HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

I have a meeting with the principle next Fri to try and formulate a long term plan to manage her in the classroom...

Hi Mark,

Hope things are going well with you.

I have received A___'s latest school report and the comments from teachers are similar to past years. These include "A___ lacks persistent concentration and is easily distracted by those around her..." and " ...she could make better use of her time when she first arrives at school and would do well to develop effective routines so that she is ready to begin learning rather than involving herself in disputes with others. A___ is encouraged to develop an awareness of how her actions might be unintentionally affecting and antagonising others...modify her own behavior to resolve or avoid conflict...increase her usage of the Mathletics website to extend her ability with regard to speed and accuracy in Maths...easily distracted during share and show sessions..." and the list goes on.

I have a meeting with the principle next Fri to try and formulate a long term plan to manage her in the classroom and I really don't know where to start. All these "A___ needs to" comments are all very well but how do we achieve this? I can't get her to do any homework without a fuss. At home she displays traits of ADHD (inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity) but I don't have a formal diagnosis. We are managing her behavior at home as per your e-book as you know. At school she is disruptive and inattentive but not to the degree she is at home. She is certainly antagonistic and rude to the kids at school and has no special friends as a result, and although I do try and have kids over to play there are always problems in relation to her immature behavior and it is quite exhausting for me.

I don't want to make the teachers defensive by trying to suggest that A___ needs a management plan at school but her efforts in each subject have gone from being "exemplary" to just "satisfactory" over the last 2 years, the comments take up more room than they used to and I think her grades are going to be affected as time moves on (Maths has dropped from an A to a B this past six months but Literacy is holding at A for the present).

Do you think I am doing the right thing by meeting with the principle? Am I over reacting and should I just let things slide without worrying too much at this time? Can I formulate a plan without offending anyone?

I'd really appreciate you thoughts.

Thanks Mark,

L.

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Hi L.,

Re: Do you think I am doing the right thing by meeting with the principle? Yes.

Re: Am I over reacting and should I just let things slide without worrying too much at this time? I don’t think you are over-reacting.

Re: Can I formulate a plan without offending anyone? Possibly.

Your plan should really be the teacher’s plan. You can come up with a plan, but the teachers will be the ones who will have to implement it. It would be better if they came up with their own plan.

Here are some suggestions:

Any teacher can institute the following suggestions, even without formal student classification:

  1. Learn about ADHD. Typically, teachers in the higher grades have a harder time "believing" in the condition. The older students no longer appear physically hyperactive. Organization and planning problems are frequently misinterpreted as lack of preparation and motivation. The school special education staff should have materials for classroom teachers.
  1. Don't take the ADHD behaviors as personal challenges. The answer to the question "Why can't she listen to me like all of the other children?" is that she can't turn off her ADHD at will. It isn't personal.
  1. Provide help for deficits at the moment it is needed, not negative feedback when it is already too late. Unfortunately, the simple reality is that punishment does not usually teach the needed behaviors to ADHD kids. This is because many children with ADHD have difficulty "doing what they know," not "knowing what to do." They already "know," for example, that they should come to class prepared. Once we understand that punishment has not been working, we are ready to provide relief for their disabilities by guiding them at the moment guidance is needed-rather than continued disbelief that they did it wrong again.
  1. Presenting Material to ADHD Children:

· Alert child's attention with phrases such as "This is important."

· Allow physically hyperactive children out of their seats to hand out and pick up papers, etc.

· Break down longer directions into simpler chunks.

· Check for comprehension.

· Encourage students to mark incorrect multiple-choice answers with an "x" first. This allows them to "get started" quickly, while forcing them to read all of the choices before making a final selection.

· Encourage students to underline the key words of directions.

· Establish good eye contact.

· Have child sit in the front of the class.

· Tap on the desk (or use other code) to bring the child back into focus.

  1. Organizational Help:
    1. Recognize that disorganization is a major disability for almost everyone with ADHD. In fact, it is difficult to diagnose ADHD in the absence of organizational problems. Yes, ADHD students can - and frequently do - write a wonderful paper and then forget to hand it in. This striking unevenness in skills is what makes it a learning disability.
    1. Ensure that parents and child all know the correct assignment. Yes, most students can take this responsibility upon themselves. Those with ADHD, though, usually cannot. It is unfair and counter-productive to let intelligent students flounder because of this disability. Once informed of the needed work, the child is still responsible to work (with his/her parents) to get it done. The following options can be used. This part will take work, especially to keep the system going:

i. Inform about typical routines (such as vocabulary quizzes on Fridays).

ii. Hand out written assignments for the week; or,

iii. Initial student's homework assignment pads after each period. Please do not expect the student to come up after class for the signature on their own. If they were organized enough to do that, we would not need to be doing this. And, yes, the typical student is organized enough to come to the teacher; but this is not the typical student.

    1. Notify family immediately of any late assignments by one of following. Waiting for mid-term notices is too late to correct the problem, and too late for the student to behaviorally notice the connection between his/her performance and the consequences.

i. A phone call or e-mail takes the child out of the loop, and works best.

ii. The parent could call the team leader/guidance counselor each week for an update.

iii. The parent could mail weekly a card to each teacher. The card would simply have spaces for missed work and comments, and is dropped back into the mail.

    1. Allow for expedient make up of late or incorrectly done homework. If deduction for lateness actually works to correct the problem, then keep doing it; if not, recognize the problem as a currently uncorrectable disability. In such a case, the work does need to be completed, but is not fair for a persistent organizational disability to cause excessive and demoralizing deductions. If, for some reason, it is necessary to give an "F" for incomplete work, remember that an F is 65, not 0. Trying to get a quarter decent grade while averaging in a "0" or two is virtually impossible. A grade of "0" is excessive and counter-productive.
  1. Simple accommodations for other frequently associated problems:
    1. Dysgraphia (hand writing problems)

i. Use of a computer.

ii. Graph paper helps line up math problems.

iii. Provide a copy of class notes, or arrange for peer to make carbon copy.

iv. Minimize deductions for neatness and spelling. Instead, give extra points for neatness.

    1. Dyscalculia (math problems)

i. Liberal use of a calculator.

ii. Consider doing every other problem if homework takes too long.

You may want to use these suggestions as a starting point as you work with the principal to create a “plan.”

Mark

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