You are your child's best advocate. To be a good advocate for
your child, learn as much as you can about ADHD and how it affects your child at
home, in school, and in social situations.
If your child has shown symptoms of ADHD from an early age and has been evaluated, diagnosed, and treated with either behavior modification or medication or a combination of both, when your child enters the school system, let his or her teachers know. They will be better prepared to help the child come into this new world away from home.
If your child enters school and experiences difficulties that lead you to suspect that he or she has ADHD, you can either seek the services of an outside professional or you can ask the local school district to conduct an evaluation. Some parents prefer to go to a professional of their own choice. But it is the school's obligation to evaluate children that they suspect have ADHD or some other disability that is affecting not only their academic work but their interactions with classmates and teachers.
If you feel that your child has ADHD and isn't learning in school as he or she should, you should find out just who in the school system you should contact. Your child's teacher should be able to help you with this information. Then you can request—in writing—that the school system evaluate your child. The letter should include the date, your and your child's names, and the reason for requesting an evaluation. Keep a copy of the letter in your own files.
Until the last few years, many school systems were reluctant to evaluate a child with ADHD. But recent laws have made clear the school's obligation to the child suspected of having ADHD that is affecting adversely his or her performance in school. If the school persists in refusing to evaluate your child, you can either get a private evaluation or enlist some help in negotiating with the school. Help is often as close as a local parent group. Each state has a Parent Training and Information (PTI) center as well as a Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency. (For information on the law and on the PTI and P&A, see the section on support groups and organizations at the end of this document.)
Once your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and qualifies for special education services, the school, working with you, must assess the child's strengths and weaknesses and design an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). You should be able periodically to review and approve your child's IEP. Each school year brings a new teacher and new schoolwork, a transition that can be quite difficult for the child with ADHD. Your child needs lots of support and encouragement at this time.
Never forget the cardinal rule—you are your child's best advocate.