Empowering Families: A Discussion on Informed School Selection

Scott, Director of Family and School Engagement with MySchoolsTucson
Check out this insightful open discussion dedicated to strategies communities can take to help families navigate the diverse educational landscape. This session, centered on families and students, was led by Scott Evans, Director of Family and School Engagement

Navigating the Back-to-School Transition: ADHD Accommodations for a Successful Home Environment

By Nicole Moore, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Semi-fall has arrived in southern Arizona. This is the time of year when the monsoons are winding down, and the scorching hot temperatures persist. While no falling leaves are in sight, there is still a change in the season for families in the desert.  As the rush of returning to school settles and new routines begin to take shape, parents find themselves delicately balancing the management of their children’s school and home lives. The start of a new school year often brings a mixture of excitement and challenges, especially for students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

 

This transition also adds an extra layer of contemplation for families, as the unstructured days of summer are behind them, replaced by scholastic demands.  Parents supporting children with ADHD must take into account their child’s distinct experiences to provide customized support spanning academic, cognitive, emotional, social, and familial aspects. This can sometimes result in families feeling overwhelmed by these demands and uncertain about where to initiate their efforts.

Hence, comprehending the situation is pivotal. ADHD is a neurodevelopment disorder characterized by challenges in sustaining attention, controlling impulses, and regulating hyperactivity. These symptoms can significantly impact a student’s ability to concentrate, organize tasks, and manage time effectively. Consequently, academic performance and daily routines may suffer, leading to frustration, family conflicts, and anxiety/depression.

Therefore, preparing your child for success requires careful planning. Incorporating your child’s perspective can bolster their readiness to engage in home-based accommodations that might be different from those of their siblings. This can be an opportunity for collaboration and empathy. Your child’s insights, suggestions, and ideas hold great significance in this process. 

They might have previously attempted successful approaches or possess fresh concepts you have not considered. Children are resilient and can evolve into your most steadfast allies in their own support.
So, gather a notepad, create a comfortable space, and put on your thinking caps as you and your child/teen come together to strategize a successful academic year within the home environment.

Together, here are some things to explore:  

1. Homework Space:
Take a moment to assess your home surroundings. Identify a spot where you and your child can establish a productive study area. This space should be free from distractions, clutter, and noise, creating an optimal setting for your child’s concentration. Make sure there’s ample lighting, comfortable seating, and suitable tools to address fidgeting when necessary.
It’s important to acknowledge that it’s typical for kids with ADHD to read while standing, fidget their legs under the desk while counting, or require frequent breaks to re-center their focus after extended periods of concentration. Therefore, integrating these elements into the learning environment will contribute to an extra layer of success. Friendly Reminder: Parents are masters of multitasking. It might seem convenient to have the kids work on homework at the kitchen island while preparing dinner. However, this approach is likely to result in distractions, difficulty focusing, frequent need for redirection, and potentially even moments of frustration, yelling, or tears for your child with ADHD. Bear in mind that your child with ADHD has distinct requirements compared to their siblings and may benefit from dedicated, one-on-one attention from parents (without multitasking) during homework sessions. It could be worthwhile for parents to reevaluate their expectations concerning homework space and time management, considering the individual needs of their child.

2. Time Management and Scheduling
Managing time poses challenges for numerous students, particularly those with ADHD. Allocating sufficient time for extracurricular activities, chores, and homework can reduce the need to rush through tasks, ultimately leading to a decrease in behavioral challenges. Visual schedules, reminders, and timers serve to enhance structure after school hours. For older students, digital tools, school planners, and apps can aid in task management. Teaching your child time-blocking techniques can effectively aid in prioritization and time allocation. What is the most age appropriate tool you and your child can use to help increase time management and scheduling? What would need to be done to put this into place?

3. Breaking Down Tasks and Setting Goals
The concept of sending your 7-year-old to clean their room might seem practical, but for a child with ADHD, it could prove to be an overwhelming endeavor. That’s why, after about 10 minutes, you might find them engrossed in playing with magnets instead. The key lies in breaking tasks into manageable portions to foster success.

For instance, instead of a broad directive, you could ask them to pick up and put away all the books in their room onto the bookshelf. Then, move on to the next task, one step at a time, until the entire room is tidied up. Complex assignments can be particularly daunting for students with ADHD. The intensity of focus required for such tasks often triggers a feeling of being overwhelmed, leading to shutdowns, procrastination, or task avoidance.

