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PREVIEW: How to Become an Advocate for Your ADHD Child by Lara Honos-Webb

parent_advocate_150pxOnce you have determined that you child does have ADHD, it is important that as a parent you become an advocate for your child. You need to ask your child’s teachers what they can do to support your child. Adjustments in the classroom can make big differences in your child’s performance at school. Additionally, your child knows if you have her back or not. Knowing you are going to bat for her, will give him or her more motivation to achieve.


  1. Your child needs for you to be on his or her side. In short, he needs you to become an advocate for him. Research has shown that a teacher’s perception of your child will dramatically impact his actual performance in school. This means that when teachers complain about your child, rather than offer profuse apologies, you might help the teacher reframe your child’s behavior as resulting from his gifts or an alternative explanation rather than from the diagnosis of ADHD. In one case, a parent was able to tell a teacher that his son’s antics toward a girl in the class were the result of awkward attempts at expressing his newfound interest in her.
  1. As an advocate for your child, you should try to get the teacher to make accommodations that are not punitive or humiliating for her. Many times, what happens in the classroom is that teachers “diss” students in front of their friends causing them to feel humiliated which provokes them to act out even more. If a teacher can allow a child to sit in the back and get out of her seat occasionally without being punished, this can help a child to focus more and not feel so negative toward being in the classroom. Some might ask if allowing the student to get out of his seat is going to be disruptive to the other students. But chances are that the ADHD student will likely get out of her seat anyways. The disruption to the class is made much worse by the attempts to discipline the child and resulting increase in bad behavior that results from the child’s reaction to being humiliated.
  1. Remember that it is more important for you to stay connected to your child than to enforce conformity, control and compliance. This one can be tough for parents. We often believe that getting our children to do what we tell them is fundamental to the job description of being a parent. However, for a child with a difference that gets labeled as a “deficit disorder”, he needs to have someone on his side or his behavior will get worse because he feels alienated.
  1. ADHD Advocacy: Start at Home. Advocacy for ADHD usually means some form of social action to promote the rights of those with this diagnosis. Many times parents of ADHD children find themselves in the role of social reformers trying to get accommodations for their children in school systems. These forms of ADHD advocacy are essential. But in addition to social change, parents can make dramatic improvements in their child by becoming a vocal supporter of their child in being persistent in pointing out his or her strengths to teachers, family and friends. Your child will live up to any positive expectations you can create. Too many times, instead of ADHD advocacy, parents fall into the trap of apologizing for their child. When a teacher complains about your child, the first step is to say, “What can we do to support my child?” This is the heart of ADHD advocacy, switching from labels to asking for concrete solutions to specific problems.


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