What if She Acts Like This at 16?

Conscientious parents can get themselves quite worried when they think like the title here.  On the other hand, it is pretty normal to do so.  Say your first grader gets very frustrated with her friend when they are planning a pretend scene, and she stomps out of the room, saying mean things and throwing a book.  You notice that this has been happening a lot lately.  She has a short fuse, gets easily frustrated, and her behavior suffers.  If you confront her, and tell her to apologize to her friend, you might have a bigger fight on your hands. You’re even walking on eggshells around her.  It is true that you don’t want a teenager who behaves in this way.  However, thinking in this way usually makes parents feel more anxious and desperate.  They want to eradicate the behavior Now.  Here are my thoughts about this situation.

First, I often tell parents that child development is on their side.  By that I mean that as children grow, their brains grow also.  The parts of their brains that help them have better judgment and better impulse control grow.  As your child gets older, she will be better able to manage frustrations without physical outbursts.

Second, you don’t know that she’ll behave this way when she’s 16, or even 8.  Why get all worked up by predicting the future? No one I know can predict the future.  Cognitive behavioral therapists call predicting a negative outcome a “cognitive error” that leads to greater anxiety and even depression.  It won’t help you cope with what you are dealing with today, that is, her tendency to be explosive when she’s frustrated.

Third, if you predict a negative outcome in your own mind, you might communicate that to your child, either implicitly or directly.  Unfortunately, a child who believes that her parents fear (or believe) that she’ll come to no good is likely to meet their expectations.

So, what can you do?

Notice when you are predicting a bad future and pull yourself back to the unpleasant present.  Your first grader is behaving badly, and you need to help her with it.  You do not know what will happen in the years to come.

Take a deep breath and try to have some faith that you will figure out how to help her with her frustration.  She is young, and she needs to develop better coping strategies.

At this point, some parents might say, “But I’m doing the best I can,”  and that’s the truth.  So, look for help.  Talk to other parents whom you admire.  Get suggestions for reading from your pediatrician.  Or talk to a child psychologist.  There are a variety of issues that could be leading to the behavior I described above.  You can get some help and learn some strategies yourself.  There is no shame in asking for help.

 

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Photo Credit:  Russell Adams on Flickr

What’s in Your Toolbox?

In the past few weeks there have been more anxious children and adolescents in my office than usual.  This is probably just the randomness of the universe.  Anxiety is often a feature with children who have ADD, learning disabilities and Asperger Syndrome. The situation has caused me to reflect on how treatable anxiety is.

Deep Breathing

I like this work because I can teach skills to a client so that they have a “toolbox” to draw on when they get home and the anxiety returns.  I usually start by teaching people (children and adults) to practice deep breathing.  In deep breathing, you inhale to the point of fullness, hold it briefly, and then exhale slowly and completely.  I tell people that they should feel like a limp balloon at the end.  You can also inhale on two counts and exhale on four counts.  As you exhale, you can be thinking “Relax” or “Letting go.”  Most often people find that this exercise is relaxing.  I tell my clients to practice deep breathing for at least five minutes a day so that they learn the feeling of their body relaxing.  Then the deep breathing becomes a tool to use in times of anxiety.

Happy Place

The second tool involves imagery.   I ask a client to imagine a place where he or she feels most relaxed and safe.  It can be a real or imagined place.  For children I often call this a “happy” place.  Once we have an image, I ask many questions to help fill out the details and all the sensory experience of this place, including aromas, temperature and sounds.  We do some exercises in the office to help intensify the experience of the place, and then I again assign homework.  Put yourself in your happy place at least once a day, whether you need it or not.

Talk Back to Anxiety

The third tool involves flash cards that we make in the office. Together we consider the anxious thoughts that the child has when feeling especially uncomfortable.  These could be, “What if I fail the test?” or “I have no friends,” or “What if I get sick in the night?”  We talk about the thoughts and we consider whether these are realistic concerns or worries.  Then I help the child develop alternative thoughts or answers to the worries.  We write them down on 3×5 cards.  The cards might say, “I studied as well as I can.”  “I’ve never failed a test before.”  “If I do fail, I’ll find out why and do better next time.”