To address this, encouraging the division of assignments into smaller, attainable segments can make the process more feasible. Establishing both short-term and long-term goals imparts a sense of direction. Guiding your young scholar to break tasks into smaller parts and allocate time for each short-term goal within their schedule will nurture vital task-completion skills.

Don’t forget to acknowledge times of positive task completion. Commemorating even the tiniest accomplishments can heighten motivation.

4. Effective Study Techniques for ADHD Learners
Customizing study techniques to align with the distinctive learning styles of students with ADHD can lead to favorable results. Incorporating active learning strategies, like hands-on activities or discussions, can heighten engagement. Employing multi-sensory methods that encompass visual, auditory, and kinesthetic components can strengthen the learning process. Moreover, integrating self-testing and retrieval practices can enhance information retention. Transforming a regular paper-and-pencil homework task into something more dynamic can significantly contribute to maintaining your child’s engagement. If they are bored, get creative!

5. Incorporating Sensory Strategies & Breaks
Collaboratively, pinpoint some indicators for both you and your child to recognize as signals that it’s time for a break. One method to counteract burnout involves implementing structured breaks. For instance, after every 30 minutes of concentrated work, allow for a 10-minute break. Often, children and teenagers may be uncertain about how to spend these breaks. Here, parents can offer support by introducing sensory reset techniques, like calming activities or gentle movement exercises. Drinking water, doing wall pushes, heading outdoors for a quick run, or even performing push-ups can be beneficial for those seeking sensory input.

Sensory strategies hold a pivotal role in helping students with ADHD maintain engagement and focus. It’s worth noting that, at times, parents might interpret these strategies as play during homework time. However, fidget tools can channel excess energy, ultimately enhancing concentration.

6. Communication and Collaboration
Effective communication among parents, teachers, and students is paramount to your child’s success. Sharing ADHD accommodations and strategies across both home and school environments ensures everyone is aligned and working collaboratively toward a shared objective. Having consistent accommodations in both settings enhances support and coherence.

Empowering students to express their needs and challenges cultivates a sense of empowerment. Many students find it challenging to seek help in the school context due to social embarrassment. However, the ability to advocate for oneself is an invaluable skill. Teaching your child to identify their strengths and areas for improvement empowers them to seek appropriate assistance, fostering a heightened sense of achievement and self-assuredness.

At home, engage in regular check-ins with your child to discuss in-home accommodations. Collaboratively identifying areas for refinement ensures your child receives the most beneficial support and the space to explore and advocate for their needs. It’s important to keep in mind that what proved effective in one school year might necessitate adjustments in the next, reflecting the evolving nature of your child’s needs.

7. Time In
Children and teenagers with ADHD often experience frequent refusals, and it can feel like you’re constantly telling them no. Dedicate a minimum of 15 minutes each day for “time-in” with your child – this is your “YES” time. Say yes to watching them play video games, yes to participating in a board game, and yes to being present as they attempt to learn their new favorite TikTok dance (without making remarks about the tidiness of their room).

Kids with ADHD possess remarkable talents, and when they discover something they love, their hyperfocus – a hallmark of ADHD – propels them to excel. Engaging in your child’s passions offers you the opportunity to view the world through their eyes. This unique time investment fosters connections and enhances relationships.

8. Setbacks and Celebrating Progress
Setbacks are an inherent aspect of every learning journey. One of the toughest aspects of parenting is witnessing your child face difficulties. Nonetheless, affording your child room to stumble, being there to catch them when they falter, and aiding them in their efforts to rise and try again play a pivotal role in their long-term success. Grasping this concept and extending unwavering support to your child during trying moments is crucial.

There might be moments when it appears that setbacks are occurring. However, it could be that your child is not aligning with your expectations. This path might lead to a slippery slope of guilt and shame as a parent/advocate. At times, this could drive you to push your child beyond their capacity, inducing feelings of guilt and shame for not meeting your expectations.

Hence, consider involving a trusted co-parent, friend or therapist to assist in evaluating your expectations. Paradoxically, as you support your child, you may uncover the necessity for additional support for yourself. This process might even unveil an opportunity for the catalyzing change and healing on an intergenerational level. This may be challenging, however, it is a sign of growth.

