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Classroom Considerations

Classroom Considerations

Helping Navigate the Education System When Your Child Has ADHD

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Elaine Taylor-Klaus discusses how her family has accepted their differences and learned to work together

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    Prepping for Parent-Teacher Conferences
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    Elaine Taylor-Klaus talks about how she approaches parent-teacher conferences

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    Discussion Points for Conversations With Teachers
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    Michele Borba discusses potential conversation topics that parents can bring up during parent teacher conferences

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    Sensory Strip for Fidgeting
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    Kirk Martin discusses a multi-textured fabric strip that he has utilized with his son to help him focus during class

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    Homework and the Child with ADHD
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    Kirk Martin discusses homework time and how he helped his son accomplish his work

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    Ways to Assist Building a Family Team
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    Elaine Taylor-Klaus discusses how her family has accepted their differences and learned to work together

Classroom Considerations

Quick Tips that May Help Boost Your Child’s Organization Skills By Michele Borba, EdD

Staying organized is not easy. It is something that can require a lot of work and maintenance. But, there are skills that you can teach your child to give them a boost so they are less likely to need reminders or lose things. The critical point here is: There is no best organization system, so what works for you may not work for your child. Also, don’t get caught up in fancy, pricey electronic systems or buy something just because it looks good. The trick is to find a simple system that helps your child and then continue to help your child use it until it becomes a new habit.

There are a wide range of ideas, but choose only what helps your kid. Here are a few organizational ideas that I have suggested to parents that they have found helpful:

  • Assign a buddy. Your child should have a “homework partner” at school to make sure assignments are understood and written down to avoid confusion once he is at home completing it.
  • Color code. Assign a different color for each subject or class then provide a matching colored notebook and divider to store each item.
  • Calendars. Find a simple calendar where your child can mark down assignments. You may need to help your child update the calendar each day.
  • Picture charts. Use visual aids (images of a smile, a tidy room, or sports gear away in its cupboard) and turn those into a reminder chart.
  • Checklists. List reoccurring tasks, print it off and have your child turn it into a check-off list.
  • Alarms and watches. Show your child how to set the alarm feature on a cell phone or computer.

 

Please don’t expect overnight change in your child and keep your expectations realistic. But with patience and consistency you will be able to help your child learn how to be more organized and adopt new organizational habits that will be carried through the rest of his/her life.

Parent and Teacher Teamwork By Michele Borba, EdD

I always tell parents that having a strong and positive relationship with your child’s school may help improve your child’s school experience. If your goal is to try to create a collaborative relationship with your child’s teacher, then I suggest attending the Open House, all conferences and reading those teacher notes.

Know the teacher’s expectations. I have found it to be helpful if a parent understands the teacher’s expectations and homework policy so you, the teacher and your child are on the same page. Does the teacher post homework assignments online, via email or on a telephone? How much of the homework will affect your child’s grade? How often will it be assigned? How will you be informed of your child’s progress or any problems? And most importantly: On an average, how long should the homework take per night? Once you know the policy, have a talk with your child so he knows you are not only aware of those expectations but will support them. If your child is in middle school she probably has a number of teachers, so you will have to do the same queries per teacher.

Are the homework assignments too much? The National Education Association and the PTA recommend a maximum of ten minutes of homework per grade level per night. If you are concerned that your child is struggling because of an excessive workload: Record the total amount of time during a typical week and add the minutes. Let the teacher know about tasks that cause struggles or excess time: “This took two hours. Did you intend it to take so long?” If the heavy workload continues, set up a teacher conference to voice your concerns. If you think the teacher’s expectations are not realistic, talk to other parents. Do they think the tasks are too hard, too easy, or just right? How are their kids doing? If you still feel homework is severely excessive then next talk to the principal at your school.

In my experience as a parent and a teacher, the most important thing to remember is that your child’s teacher and school are vital members of your support team. I have found that building a solid and friendly relationship with your child’s school is a helpful step in making sure your child is set-up to do their very best at school.

Help Keep Your Child Organized By Michele Borba, EdD

There certainly are things you can try to help your child become more organized. And doing so now may help them greatly in the years to come when you’re not there to be their personal assistant. I tell parents that the secret is to take on just one troubling issue at a time, find a simple solution that helps your child, and then stick to it until your organization system becomes a habit. Here are a few of the best solutions I’ve found:

Stop rescuing. In my experience, your first step is often the hardest (and in my opinion the most important). If you really, really want your child to learn how to be better organized, then you must stop being your child’s personal assistant. So take a vow that you will teach your child organization skills and then once your child learns them, you will step back and make him or her be responsible for any consequences (like missing a deadline, losing a library book, or misplacing sports gear).

