the dreaded phone call

Why can’t school be this engaging, fun,
interactive? He’s experimenting with
science here and loving every minute!
Over the past couple months, there have been a lot of bets in a lot of our households having something to do with how long it would take from the start of school until we received a phone call from the school about our child — the dreaded phone call.
In years past, our phone call has come pretty early. In kindergarten, I had a phone call on the second day of school. No, I didn’t mean second week, it was the second day. In first grade (different school), notes began coming home about behavior issues and being off task within a week or two. In second grade, I believe Luke had a referral within two weeks (they always call home for referrals!).
This year I didn’t preface the start of school with a “Luke 101” meeting with his teacher. I let them get to know each other, all the while holding my breath each day from 7:30 am until 2:40 pm. Two weeks went, I was turning blue, and not a word from school. Oh boy, not a word! Not even a reminder sheet about turning in paperwork or joining the PTO. Luke was bringing home nothing.
And so I gave Luke and Mrs. N a couple weeks to get to know each other and then I sent Mrs. N an email.
I imagine it is about time for us to have a conference regarding Luke, ADHD, and accommodations he may need in your classroom.

I wanted him to have a chance to get to know you, your teaching style, rules, and classroom and you to have a chance to get to know him and where he might struggle before discussing his ADHD and special needs. I’ve found that each school year is so different from the one before that previous accommodations aren’t always applicable. I think he’s doing okay so far but I have no way of knowing for sure. I haven’t received any papers home except a receipt for the Scholastic News payment. I do know he’s been on yellow a few days. He and I have discussed the issue with breaking pencils. He really struggles with writing (both handwriting and the creative process) and he tells me he’s breaking pencils when he gets frustrated during writing. I think there are several alternatives to help him with that.

I’d like to sit down with you and find out how he’s doing in the classroom and how we might help him succeed in third grade. Do you have time to meet one day next week?

Her response was:

I am so THRILLED [inflection NOT added for effect] to hear from you!!!  Yes, we need to meet.  I wanted to take some time to get to know Luke  before we met.  I’ve read over his 504 and have been utilizing the accommodations.  However, I’m not enjoying success… He is a great kiddo.  I know he’s smart, and he tunes right in when we’re doing math.  I’m just really worried that he’s not getting anything else.

And there you have it.
If I had not prefaced the year by telling her he has ADHD and a 504 Plan but I’d like them to have time to settle in with each other, there would have been a phone call home.
While I joke that this phone call is “the dreaded phone call,” it’s actually good to receive this call. This means the teachers realize there’s a problem and they are enlisting your help. This phone call is your call to action. It’s a window of opportunity being opened right in front of you. Don’t take offense… take action! This is your fork in the road. I’d like to say it’s up to you to decide which path to take, but the choice is obvious and I’m going to spell it right out. You must take action and work with the school to help your child. Getting defensive or ignoring the problem is the path of ignorance, not a good path to be on my friends.
So you make a great choice and you take the path of action. You have a couple options again. If you do not have any accommodations in place or an IEP for your child in school, this is your golden ticket to start that process. Respond to the phone calls with a written request to have your child evaluated. If you have accommodations in place, like we do, these calls are opening the dialogue to discover ways to help your child. ADHD kids learn differently. Okay, all kids learn differently. It’s important to work with your child’s teacher to discover the best way to reach your child and help them achieve success in school.
I avoided the dreaded phone call this year, but only because I preempted it through a bit of wisdom instilled in years past. We still have issues. Luke is doing a phenomenal job with behavior this year (he got BLUE/PURPLE last Friday!) but he is not completing his work and staying on task. I see so many improvements in him in third grade now (the improved behavior and he’s starting to self-regulate by weighing consequences), but we still have so far to go. I am going to work with his counselor and his teacher to devise a plan to get the work done. And, if that plan doesn’t work, we’ll make a new one and try, try again.
As parents of an ADHD child, we sometimes try to tell ourselves that school isn’t everything, or maybe that the general public doesn’t understand our child. But those are excuses and they are letting ADHD become a crutch and run our lives. Remember, power to the kiddo, not their ADHD. Part of helping an ADHD child find success in life is to shape their environment to work for them, and part of it is to help them shape themselves to succeed in their environment. We have to teach them the tools to  meet the demands of the everyday, real world. School should be part of this process.

