The back-to-school season is an exciting time for many students, but for those with learning disabilities, it’s also a challenging time. Almost overnight, the relative freedom of summer must give way to class schedules, homework, extracurriculars, and more.
Your Teen asked Nicki Salfer, president of Learning Concepts, for some advice on how to handle back to school when you’re an adolescent with ADHD or another learning disability.
Below, we’ve got four short interviews with Salfer to help you with your adolescent’s transition this fall.
1. Prioritize self-care. Ensuring your teenager gets adequate nutrition, hydration, and exercise can go a long way toward improving school success. “Some foods will make your teenager more spaced out, while others will increase hyperactivity,” explains Salfer, adding that proper hydration also helps improve focus in children with learning disabilities.
2. Understand your teenager’s sleep pattern. “Remember, that some teenagers with ADHD are moving three times more than the average person,” explains Salfer. “So, when they run out of steam, they need to go to bed.” But like nutrition, when a teenager sleeps is highly individual, especially in ADHD. “Some are early birds, while others won’t go to sleep until late at night,” she adds.
3. Set a routine, then step in to coach as needed. There are several steps to establishing a successful school routine, but two of the most important are (a) the work space and (b) the schedule. Your teenager’s work space needs to work for your teenager. For some, this will be a calm, organized space. For others, it may be the middle of your busy kitchen, stresses Salfer. When this doesn’t work, parents need to step in and “help them to re-route, kind of like when you go the wrong direction and your GPS reroutes,” says Salfer.
4. Advocate for your teenager. If your child is in public school, the school is obligated to provide services to students identified as learning disabled. Unfortunately, however, you may find that your student is not getting enough support. What to do? “First, parents need to go in and advocate for their child and make clear their expectations,” explains Salfer. If that doesn’t work, then it may be time for the next step.