Create a place for everything. The next step is to help your kid organize what he has to make things easier to find and put away. Don’t go getting crazy here. Just identify the “code red” areas that usually cause the stress and argument and find a simple solution:

  • Problem: Can’t find his or her shoes and jackets.
  • Solution: Clean out the closet, and then purchase a few inexpensive closet organizers so he or she can find and put things away quicker.

Reduce clutter. In my experience, I’ve found that kids are more organized with less clutter so go through his or her drawers, closet, toys and equipment barrels, and eliminate those unnecessary extras. Throw away all those never used or broken things (and try to do so every six to eight weeks). Then employ these clutter reducers:

  • Rotate toys. Come on, your kid doesn’t really play with all those toys, right? So put some of those away and pull them out again in a few weeks.
  • Hold a garage sale. Here is your time for your kid to make a little extra cash by selling his/her old toys, clothes, and books by holding a family garage sale. Put your kids in charge of making flyers, setting up cash boxes and displaying sale items.
  • Donate to charity. Give your child a box and tell him to stock it with gently used possessions. Then help him deliver the box to a Goodwill store or charity of his/her choice.
  • Under-bed storage. For those occasionally used things, get storage bins that can slide under your child’s bed. “Out of sight, out of mind” is the organizational strategy.

Set a cleanup routine. I often tell parents that once your child is more organized, the trick is to keep to that system. In my experience, the best way to do so is by enforcing a quick once or twice a week cleanup brigade policy. Just be realistic and don’t expect your child’s room to pass the “white glove” inspection test. Instead, be more realistic. Identify those hot spot areas that need continual upkeep and ink the “clean up” dates to your calendar. For instance: Monday, desk; Tuesday, bedroom; Saturday, sports gear; Sunday, backpack. Then employ the “Clean, Then Play (or email or call your friends) Rule.”

Setting the Stage for Homework Time By Michele Borba, EdD

For parents and children, homework time can be a struggle. One piece of advice I often give parents is to try your best to set the stage for homework success. With homework time, setting up that study spot with your child’s ideal working conditions is one way to do that. But, how do you know what is the right environment for your child? Like most things, it might be a matter of trial and error. In my experience, usually it’s a smaller space not facing windows, hallways or noise contributors. Pushing a desk against a blank wall may also reduce distractions. Some kids I have worked with benefit from earplugs, earphones or even listening to a certain type of music. Might these help your child? Involve your child in that “discovery process” so your child can recognize what helps him/her learn and then keep experimenting until you find the best options. Hint: One dad I worked with cut away the side of a refrigerator crate and put a small desk inside at his son’s suggestion. It did the trick.

Impulsivity at School By Michele Borba, EdD

Your child’s impulsive nature may unintentionally have a negative effect on his school, home and social success. Quick-fire behaviors make kids “stand out,” make learning difficult and can potentially cause them to get into trouble. And those repeated negative experiences can make their self-esteem take a huge nose-dive. Below are some suggestions that I offer to parents who inquire about ways to help their child tackle impulsivity at school:

  • Become an ally with the teacher so you can be on the same page
  • Ask your child to sit in the least distracting place possible
  • Set up a behavior plan where you can reward your child for on-task behavior

Since every child’s needs are different, it is important to work together with your child’s school to find the best way to deal with any impulsivity issues in the classroom. Your child’s teacher can work with you to brainstorm solutions and also evaluate whether any actions are appropriate for their classroom.

Healthy Homework Habits By Michele Borba, EdD

The single most important parent tip I can provide is to recognize that your role with homework is not “doer.” The work responsibility rests in your kids’ hands, not yours. Sure, you need to make sure they understand the concepts and are capable of the assignments, but once they expect you to do it for them, you have to stop. Instead, follow this new parenting mantra: “Never do for your child, what your child can do for himself.”

  • Develop a homework reminder. Work with your child to plot out a homework schedule. The goal is to create a simple reminder of daily or weekly assignments as well as long-term projects and reports. A white board or chalkboard is preferable because it is reusable. With a permanent marker list the days of the week or month and then note regular daily or weekly assignments (Wednesday: library; Friday: spelling test). Keep it in a central place in your home for everyone to quickly refer to.
  • Divide the assignment into smaller parts. Breaking up homework into smaller chunks is often helpful for kids who have difficulty sticking to a task or seem overwhelmed with an assignment. Just tell your child to do “one chunk at a time." Gradually, you can increase the size of the "work chunks" as your child’s confidence increases.
  • Check the finished product. In my experience, teachers often ask that a parent sign the completed homework, so I advise parents to have their kids get in the habit of showing you the finished paper. Once done, then encourage them to establish a routine that they immediately put the work in their folder or binder, place in their backpack and set by the door. (So they can easily find it the next morning.)
Navigating After School By Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CPCC, PCC

Do you ever find yourself dreading your kids coming home from school because you’re just not sure you have the energy for another afternoon homework battle? I know I used to feel that way a lot. Just the thought of homework made me break out in hives.

