When your child has executive function challenges, it’s important to talk with teachers. When teachers know what kids struggle with and how they learn best, it can have a big impact on how well the school year goes. Here are tips for explaining these challenges to teachers.
1. Request a meeting early in the school year.
Setting expectations and establishing patterns early can help kids develop good habits for the coming school year. If they’re in elementary school, email the teacher to request a meeting. Try for a time close to the start of the school year. (But remember that some teachers may want to wait until they’ve gotten to know your child for a few weeks.)
If your child is in middle school or high school and has several teachers, you don’t have to meet with all of them. Wait a week or two to see how things are going. Then reach out to the teachers you think may need help understanding your child’s specific issues.
2. Ask teachers for their perspective.
Start the conversation by asking what they know about executive function challenges. Listen to them carefully. They may have taught kids who struggle with executive skills before and have strategies to suggest.
But not all teachers have that experience or knowledge. Be prepared to explain what executive function challenges are — and that they’re often the main issue in ADHD.
3. Explain how executive function challenges affect your child.
Trouble with executive function can affect kids in many different ways. So, it’s important to pinpoint your child’s specific challenges and how they’re likely to play out at school.
You might say, for example, that your child has trouble with . Explain what that means and how it might impact classroom performance. Or tell them why an assignment that’s supposed to take an hour could take your child three. Be clear that you do expect your child to adapt to the school’s expectations. But you want to make the process as easy as possible for everyone involved.
4. Emphasize that your child is not lazy.
Some kids who have trouble with executive function struggle to come to class prepared, complete homework, and meet deadlines. If your child has difficulty with any of these things, talk about how these issues can make it seem like your child isn’t motivated.
Explain that your child may need extra support from the teacher to meet these expectations. And let teachers know that you’re ready to help provide any support they need at home, too.
5. Share organizational strategies that have worked for your child.
Maybe you’ve developed a system with another teacher that helped your child stay on top of class work, like a homework checklist. Be sure to share that information. Explain how the system worked and why it helped. And be willing to listen and be open to the teacher’s suggestions for improving or adapting the system.
6. Ask the teacher to alert you if your child is consistently late.
Time management and planning are problems for many kids with executive function challenges. Kids who have trouble in these areas may be making too many trips to their locker to get the right books for each class. Or maybe they’re not getting up early enough to get to homeroom on time. You may not be aware of these issues, but teachers will be. If you know what the problem is, you and your child can work on a solution.
7. Let teachers know what will help make assignments clearer.
Some kids have trouble taking in instructions. But teachers can make this a little easier. If they post directions on the board and say them aloud, it’s more likely that every student will understand the homework assignment. If teachers speak slowly when giving multi-step directions, that gives kids time to absorb them, too. You can also ask if they want students to write down assignments in a specific type of student planner and how often you should check it.
8. Remind the teacher of any accommodations.
If your child has an or a , don’t assume their teachers are familiar with it. Remind teachers of any accommodations your child is entitled to. And explain to them why these accommodations can make a difference. If you run into issues related to accommodations, your child’s case manager may be able to help out, too.
9. Ask what you can do.
Just asking shows that you want to partner with the teacher to help your child succeed in school. It can make teachers feel supported and reassure them that you don’t expect them to do everything. It also sets the stage for further communication. Teachers may be more likely to reach out to you about any trouble your child is having while problems are still small and manageable.
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About the author
About the author
Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.
Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.