Just because your child has an Individual Education Plan does not mean that your days of school vigilance are behind you. Even the best-laid plans must be continually monitored to ensure that the decisions the team made were appropriate and are being implemented properly.
Your elementary- or middle-school child is not likely to recognize when the plan runs amok or be able to articulate that school is not going well.
It’s your job to look for the red flags that suggest all is not well. Typical signs include:
- Increased disengagement or day-dreaming
- A tendency not to complete homework and in-class assignments
- Inability to retain learning (for example, she is able to do division one day, but not the next)
- Forgetting to hand in homework or losing it
Cries for Help
In addition, if your child feels pressure to keep up with the pace of her classmates, you may see signs of anxiety and acts of desperation, such as cheating or lying about missing work. You may also begin to hear phrases such as, “I hate school,” “I’m sick and can’t go today,” “The teachers are stupid,” or “The kids are mean.”
Children are not by nature dishonest or lazy. Those behaviors are cries for help not to be ignored. As the parent, you must look and listen for the subtle clues that let you know your child is in need of help from the one adult she can always trust—and then take action to correct the situation. Sometimes that involves convening a team meeting; other times it might be as simple as talking one-on-one with the teacher to find ways to re-engage your reluctant learner.
Smart Kids asked parents to share their ideas for making the classroom a more student-friendly environment for children with LD and ADHD. Here are their responses, some of which can be included in the IEP, while others can be worked out with the teacher.
- Don’t make my child read aloud, if he struggles—or, if he must read aloud, give him advance notice, so that he can be prepared.
- Don’t call on my child unless she raises her hand. This goes a long way toward easing her fear of humiliation in class.
- Set up a way my child can signal when he needs a break, then give him a classroom task or errand allowing him to move around before refocusing on schoolwork.
- Seat my child near the front of the room, and find an unobtrusive way to regain her attention if she appears distracted (e.g., resting your hand briefly on her desk).
- Be flexible about giving my child the extra time he’s allowed for tests —maybe 10 or 15 minutes during another class period, in the resource room or library.
- Believe my child when she says “I can’t,” and figure out an alternative way for her to approach a task or modify the assignment.
- Teach my child to monitor and recheck his work—preferably at a later time—to help minimize the mistakes he’s likely to make because of his limited attention resources.
- Don’t increase her frustration by assigning a task she can’t handle like repeating a handwriting exercise when she only writes upside down and backwards.