Similarly, do not overlook the power of celebration! Make sure you are acknowledging and commemorating small triumphs and enhancements, regardless of their magnitude, for this fosters self-esteem and nurtures a resilient attitude. Maybe the celebration focuses on the mere fact that your child is trying. That is huge! How can you celebrate your child in big and small milestones?

Alright, you’ve got your strategies all mapped out and ready to implement! Great job, everyone! Just keep in mind that things won’t magically fall into place and go smoothly right away. These changes will require time and adjustment as you gather data on what works best. Be sure to give yourself some grace as a caring parent who wants the best for your child. With time, these home accommodations you’re putting in place will become second nature, and you’ll start seeing those positive outcomes. Hang in there, because you’re doing an amazing job too!

 

In conclusion, establishing a supportive home environment for students with ADHD requires a joint endeavor marked by comprehension, patience, and flexibility. By putting into practice the personalized strategies that you and your child devise, parents, students, and educators collectively contribute to a smooth back-to-school transition. Through transparent communication, customized accommodations, and a nurturing atmosphere, students with ADHD can not only excel academically but also cultivate the essential skills for a promising future.

Nicole Moore

Nicole Moore is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist based in Tucson, AZ. With a focus on mental health, Nicole brings considerable experience in assisting individuals and families. She has a specialization in working with ADHD, spanning children, teenagers, and adults.

Beyond her professional role, Nicole possesses firsthand understanding as a parent of a child with ADHD. Her perspective aligns with the belief that ADHD, when channeled effectively through positive accommodations, can become a unique strength. Outside of her clinical work, Nicole relishes quality time with her family, outdoor pursuits, and embarking on new adventures.

www.familyimprintscounseling.com 

The 8 questions every parent should ask at parent-teacher conferences

Two adults reviewing paperwork in a classroom

By Scott Evans, Community Investment Corporation

Can you believe it is already almost time for parent-teacher conferences?

Parent-teacher nights are coming up soon. This is a great first step in engaging with the teacher and supporting your child. This is your opportunity to form a relationship with the teacher and learn more about the time your child spends at school.

So let’s get prepared!

Why Are Parent/Teacher Conferences Important?

There is no magic wand for you to wave that will increase your child’s chances at school success. However, researchers have continually pointed to one key success factor: family engagement or parental involvement. Research has shown that students whose parents are involved in their education have better attendance, get better grades, demonstrate better social skills, and have less disciplinary issues.

Dive into the research here:

Two adults reviewing paperwork in a classroom

What Should I Expect at the Parent/Teacher Conference?

In most cases, your time will be limited, as the teacher has many families to meet with during the week of conferences. Therefore, coming prepared with questions will help ensure the conversation touches on things you want to know. Here are some tips to help you get started!

  • Meetings are typically held at the school, in-person and one-on-one.
  • Meeting length is typically 15-30 minutes in length (so time will be limited).
  • Ask questions that will help you gain insight into your child’s performance and behavior during class time.

Tips to Team Up with Your Teacher

You are the expert of your child at home and your teacher is the expert in the classroom. Be prepared to share and help the teacher get to know your child.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions… even if you are afraid to hear the answer OR you think you already know the answer.

You don’t have to be an expert in reading and math to advocate for your child. But, you certainly can learn how to better support your child academically. Find out what your child is expected to learn, what “grade level” looks like in key subjects, and how you can best support them at home.

Go beyond grades! Grades are only part of the story. There are many other important child development milestones and qualities to nurture. Inquire about listening skills, social and emotional skills and character development.

8 Essential Questions to Ask the Teacher!

To be best prepared for these meetings here are 8 of the most important questions to ask during a parent/teacher conference.

  1. How do you prefer to communicate? (Email, phone, text, school app, planner)
  2. In what moments do you see my child thriving and struggling?
  3. How does my child get along with other students and teachers? (Do they have friends, include others, being left out, etc.)
  4. Does my child ask questions and advocate for themselves when they don’t understand?
  5. What are the key grade level math and reading skills my child is expected to learn this year?
  6. How will I as a parent/guardian know if and when my child is struggling or excelling academically?
  7. How can I best support my child at home?
  8. How can I best support you (the teacher)?

Hopefully, these questions will help make your parent/teacher conference productive, insightful and informative. We hope you take advantage of this opportunity to engage with your child’s teacher and learn how you can best set your child up for success!

