By Jennifer Smart, Post-adoption Helper editor

My personal experience with the school system is limited as my daughter is only 7 and heading into grade 2. However I can easily foresee the difficulties we are up against.

Teachers vary greatly in their understanding, management and attitude towards Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I've learned that you have to really make an effort to get to know the teacher and keep the communication open and non-threatening. You need to provide information to the teacher so she can understand your child's behaviour and appreciate her strengths. September is the month for teaching the teacher and getting everyone off to a good year.

For me it's important that the teacher learn how best to avoid or minimize my child's irritable, aggressive or out-of-control, overstimulated behaviour. Luckily I've had several caring and patient teachers who seemed to genuinely find something they enjoyed in my child's repertoire of interesting behaviours! I expect this year will also bring an educational assessment due to a delay in reading and math, something quite common for ADHD children, to have a learning disability as well as the uninhibited behaviours. Apparently, ADHD is not recognized in Ontario as a special need and so a designation of learning disability will qualify her for the special education she will need.

I have heard from some parents whose school experience has not been very positive. Parents need to realize they have a right to advocate and receive appropriate services for their child. If you feel your child is not getting what he needs to succeed, find out what exactly is going on and have confidence in your intuition about your child. Go into the classroom and observe, keep your written notes regarding your observations and thoughts, then you can refer back to them when trying to make difficult decisions or talking to the principal or school board personnel.

I did actually remove my child from one class I felt was not good for her and initially I felt rather guilty about it … but later that year I met two other parents who had done exactly the same thing at the same time for the same reason (!) but we had never talked … so chances are your intuitions, especially about your child, are right.

It's really worth keeping written records of your child's school and home behaviours … keep a place to jot down things you want to remember. For me it has helped determine whether to continue a medication trial (school reported no change in behavior) and it has also refreshed my memory (for the pediatrician and psychologist) about other important behavioral reactions.



The challenge of school for the adoptee
School issues your child will face
Help your child deal with racism
When birds don't flock together
Should you tell the teacher?
You can give an adoption talk
Language development is key

Learning disabilities

What are learning disabilities?
Detect learning disabilities early
Cope with your child's LD
Brodzinsky on learning disabilities
Do adoptees need special ed classes?
Are LDs inherited?

Special needs

Accept your child's special needs
FAS: Friendly school environments
Helping students with FAS
ADHD and the school system
Manage your ADHD child in school
Strategy for the parent advocate
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper," ________________________________________
First published in Family Helper No. 45, "Adoption Goes To School", ISBN 0-9733470-4-X. Adapted from Post-adoption Helper No. 3, edited by Jennifer Smart.