School started yesterday for Ace. I’m both excited and nervous. Both my kids have improved in many ways over the summer but Ace has a lot of lingering anxiety related to school. Last year was a tough one. The below letter got sent to his teachers last night. Within 2 hours, I got a response and I’ve posted that below also. The high-lighted parts are my doing. I read it about 5 times. I cried.
I’m really hoping Ace will have a great year and grow to love school.
My Letter to the Teachers
Dear *1st Grade Teachers
Welcome to the 2012/2013 school year. I hope you had a good summer. My name is Deenie and my son Ace is in your class this year. Before we meet formally and talk at the upcoming open house, I’d like to fill you in on some things with Ace.
Ace was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year and we are currently working with your VP, and your Special Ed Coordinator to come up with a 504 plan for him. Kindergarten was difficult in a lot of ways for him but we are hopeful and confident that with proper support he will have a great year in 1st grade. Ace is not on any medication for his ADHD, but there are tools we have found that help him to focus and to control his behavior.
Ace is currently seated at the back of the classroom. If at all possible, I think it would suit him better to have a seat close to the front or directly in the front of the class. That will reduce the amount of possible distractions and will make him less likely to get lost in what’s going on around him.
Things are easier for Ace when he knows exactly what is expected of him and has measurable expectations. Abstract concepts are hard for him to process. For example: Giving him “5 minutes” to do something works better than telling him he has “a few minutes” left. Also, he does better with structure and routine. Eg. If he knows that his “spot” is always at the back of a line, that will be easier for him than asking the kids to form a line and leaving it up to him to fit himself in.
In general, although he doesn’t like to get dirty, he does well with hands-on activities. He loves science, computers, math and art. However, sitting still for a story is difficult and he will do better with that type of activity in a small group or if he’s allowed to take a break.
He is a very friendly child and very seldom gets into mischief. He wants to be liked and to make others happy. He does have some socially awkward behaviors such as butting-in to conversations or getting into peoples personal space. We are working on those things but he does need constant reminders. He also tends to be clumsy and lacks a certain body awareness. Again, we are working on these things and have seen improvement over the summer.
He takes criticism personally and hates being yelled at and may use “silliness” to disguise hurt feelings. When he gets hyper or appears to not be paying attention, we have found that quietly, but firmly, reminding him that he is not listening and then telling him that we are not happy with his behavior gets him to calm down and re-focus. When he receives positive reinforcement, he is more likely to stay on task. It is best, when possible, to talk to Ace about misbehavior in private.
When possible it is best to keep him busy. If he is finished with his work, maybe you can assign him a “job” such as cleaning up the supplies or maybe you can have extra work-sheets available for him to keep occupied.
If he is asked to do something he does not like, he will get it done quicker and with less “fight” as long as he knows what will follow. Eg. If he has been asked to write a letter and he does not like to write but he knows that once he is finished writing, it will be computer time, then he will be motivated to get the work done. We use a lot of “first this, then that” when asking him to do something.
Ace has a pleasant and vibrant personality. It will require some patience and understanding on your part, but we think you will enjoy having him in your class. He likes to learn and he is very funny and helpful. He also has a very compassionate and caring heart and would never intentionally be hurtful to anyone.
Ace is excited about this new school year but he is also slightly nervous. His self-esteem got a good beating last school year as he consistently got color changes and was frequently punished. At the time he hadn’t yet been diagnosed so he was left feeling like he was a bad boy which didn’t fit with how he viewed himself or how he wanted to be viewed by others.
Our hope is that the information in this letter will make your life in the classroom easier and will help to facilitate a better relationship between you and Ace.
We welcome any ideas you have to keep Ace engaged in school, while boosting his self-esteem and helping him succeed. Ace’s Dad and I believe in frequent, open and honest communication between us and the staff at *the school. We are always available to talk over the phone, respond to an e-mail or come into the school for a face to face meeting. We look forward to working with you and hope you have a wonderful year.
Deenie and CC
Hi Mrs. C,
Thank you for your email. It will be very useful in helping us find ways to make Ace comfortable in his new setting. Fortunately, Ms. H and I teach in a collaborative setting. Ms. H is a special education teacher and has experience in making accommodations based on student needs. *(The schools spec ed coordinator) will also be in close contact with us to update us on his 504 plan when it is completed. With your help, I’m sure we will make this a successful year for Ace. I have noted specific recommendations by you and will implement them as soon as possible.
Talk to you soon.
*Ace’s 1st grade teachers