So how do you help your kids work that double-shift after a long day at school? Especially if your child has been struggling to stay focused all day? Here are a few strategies that have worked in my family and for the families that work with me:

1.Have compassion. Think about the amount of energy your child has expended all day just staying in a chair and trying to pay attention. Remember what it feels like for you after a long day at work.
2.Take a break. When you get off work, do you want to go right back to it? Neither do kids. I know it would be easier for you if they would just sit down and get it done. But, if your kids are like mine, they don’t have a “just get it done” button. Their brains need to fly free for a bit.
3.On that note, feed the brain. Give protein snacks (not empty carbs), and make time for exercise (running around the neighborhood counts!).
4.Give choices. Let them be part of the decision about when to do their homework, and where. If it doesn’t work, you can help them tweak it. But choices – which they rarely get during the day – will help them begin to “own” their work.
5.Clear the air. School is intense. All those kids, expectations, requirements, and responsibilities. It’s a lot to manage and our kids tend to come home with full minds, like a balloon ready to pop. So don’t fix their problems. Ask, “what else?” and let them vent. Like leaking air from a balloon, it may make a terrible noise, but will prevent an explosion (and make more room).
6.Focus on the process, not the product. Our kids need to learn HOW to learn. My children are very smart, but the executive functions of organizing, prioritizing, sequencing, and time management are challenges for them. Help them get into the good habit of:
  • Specifying the tasks each day
  • Estimating time
  • Deciding on the order
  • Finding motivations for getting it done
Strength-Based Approach for School By Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CPCC, PCC

There have been times when school has been really challenging for my children. As a parent, you can’t take away the hard parts. But, in my experience, by focusing on my child’s strengths, I was able to provide some balance so that they still feel successful in school.

In working with parents, I have heard that their child’s school treats the children as “generalists” who are expected to excel at every subject. I have also experienced this with my own children’s school. My fear is that we may make the mistake of giving so much attention to our kids’ “weak” areas that we take away from playing to their strengths. For example, we may give extra time for math, and take them out of music to make the schedule work.

This is counter-productive. When we focus on weak areas, kids miss out on the opportunity to FEEL successful.

Chances are your child is talented in at least one area in school – even if s/he lacks the organization to perform well. Look for natural talent – all it takes is one. Does s/he love to read? Enjoy playing with numbers? Love art? Sports? Whatever the strength, pay attention – and make the most of it!

Constantly celebrate that talent, and point out every application of it in real life. Help your child feel naturally gifted.

You can increase your child’s commitment to his/her education by showing an interest, without actually doing the work for her!

There are times, though, when our kids do need extra support. Maybe they have a learning disability that makes writing or math calculations extra challenging, or trouble focusing makes it difficult to settle down to get work done. With my kids, there are definitely times that they are going to need a little more help and a bit more structure with their school-work.

Here’s the tip from a mom who has been there: when the wheel is squeaking, oil it. When they need extra support, offer it. If it becomes too much – if you feel they are using you as a crutch and not a support – check in with the learning specialist at school. The goal is for them to be able to work independently. But don’t be surprised if it takes your participation to teach them how to achieve that independence. This is not enabling them. This is supporting them. And while it’s a fine line, and may be a difficult line for parents to walk, it’s all the more reason to stay engaged in your child’s education. That way, you’ll be able to trust yourself to know when your help is really needed.

Concerned About Your Child's Behavior in School? By Kirk Martin

Does your child ever flounder at school because he/she has trouble with focus and attention? The disappointment that goes along with struggling at school is a topic that frequently comes up during my seminars. As a parent, I get it, there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing your child’s self-esteem erode.

Over the years, I have helped my son by trying different approaches to help him learn and set him up for success. Below are some suggestions that have worked for me and also ones that educators have shared with me across the country.

One note, your child’s teacher is an invaluable member of your support team. Use my suggestions below as a jumping-off point to brainstorm ways you can work together to create the best learning environment for your child:

  • Avoid sending your child to school with any items that might serve as a distraction (action figures or other toys).
  • Make learning fun and memorable by suggesting playacting sessions where students can act out the characters from their reading assignment.
  • Experiment with color. Provide your child colored folders to help them organize school subjects and projects. Or, use color to help your child remember correct spelling or math symbols.
  • Hand out coupons/raffle tickets to reward participation and positive behavior.
  • Pair your child up with a friend who can serve as a homework buddy or a partner for reading assignments.