A Letter to My ADHD Child’s Teacher


As my kids start their year off in a brand-new school, I decided to write a letter to my ADHD child's teacher to give her insight and open a dialogue.

Image by J Schackai

New School Year, New School. Change is the Only Constant.

 

Man Cub and Mini Me are going to a new school this year. Starting next week, they are moving from a small private school with class sizes of 12 or 13 to a public school with an average class size of 22. (Compared to some parts of the country, this is still amazing!)  Still, it will be quite a change. Their old school didn’t even have a cafeteria or gymnasium!  Now they will be getting a more typical school experience, and I am having some pretty typical mom-anxiety!

Am I crazy moving my kids to this bigger school?

The reasons for this are many: One reason is the cost. Another reason is the time. My kids were spending two hours a DAY on the bus commuting to and from the old school (no wonder Man Cub was getting in trouble on the bus!), and they already had a long school day. A third reason is that the old school offered no special ed services and they were cutting back on their counselling services, which Man Cub utilized often.

Now it’s becoming a bit more clear, right?

Man Cub has no 504 or IEP at this time, but his last school made unofficial accommodations for him in the classroom. My guess it that he may need something in the future, and a bigger school system will (hopefully) have the resources and experience to help him as he gets older and the academic expectations increase.

Man Cub and Mini Me are excited about the change. We live in a nice town and this public school is very nice. It’s practically new and has a wonderful reputation. It offers the kids a fresh start and an opportunity to make friends in town.  Man Cub, in particular, is looking forward to a clean slate without a “behavior journal” to welcome him from day one.

That being said, I decided it would be best to write a letter to Man Cub’s new teacher.  Not to “warn her,” so much as to give her a heads up and let her know what to expect. Hopefully, this might help them get to know one another with fewer “bumps” along the way.  I spent a few days drafting this letter and I plan to email it today. The teachers have Monday to prepare classes ahead of Tuesday as the first school day, so I’m offering to come in if she’d like to speak with me then. Here we go!!

As my kids start their year off in a brand-new school, I decided to write a letter to my ADHD child's teacher to give her insight and open a dialogue.

Man Cub making robiots, a favorite activity of his!

A letter to my ADHD child’s teacher:

 

Dear [Teacher],

My name is Carolyn, and I am the mother of one of your new students, [Man Cub]. I wanted to let you know a little about [Man Cub] and to open the lines of communication.
 
This will be both Man Cub and his sister Mini Me’s first year at [New School].  Man Cub is excited about his new school, but he may be surprised by the differences by this much bigger class and building! At [Old School], his class had 12 students, and it was the same 12 students each year because there was only one class per grade level. There was no lunchroom (kids ate packed lunches on the lawn or in class) and no gym (PE was outside or yoga or games in class). I wanted to let you know that to give you an idea of where he came from in case he seems unfamiliar with some of what seems like normal school stuff to you.
 
Man Cub is a wonderful boy with a zany sense of humor and I hope you will enjoy him in your class. He is intelligent and enjoys reading and science. He does, however, have ADHD, which shows up in impulse control issues, inattention, and hyperactivity. To date, his academic work has not suffered too much, but with the increasing demands of second grade, we want to be sure to keep an eye on it. He does take medication, but feedback from you will be helpful in making sure the medication is effective for the classroom.
 
Along with his ADHD, he can be very sensitive, especially to perceived criticism or rejection, embarrassment, or by a change in schedule or expectations, and this is often expressed with anger (followed by tears). I find that recovers quicker from these meltdowns if he is calmly and kindly guided somewhere to cool off without an audience (he gets less embarrassed this way). This tends to lead to a shorter time needed for him to “return to calm” than with a big interaction, which sometimes feeds into it.
 
Due to his distractibility, I think seating him closer to your desk and/or the front of class and near other students who tend to be on task would help him. Other silly students tend to encourage his silly side.  :)  He also benefits from reminders a minute or two before changing or ending activities because he gets immersed and has a hard time changing gears. A touch on the shoulder or asking him to repeat what you said ensures he heard the reminder or instruction.   :)   Visual reminders or printed lists of the schedule or tasks to be done can help him a lot (that’s how I organize his AM and PM schedule). He gets frustrated by big jobs, but breaking them down into smaller tasks works wonders for his motivation.
 
Man Cub actually LOVES to please, so if you give him special little jobs to do for you, you’ll win him over and have a great class helper!  He is very excited about the new school year and motivated to have a great year, so I hope you and I can keep him feeling positive about things! I hope you can also express to him the sense that you also believe he can do well and learn the ropes in the new classroom setting. I’m sure you have plenty of classroom experience with all sorts of children, and I look forward to working together to be sure Man Cub succeeds in your class.
 
I hope this email is more helpful than overbearing. I just want him to have a great start to the year at him new school, and I hoped that by sharing this info it might help you and Man Cub get off on the right foot with each other. I work from home, so please call or text me anytime day or evening if you have any trouble or have questions. My number is [###] and I can be reached by email or phone in the daytime.
 
