During CADDAC’s recent online conference I presented on school advocacy. At the end of the presentation many of the questions were let unanswered or briefly answered. Since many of these questions are common questions that CADDAC receives, I will be sharing the answers to these questions in several blog posts over the next few months.
Written by Heidi Bernhardt R.N.
If one wants to consider a private school or another public school can you suggest any specific school types (Montessori, outdoor, etc.) that have a great history with ADHD kids?
This is a question that we receive frequently and unfortunately there is no easy answer. Yes, there are some individual schools (as well as some public schools) that demonstrate expertise in teaching neurodiverse kids, but they don’t fit into any one category or type of school. My advice to parents when looking at private schools, or considering changing public schools is to first learn as much as you can about how ADHD impairs learning, executive functioning and self and emotional regulation. Then build a profile for your individual child, outline their strengths and needs, and define where they are struggling. After that, research appropriate teaching strategies and classroom accommodations to assist with these impairments. Use CADDAC webinars, classroom accommodation charts and Teach ADHD Charts to do so.
Once you are informed, visit the schools you are considering in person and assess the environment. Is it somewhere your child would feel welcome and comfortable? Then, sit down with the administration for an in-depth conversation. Have them explain their understanding of ADHD. Do they develop IEPs? Ask them how they educate their staff about all neurodevelopmental disorders, their impact on learning and the appropriate teaching strategies and classroom accommodations. How do they evaluate their teachers’ knowledge and understanding of this information and their success in applying these skills?
At the end of these questions I would suggest you describe some specific scenarios that your child has experienced at school. Ask how they would react and solve these situations? How would they deal with a child that is not handing in assignments or a child that is reluctant to try new things? How about a situation were a child has reacted badly when triggered? This will allow you to get a good understanding about their knowledge level of ADHD and how they might handle situations that commonly occur with your child.
Unfortunately, I have spoken to many parents who have reported that although their private school spoke about understanding self-regulation issues during the interview, in practice, they were far better at working with children’s academic difficulties than dealing with what they saw as behavioural outbursts. They were often reactive rather than proactive during these situations and handled them much the same as the public system.