angryteacherboySizedA desperate parent asks Dave for help.

Hello Dave,

I received a letter from the school telling me that my 6 year old son (Gr 0) has to appear before the school board to explain his "bad" behavior.

My son has been diagnosed with ADHD in Feb of this year. Ever since the diagnosis was made by an occupational therapist and then confirmed by a psychiatrist in May, our lives have been turned upside down!

The good thing about the diagnosis is that now finally we know that there is a reason for his behavior, and that he is NOT the bad and naughty child everybody keeps telling him that he is. He is on Ritalin 15mg in the morning (We are still working to get him to the correct dose.) The one thing I can not understand is: Why is he doing all these "naughty" things only when he is at school?

I have to go with him and face the school board who wants to discipline a 6 year old ADHD boy, because of his bad behavior.. I'm lost, I'm scared out of my mind!!

Please help me explain to the school about ADHD.

Dave's Reply

I am so sorry to hear about the problems you are having.

Here is what I believe you need to do.

This is most important: Tell them that NO ADHD child gets up in the morning and plots how to make the teacher and other children's lives a misery. We might make people's lives difficult, but we don't plan to do that.

We do not aim to hurt others, emotionally or physically. Impulsivity is one of the hallmark characteristics of the condition. One adult client many years ago described this as,"it bypasses my brain and comes straight out of my mouth."

It sounds like your son is reacting to his environments. We have trained more than 4 000 teachers over the last 5 years. Often we get responses like, "the child is not a problem anymore." The child hasn't changed but the teachers change how they deal with the ADHD child. That is why there is a difference in his behaviour - this is an inherent characteristic of ADHD.

I am going to suggest three things.

  1. You do not take your son into the meeting, he can sit outside with a family member. Even for older children, matric teens for instance, these governing body meetings are extremely intimidating. At his age, your child will suffer enormous emotional damage. You cannot punish a child into success!
  2. You ask to address the meeting before your son is brought in. Explain why, and table the documents I have attached below. Also mention the solution about Educator training below.
  3. We will offer your son's teacher the opportunity to do the same course as you are doing at 50% of the cost - that is R600.00. As part of the course, the teacher can communicate with me about how she is struggling, and i will assist her directly. Even though it is a parenting course, there is much that applies to classroom management.

I have attached our ACT forms that you can table in the meeting tonight. This will ensure that we can see what the problems are, and address them, instead of making generalizations about what is happening.

I would also table the course email that you used to sign up for the course, the one that describes what is in the course.

We are offering this combination of parent and educator training at the reduced cost to everyone, as this is where we get the best results, and the child benefits, which is the aim of the course. The payment can be made by anyone, you or a friend can even pay for the teacher if they plead poverty. We know that many schools do not have the budgets to do everything they want to do.

I advise you strongly that you do not "accuse or attack" anyone in the meeting.

Use what we call "I" messages. You express how you feel and what you have done and are doing. Express that you are actively looking for solutions, and have found one. Express too that you want to assist the school to raise children that can reach their potential.

Here are a few examples:

  • I am struggling/working hard with the doctor to get the right dosage for my son.
  • I understand that ADHD is not part of the teachers training, I have found a course and I am offering the school the opportunity to learn about this complex condition.
  • I am confused/sad/unhappy/mystified about the things that I hear about my child. I am doing something to help my child and the school.

DO NOT USE THE WORD "YOU" That is an attack and they will defend it.

I have also attached two documents that you can table as well. One is the list of successful ADDers - people who have reached their potential because they were managed correctly.

The second is the 20 Parenting Guidelines document. You can table these as examples of what the teacher will experience on the course.

Finally, I am going suggest (strongly) that you make a list of all the things you want to say in the meeting. Stick to the list. Create a picture in your mind of you walking out of the meeting with the result you want - or at least the first steps on the road to a solution.

Don't be angry, keep your mind on the solution.

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