‘When he can behave.’
Those were words spoken by my son’s first grade teacher years ago when I asked her when she planned to return his desk from the chalkboard back with his classmates. Her response told me two things.
- She doesn’t understand ADHD.
- She thinks he is choosing to not focus in the classroom.
This is a common
problem headache for parents of kids with ADHD. Some parents in my ADHD Superparents private facebook community have admitted to lingering in their car when they arrive home from work to delay reading the dreaded negative remarks on their child’s behavioral report. It usually looks something like this:
- Made noises.
- Fidgeted at his desk.
- Rolled around during circle time.
- Interrupted instead of raising hand.
- Loud and touching others.
- Didn’t line up when asked.
- Didn’t turn in homework.
It’s a note that leaves a parent feeling pretty defeated. Returning home with negative comments daily makes a child feel worse. Kids with ADHD aren’t sure why they do what they do, why they can’t sit still, why they KNOW what is expected but can’t seem to DO what is expected. They want to behave. They want to fit in. They want it more than their teacher, than their parents, than anything.
They want to feel worthy.
Don’t get me wrong, for those of us who haven’t had a memorable experience with our kids’ teachers, there are plenty of other teachers who DO get it. Teachers who know they play a role so important to a child’s confidence that they go beyond what is written in their job description. For me, that was my son’s 4th grade teacher.
She suggested chewing gum for my son’s sensory issues/anxiety (it works!), gave him a heads up when a substitute planned to be in the room so we could prepare for the change, and positive redirects when he seemed off-task or chatty. Three years later, she is still his favorite teacher. You know why?
She approached him as a person, not a number.
She met him where he was and responded to his needs. She recognized his struggles and never-ending worries that pierced through his ocean blue eyes. She showed him the way, rather than punishing him for not being able to do it on his own. I’m grateful for the time she invested in my son. For the hours teachers invest in all children, because they have an awesome responsibility. Teachers spend their days shaping the minds of little ones.
Many of us don’t have jobs with such purpose. And teachers who have a student with ADHD in their classroom have an even bigger job. That child needs their teacher to find the good. A nugget of something deep within that gives a child some self-worth. A reason to get up and attend school every day. Using negative reinforcement to teach a child who has ADHD sets them up to fail. These are kids who won’t likely meet the typical school expectations. A teacher who gives these children the tools to succeed in school are doing something more than teaching.
They are meeting children where they are.
Doing this provides children a foundation for success, giving them encouragement and a game plan to learn acceptable behavior. Meeting a child with ADHD where they are puts them on a level playing field. It’s a chance to make strides and feel self-worth.
For my son, his 1st grade teacher didn’t seem flexible about his difficulty sitting still. He fidgeted, daydreamed in class, often staring at the birds outside the window instead of participating during lessons. Mornings were difficult for my son to transition from a loud bus ride with no structure to quiet desk work. He arrived overstimulated, starting his day behind the start line of the race and spent his days playing catch-up. If he didn’t complete his morning work, he was required to stay in at recess to finish. Recess being taken away is the worst outcome for kids with ADHD.
Kids with ADHD need recess like their parents need endless buckets of strong coffee.
Children need that release. Health experts say a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day plays a significant role in improving a child’s mood and focus. Teachers have reported that kids returning from a half-hour physical education class in school tend to focus more on lessons. So why is recess being used as punishment or time to make up work that wasn’t completed? These are kids who find it difficult to sit through a 45-minute family meal at a restaurant. Shouldn’t they have a 20-minute break at school to recharge?
Recess rant aside, we need teachers to embrace kids who are on a different path. Their destination is the same as others, they’re going to the same place, just not traveling the same roads.
Give them a roadmap for the journey and watch them grow.
Raising a child with ADHD means parents are also given an awesome responsibility. Read here about the ONE thing you should be doing.
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