Connie Parr, Co-Chair, Mental Health Committee
Connie Parr, Co-Chair, Mental Health Committee

Where has the summer gone?  Memorial Day was great, planning for the whole summer, but before activities really got underway, July 4th appeared!  Now, school supplies are the featured items wherever we shop. The coming school year is right around the corner with many children happy to return to routine, as are their parents.  But for kids with learning disabilities or ADHD, it could mean that dreaded classroom where progress is hard to achieve for many students. It doesn’t have to be like that. There are ways to return to cheerfulness and contentment for both children and parents.

Many teachers start getting their room ready a week or two before school starts.  Call the principal and ask that you and your child meet with the teacher during that time, just to calm the nerves of your child and allowing you time to get to know the teacher. Don’t hold a conference; just make it an informal meeting of introductions and pleasantries. Sharing some information about activities your child enjoys outside of school may help the teacher in finding “keys” to unlocking the learning process.

 Adolescents going into junior high or high school are especially stressed because it’s a brand new building, new friends, new daytime patterns and going back to regular sleep patterns. No more staying up late. Time to limit the electronic devices in all forms and sizes! 

Perhaps the school will have planned an ice-breaker day for students new to the school or district so that they might meet other new students and tour the building.  Some schools assign a Big Brother or Big Sister as a mentor for students new to the school.

If an ice-breaker isn’t planned, call to see if it’s possible to walk your child through the building to familiarize her/him with the location of different rooms, offices and facilities. Having your child’s schedule in-hand will make the walk-through more meaningful.

Little girl with backpack, books and school suppliesIf the child has directional difficulty, walk the halls several times showing them the way to their classes. Then have your child do it by themselves with you behind them. If they have never worked with a locker, help them with the combination.  It’s even worth buying a lock (they might have to have one for P.E.) and practicing at home. 

No adolescent will tell you how nervous they are, but they may act out.  Cut a little slack without breaking many rules.  Have them help you with extra supplies, putting them in a tote of the size you choose, ensuring that the night before a project you do not hear, “Mom, I need —— and I don’t have any!”  Encourage your child to help you to think ahead for needed supplies so you and they don’t get caught short.

Don’t talk about the dread you might have about your child going back to school.  As a parent and grandparent of children that have learning disabilities and ADHD, I know the feeling. You are entitled but try to think positive!  Please remember that each year is a new year, and your positive attitude in front of your child makes a world of difference.          

Adolescents are masters at reading body language, so keep it cool.  This is a brand new year.  This is the year that will be great!  Embrace it as your child is one year closer to graduation.  Stay involved.  Don’t wait for teacher conferences usually held about every nine weeks; make an appointment about three weeks into the school year and see what the teachers say.  This early feedback will help you stay ahead of any problem that might arise.  Enjoy the good news and praise your child!

Connie Parr serves as Co-Chair of the Mental Health Committee. She is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner that has been involved with the Learning Disabilities Association at the local, state and the national level for well over 35 years. She assisted the LD/ADHD children in the private pediatric practice, then began a clinic at Provena Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, Illinois. She served as President of LDA from 2008 – 2010.
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