Carolyn

Hopes and Fears for a Brand New Year

 

I am crossing my fingers that this teacher will be good with Man Cub! He had a rough time the last couple of years, and he’s been to the point where he’s said that he “hates school,” and “hates life,” which breaks my heart as a mom!  This boy is brilliant! He’s a strong reader with a curiosity for science and a zeal for engineering… It’s a real shame that the framework and of the classroom might squash his enthusiasm for learning! I know he needs to learn to adapt to the structure of a formal classroom setting (after all, I cannot homeschool him), but I also know that he shouldn’t be left feeling stupid or incapable of fitting in!
As my kids start their year off in a brand-new school, I decided to write a letter to my ADHD child's teacher to give her insight and open a dialogue.

Such a curious boy! Man Cub wanted to inspect his tooth under the microscope after it fell out!

 
I hope that the new school might offer him a fresh start, but I feel like his new teacher holds the cards here.  If she works well with him, this could be the place that “fits” or it could be the start of a long process to find accommodations to “make it work.”
 
I am hoping and praying that the teacher and the school have enough experience that I don’t need to fight for the right kind of help for Man Cub.
 
But, Dear Readers, I will have to make this work for Man Cub.  I won’t let him fall through the cracks.
. . . . .
Question:  Have any of YOU sent letters to your children’s teachers about their special needs? Did you find that they were well-received? 

About Carolyn

I'm Carolyn Mallon, RN, and I have ADHD. I'm also parenting at least one ADHD child, so it makes for quite an adventure! I don't have all the answers, but I certainly share the challenges of many ADHD parents! I started this blog as an exercise to help us improve our game at home and at school. Join us!

12 comments on “A Letter to My ADHD Child’s Teacher

  1. Just sent a very similar letter to my daughter’s new third grade teacher, and it was very well received. I think teachers appreciate the heads up. This was a great post, thank you!

    • The teacher got back to me a few hours later. Her response was brief, but she thanked me for the info and said she’d be free for one hour this afternoon if we’d like to stop in to meet her and see the class. :)

      I think that I would appreciate this kind of info as a teacher, and I tried hard to word it right…

      Glad yours went over well!!

      C
      Carolyn recently posted…Recognize Your Strengths and Choose Your Own LabelsMy Profile

  2. I love your letter! It actually describes my son perfectly! LOL We had a rough time of it last school year as well, and my son is also at a new school this year. Since he has already started, we have expressed very similar things to his new teacher, just not all at once in a letter. I like the idea of a letter so that the teacher can refer back to it later on. I have a meeting scheduled this week with my son’s teacher to go over some of the very things you’ve mentioned. Maybe I will write them down to give to her to keep. Best of luck to you and your little one this school year!

    • Hi Diana,

      Once I started writing the letter, I realized that I should have written this stuff or explained it to past teachers, whether it was a new school or not… particularly how he needs extra time to prepare for a change in the activity, or you need to confirm that he heard you…

      Good luck with your meeting!! And I think writing it all down will help!

      Carolyn

  3. I love this idea. We are currently nearing the end of the school year in Brisbane, unfortunately for my son his teacher does not understand ADHD at all and pretty much decided from the first day he was trouble. I think I may write a similar letter for his teacher next year, especially as he also is a wonderful little helper who loves to please. Thank you

  4. This is very helpful. I had a struggle with my son in his early years but I couldn’t understand it either. Wish I was more attentive but now he’s progressed better and does well in school. There’s moments I feel he still needs a lot of help but he’s gotten better in speaking up with any problems. I have written down thing from your letter just to give his teachers a lil heads up. Thank you. Your letter was very helpful.

  5. What a beautiful note – loving and articulate! I am new to your blog, and have an amazing 5 year old boy who has recently been diagnosed (confirmed my gut feelings) with ADHD – impulsive type + ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), and am just so impressed and thankful for this site! I look forward to learning and growing with you.

  6. I loved this post! I write a letter every year to my daughter’s teacher re: her challenges that need support but have not done so for my son. This letter describes my own son so well I could cut and paste! It is great to know that other parents start to open communication with teachers in this manner. My letters have always been well received and I am glad to hear your efforts were as well. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love your letter to the teacher. I have taught for 36 years. On the first day I send home my e-mail and encourage parents to keep me as updated as possible on any needs their students have. I send home a form for the parents to send back with strengths and needs of their child. Sometimes parents assume you know about their child from the year before but unless there is something dramatic to know we don’t have a lot of narrative from the year before just grades and tests results. A teacher will eventually know your child but you as the parental expert know tricks and tips to help speed up the process.

  8. My MIL would send letters with my husband and his brother on the first day of school, especially important once they hit middle and high school. Elementary teachers are often included in the IEP meetings, MS and HS teachers are not and often not even informed a student has an IEP.
    One helpful line she always included was that they talked about dyslexia and learning disabilities the same way they talked about brown hair and blue eyes, they are a part of you that is neither good nor bad, they just are.

  9. Kids with ADD/ADHD doesn’t mean that they can’t succeed at school. There are many things both parents and teachers can do to help children with ADD/ADHD thrive in the classroom. It starts with evaluating each child’s individual weaknesses and strengths, then coming up with creative strategies for helping the child focus, stay on task, and learn to his or her full capability. Your letter is a great way to start it 😀 Love this article!

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