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom.
A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom’s view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

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Related posts:

504 plan, adhd and school, behavior modification, classroom accommodations, learning disabilities, organization, parenting/FAMILY, Penny Williams, school failure, special education (IEP) ·

About the author

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom. A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom's view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

8 Comments

  1. Erin says:

    Penny, Excellent Story!!!! I too am going through this with my son who just started Kindergarten! We have received calls from his teacher as well as emails. Thankfully his teacher is wonderful and she is willing to do anything to help our son! You hit the nail on the head with this story, as you always do! Thank you for reaching out to people with your blog and facebook page, what a differance you have made!

    Reply
  2. Lisa says:

    I am not sure how I stumbled across your blog but I am sure glad I did! I have an 8 year old daughter who has ADHD and I'm starting to suspect she has ODD also.
    My daughter is in the 3rd grade this year and we just had our first parent teacher conference about a week in a half after school started!
    Anyway…It's very comforting to know that I am not know the only parent out there who is dealing with these same issues. Thanks for sharing your story :0)

    Reply
  3. Sunny says:

    Great post. I hope you are feeling great about all Luke's improvements and your hard work. We are having a pretty good third grade year and when I get frustrated, I try to remind myself how far we've come.

    Reply
  4. dmd says:

    Luke's teacher sounds like she is really eager to work with you and with him – that's great!

    My son, Dylan, also started third grade this year. He got diagnosed over the summer, so this is the first year on meds. At a classroom visit, I saw huge changes. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the teachers see it because they don't have last year as a comparison. I get the usual comments that he is not on task. His teacher – who is French – doesn't *quite* get ADHD, although I'm trying to gently educate him. He thinks “Dylan can do it.” Well…not always. I gave him several articles about the condition including this link that I just saw this week:

    http://adhdteacher.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/im-in-your-classroom-dont-forget-me/

    I think some people hear ADHD and they only get the hyperactive part of that. Dylan is not really hyperactive, but he is excessively inattentive. I think because we are just facing this, Dylan is not quite there in the self regulation, although I know he is trying.

    Reply
  5. Erin L. says:

    I read this post this morning and thought about how fortunate it was that third grade seemed to be going so smoothly for us. Then this afternoon my son came home with a note from his teacher. How's that for timing! He had a lot of trouble focusing today (and other days, I imagine). Luckily, I already had a conference set up with her for tomorrow to discuss accommodations in the classroom. I'm wondering if he would benefit from a 504 Plan. We feel fortunate that he does not have trouble learning or retaining information but does take a very long time to complete assignments and is pretty easily distracted (even with meds). I'm trying to think of this as more of a “call to action” as you suggest, however, I can't help but get that oh-so-familiar feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.

    I'm so happy that I found your blog last spring. I can't believe how often this happens…your write about something almost exactly as we are experiencing the same thing. It helps so much to know that we are not alone and I really appreciate your positive and proactive attitude. Thanks.

    Reply
  6. :) says:

    I too wait for the dreaded phone call and my son is in the 7th grade. I so can realate. My son is doing excellent managing his ADHD in large part to skills he learned during the elementary years. I love the checklist my son had a similiar one during 4,5,6th grade. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  7. The only phone call I've ever received from Javi's 3rd grade teacher (last year). She was trained in special needs and AIG, but had reached the end of her rope with him. Her call to me was a call for help. I was extremely grateful for it — likely because previous teachers had taken their frustrations out on him rather than admit they lacked the resources and experience to curb problems.

    I agree with your advice to use the call as invitation to better service your child's needs. View teachers are partners in the fight to help your child succeed, not impediments.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous says:

    Great idea to reach out to the teacher. You inspired me to be proactive and not wait for the inevitable phone call.

    Reply

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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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