Working with teachers
I work with a lot with schools to help the teachers understand the diagnosis of ADHD. Some teachers have a really clear understanding about ADHD and how it impacts the classroom and some teachers don’t. I spend time talking with teachers and seeing what kinds of modifications can happen in the classroom. It may involve moving a child to the front of the classroom, or ensuring that the child gives the teacher eye contact, or having the teacher give the child direct instructions, or having the teacher touch the kid’s shoulder to get his or her attention back: little, small things like that. I may have teachers prompt a young lady or young man before they leave the classroom to make sure they have written down their homework assignments. Sometimes, with collaboration with teachers and the child, the teacher and child are able to create little subtle codes/communication when he child’s engine is revving up and what he or she can do, such as slow their “motor down,” or take a quick break. In some situations I set it up so that the teacher is in constant communication with the parent around homework. The teacher communicates to the parent what the child has for homework, so the parents can manage the homework.24
Marcus Cherry, PhD, Child and Pediatric Psychologist
Working with different kinds of teachers
There are teachers who have a wide range of information and misinformation about ADHD. However, some teachers don’t believe ADHD is a disorder and think mental health professionals have medicalized motivational issues and problems. Still others think that ADHD can only solved by medication intervention. I’ve recently talked with a teacher of a particularly hyperactive child I treat and the only issue this teacher wanted to discuss is if the child’s psychiatrist would raise the child’s medication level. The teacher did not want to talk about classroom management or what her role would be in the intervention. We see this as a big challenge to work with in order to have the most effective treatment plan. In contrast, there are other teachers who are very conversant, well informed, and willing to work on classroom management strategies. That collaborative approach seems to go particularly well.
Eugene D’Angelo, PhD, Chief, Division of Psychology
What is an IEP?
An IEP, or individualized educational plan, is the working document that schools generate to chart a course of action for a child who is having some difficulties in school. By federal and state laws public schools must provide the appropriate support and services to address any needs that a child might have so that the child can be successfully educated. These include learning problems (like tutoring for dyslexia), physical problems (like ramps or elevators for children who are wheelchair bound) or behavioral/emotional problems (like a child who needs a small contained classroom to control their behavior or attend to their work). Children from age 2 years 11 months through age 22 may be covered under certain circumstances. The plans are generated when a problem has been noted and the child’s parent requests an evaluation. The evaluation is broadly based and includes educational, pediatric, social, and psychological components. For a child in need any or all areas may be included in the IEP. Unfortunately IEPs may put substantial economic pressures on a school’s budget, placing the parent/child and school on opposite sides of the economic fence. However, monetary concerns do not relieve a school of their obligation to the child (despite some school systems’ claims to the contrary) and there is an appeal process available to families if they feel the proposed IEP is inadequate.
Stuart Goldman, MD, Senior Associate in Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Making sure the IEP is right
I feel that input from the school is a vital part of evaluating and treating a child with ADHD. Thus I often speak with teachers, suggest that parents obtain an IEP or review the IEP if it is available, and make referrals for further testing if I think this would help the family, their child and the school fine tune the child’s educational needs and better address behavioral, emotional and social needs.
Barbara Burr, MD, Pediatric Psychiatrist