With a lot of deep breaths, we headed into the school not quite sure what to expect. The fact that he came home with a note saying that he got very little done in math class that day made me really start to dread hearing what else she had to say. Sitting at the little table in the back of the class in those tiny chairs flashed me back to waiting outside the Principal's office when I was a kid.
We needn't have worried. It went really well despite that fact that he was bouncing off the walls - and slithering around on the floor like a snake.
His new teacher is Mrs. G. We were immediately put at ease when she told us that she did her Masters Degree in Education on kids with ADHD, and that her now 24 year old son was diagnosed with ADD with he was 6. We were also relieved when she said Jonas's behaviour that night was not something they usually see in school. Phew! He does have his moments but she's not overly concerned with his behaviour as long as we all work together to monitor it and help him learn to self-regulate.
She met us with a highlighted copy of our letter in hand. We went through it together, adressing each issue point by point, elaborating on many, as well as touching on some that weren't covered in the letter. She had a lot of great ideas and suggestions for both school and home. Here are the main ones:
- He's allowed to stand up at his desk to do his work, as long as he's not distrubing the other students.
- She keeps a huge staff of sharpened pencils at her desk so he doesn't need to get caught up with the pencil sharpener.
- She loves free time and hates homework. She'd rather cut a little play time during the day to get things done so that it doesn't have to go home. She will only send uncompleted work home if he wastes an excessive amount of time that will really impact his freetime. His only regular daily homework is 30 minutes of independant reading.
- She doesn't like spelling lists. She prefers to catch spelling errors in their every day work. She doesn't correct their errors but teaches them to use a dictionary to look up the words. (If they're really off, she'll give them the first three letters.)
- She is starting a "Homework Club". Jonas and a few other kids who are having a hard time with the notes in their agendas will meet with Mrs.G for five minutes afterschool every day to review and make sure their notes are clear and they understand what they mean.
- She's going to remind him to get his water bottle and put it on his desk every morning when he gets his agenda out. He can also have a Boost/Ensure on his desk instead of his water bottle. (Her son had dramatic appetite issues so she gets it.)
- An afterschool tutoring program should be up and running in a few weeks, and he's also going to join the home reading program again as well.
- He can read anything that interests him during independant reading time, as long as it's actual reading and not looking at the pictures and making up stories to go with them. She also gave us a new on-line reading comprehension program to try out.
- They practice telling the time anytime he leaves or arrives in the classroom. (i.e. washroom breaks)
- Jonas is going to join the cross country and guitar clubs, which happen before school and at lunch time.
- Together we're working on teaching him personal responsibility so "The ADHD made me do it!" isn't a valid excuse for anything and neither is "She made me do it!" If he breaks the rules, he loses his star for the day, even if he "was only talking to her because it's rude not to acknowledge when somebody talks to us".
- She has grouped the ADHD students together in the class. (There are 4 of them.) I was worried about them distracting each other but she says it's easier for her to manage their behaviour without drawing attention to them when they sit together. She can simply walk by and place her hand on the desk and all four snap back to attention.
- They are working on code words to help him refocus when he's having a tough time. "Focus" is one that he likes.
- She uses the same techniques to help manage his speech issues as we do and is very sensative to how the other students precieve him. She treats anything that comes up on her watch as a teachable moment and she doesn't tolerate bullying. If anybody gives Jonas a hard time about the way he speaks, he is to tell her so that they can deal with it together.
- He can use a computer at school or at home for homework as long as he keeps practicing his handwriting too.
- She uses a Star Program: A good day of rule following nets them a star at the end of the day, which they can trade in at the end of the week for rewards.
- We're starting to think about the Ontario EQOA Testing in May. He's already nervous about it and there's no way he'll get through it without some formal strategies in place.
We covered a lot of ground in that hour or so. It was so refreshing not to walk out feeling defeated or frustrated. Jonas left the meeting knowing that mom, dad and Mrs. G are a team and on his side. Steve and I left the meeting feeling very relieved that he is in such good hands. Phew!