let's make sure not to let it become an emotional crisis for us. After the initial awareness of the existence of a problem, there need not be an overwhelming feeling of helpless again! Here are some things that we can do for our kids:
1. Keep a file on hand, and a start a daily journal from the moment you first suspect or are told that there is a problem. Document what you see in your child at home, document your observations of your child at school, and document the observations of family members, neighbors, teachers, or anyone that has frequent contact with your child.
2. Keep a 3 ring binder in which to file copies of all classroom ratings by the teacher, observations by the teacher, all assessments from therapists, counselors, psychologists, or physicians. Write your own notes after each doctor visit and keep them forever. This can all be very helpful in the future. Keep lists of all medications prescribed, and note how well they worked, or what side-effects they had. Record and keep everything having to do with your child's treatment from today until your child turns 20 years old. Then give him/her the book for his future records.
3. Actively seek out a pediatrician or other doctor who is well versed in ADHD and is gifted in treating the condition. Make sure that he is willing to discuss your concerns without placing on you a false sense of guilt. Take my word for it, there are many doctors who are badly misinformed about ADHD out there. But there are also very good doctors. Take the time to find a good one! We discuss more on exactly how to do this at the ADHD Information Library.
4. Seek, join, and become active in support groups such as CHADD, CANHC, or others. These groups will help you to stay informed in changes in laws affecting ADHD in school and in the workplace. They will also offer you resources so that you can become a better educated advocate for your child. You will also make some great friends and contacts in these support groups.
5. Always ask questions. Ask everyone that you talk to, from therapists to physicians to educators, to clarify their information. Never let some professional try to intimidate you with big words. Every profession has its own jargon. Do not just let professionals throw jargon around in conversations. Make them explain everything in plain language. This will help you to learn, and as an added bonus, it will let you know whether the professional that you are talking to actually knows his stuff or is just parroting information.
6. Get to really know and understand your child's needs at a deeper level. Keep in mind the differences between real "needs" and things that you "want." Real "needs" would include resources that your child must have in order to function at acceptable levels. Have documentation to back up what you think is a need. Be able to express this information to his school, doctor, etc.
7. Ask for, and be willing to pay for, written reports. It takes time for professionals to write up these reports, and you will have to pay for their time. Keep them in your child's file. These reports should be shared openly with those from whom you seek help for this child. Keep originals and give them copies. Ask for copies of your child's records and keep them in the files. Especially test results and reports.
8. Be your child's advocate in the schools, with his teachers, in your community. This does not mean that your job is to make excuses for inappropriate or criminal behaviors. Please don't become that kind of parent. But it does mean that you are willing to take the time to assess the situation at school and come up with reasonable plans that might be implimented to help your child. We have a great resource for parents and teachers at http://www.ADDinSchool.com with over 500 classroom interventions to consider. Some of them might be very helpful for your child, and your child's teachers.
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