For more research on Family Engagement visit the Research Blog at the Annie E. Casey Foundation
For more family resources and a Parent’s Guide to Student Success visit the National PTA

Scott Evans

Scott Evans is currently the Director of Family and School Engagement at Community Investment Corporation (CIC) and is also the Director of MySchoolsTucson.org. He has his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology. His experience includes over 15 years of experience working as the Director of Counseling in both public and private education. In addition, Scott has coached high school sports for over 20 years. He has dedicated much of his life to serving children and their families.

Community Investment Corporation

Community Investment Corporation’s (CIC) goal is to promote economic inclusion for all members of southern Arizona, regardless of socioeconomic status. Our work ensures that more people in our community can buy homes, can access the education they want for their children, and can get the funding they need to start, sustain, and grow their small businesses. CIC proudly powers MySchoolsTucson.org. to ensure that all Pima County families have access to free, accurate, and unbiased information about schools so that they can make informed decisions about their child’s education. For more information please visit https://cictucson.org/

What to Consider as your Child Transitions from Preschool to Kindergarten 

By Amy Morales Baum, First Things First

As a parent there are many decisions to make. Some decisions are easier, for example what to make our children for breakfast, while others are much more weighty. As a parent, I found that deciding which elementary school my child would attend to be one of those weighty decisions. In the state of Arizona, there are many options for education. When you are navigating this for the first time it can be overwhelming. As a former preschool director and parent who has navigated this transition for myself and others, here are few considerations I think are important to prioritize: 

What school will fit my child and our family best?

This is a question that is important to consider. What setting will your child thrive in a small or larger class setting, traditional or more hands-on learning? Is location important? Do you wish to have a school or district that continues on to upper grades? Do you desire language immersion? Are finances a concern? What is/are your goal(s) for your child at the end of their elementary education? Do you desire a faith-based education? Will this be a school that will work for all of your children or do you plan to take your children to different schools? Take a moment to consider these questions as you research schools.

Start Early! Open Enrollment and Time Frames

In Tucson, you have lots of school options including public, private, charter, homeschool and combination schools. To open enroll, meaning enroll in a school outside of your district, there are strict deadlines and timeframes to do so. Dates and enrollment typically start in November and deadlines close between December and January for many schools. Make sure to look up the dates and information for the potential schools you would like to send your child to and enroll as soon as the dates open. If you live in the district and desire for your child to attend the district school you can enroll your child online. Time frames are not quite as tight for this.

Kinder Round Ups

Kinder Round Ups are meetings at your potential next school to discuss the ins and outs of the school. You usually learn about the program and what their focus is, meet some teachers and get a chance to ask questions. It can be very helpful to attend these as meeting administrators, teachers and hearing first hand can be a good indicator of what the school will be like. These usually begin in November. Call any schools you are interested in the early Fall to get these dates on your calendar.

Funding Options

Arizona has many funding options for private schools for your child. These include the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program and tax credit programs. The programs can be used for private schools, both religious and secular. If you are desiring a private school, ask the school administrators about the options for funding. It is 100% possible to get your child’s private education fully funded through these programs with a little work and knowledge of the process.

Anticipate the Transition

This is a big transition for you and for your child. Big emotions may come for children and parents. This is normal. Allow your child and yourself to process the changes, while encouraging them and comforting them in this transition. The step from preschool to elementary school is one of the first steps from our child being a little kid to now stepping into the big kid world.

With these considerations in mind, hopefully the overwhelming nature of this decision feels a little less overwhelming. Ultimately, I hope this process allows you to find a school where you feel confident sending your child and your child is able to thrive.

Amy Morales Baum

Amy Morales Baum is currently the Regional Director of Pima North for First Things First. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Her experience includes teaching in public, private and international settings, working with the Arizona Early Intervention Program, serving children and families in the Department of Child Safety, and leading as a preschool administrator.

First Things First

First Things First is a voter funded initiative that is committed to seeing all of Arizona’s children ready to succeed in school and in life. This is done through the work of local volunteer Regional Councils who decide on programs to fund in the region that support young children and their families. In Pima County, programs include scholarships for early childhood education; literacy programs that show families how literacy starts at an early age; home visitation programs that provide voluntary in-home parent coaching from a trained parent educator a few times a month; and more. For more information go to: https://www.firstthingsfirst.org/resources/find-programs/