With younger children I involve parents so that they know what is in the toolbox.  (Often parents can benefit from the same strategies.)  Then when a child becomes very anxious, a parent can cue him or her to use the tools.

In very difficult cases medication is helpful for adolescents to decrease the anxiety  enough for them to work with it.  But often it is not needed.

This is just a quick overview of some tools for working with anxiety. For children with learning disabilities, ADHD, or Asperger Syndrome, anxiety is often a difficult part of life because their school and social experiences have included many situations that leave them feeling anxious and discouraged.   It’s bad enough to realize that there are things it is hard for you to do, but it’s worse to feel overwhelmed by anxiety when faced with it.  Having the toolbox really helps these children feel more competent in the world.

Photo credit:  Brittany 0177 on Flickr

 

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Summer Time (and the living is easy?)

In my hometown it is officially summer.  I know, the season really starts later this week on June 21, but school got out here last Friday.   Last night the neighborhood children were out shooting baskets and hooting it up in the evening, a sure sign that they had no homework to do.

So, is the living easy?  I know that for many working parents it has been a scramble to find the coverage they need for the summer.  They are planning their time off around the times that they do not have child care or a camp for their children to go to.

For many of the “atypical kids” life does get easier in the summer when the academic demands go away.  Kids who were irritable and snappish are now a little easier to be around.  The transition to summer has happened, and many are feeling relief.  Enjoy.

Other of the “atypical kids” are more irritable because their predictable schedule has changed.  These are the kids for whom it is important for you, the parent, to introduce the summer routine.  It doesn’t need to be highly detailed.  Think about what your child needs to remain an active member of the family instead of a total couch potato.  Regular times for screens and meals will help.  Regular times that everyone gets up and out, perhaps to go to a community pool, will also help.

This requires a lot of “rolling with it” for parents as they transition into summer.  The regular summer programs don’t start until next week or even after the Fourth of July.  Like their children, parents also can become grumpy when the schedule is unpredictable.  I speak from my own experience.  So, take care of yourself by letting yourself roll with it.  If you can take some time off of work, do so, and plan to do some activities that you can enjoy with your child.  Try to expect less of yourself in terms of housekeeping, meal prep, and so forth.

Take some deep breaths and notice whether you and your children are enjoying the beginning of summer.  What do you and your family need to have some enjoyment?  It’s different in different families.  Are you having s’mores for dessert?  Watching a movie together?  Looking for bugs under logs (one of my favorites)? Baking cookies?

Try to let the living be easy.  And when it isn’t; when the adjustment to a new routine gets to you and your children and tempers flare, forgive yourself, take some breaths and start over.  Remember, your good family time may not look like anyone elses.  I would be interested to hear what you particular family likes to do to relax in the summer.

Photo credit:  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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Roller Coaster Emotions: Some Thoughts on How to Deal With Your Child’s Roller Coaster

I went to a conference over the weekend that was aimed mainly at therapists who treat adults.  However, one of the presenters talked about how children learn to understand their own feelings and those of others in the course of interactions as they grow up. I found the talk was really relevant to helping parents teach children about their emotions and about emotional regulation.  Many children who have ADHD, Asperger Syndrome or other learning disabilities have difficulty with emotional modulation.  They easily go from happy and mellow to very irritable and unhappy due to a frustration that looks minor to an adult.

For instance, your child might learn that you are out of his favorite cereal.  Instead of asking what else you have, he might become quite angry.  This is likely because he doesn’t have a good “governor” on his emotional response.  This is difficult for parents, but it is also difficult for the child — he’s often on an emotional roller coaster, and it doesn’t feel good.  How can adults help?

** First of all, it is helpful for you, the parent, to keep your cool and not respond in kind.  When your child is emotionally aroused, his judgment is poor.  If you get emotionally aroused, you are likely to upset him further and make the situation worse.  Further, we adults also have poorer judgment when we get upset, so staying calm is a big help.  (I don’t say it’s easy — more about this later another time.)

** When you stay calm, you model a calm response to frustration for your child.  Children learn a great deal from their parents’ behavior.

** You might also label the emotion, “Wow, you’re pretty angry about this.”

** And you can empathize, “I’m sorry we’re out of Crunchies.”  (You’ve just told him something about your state of mind — that’s helpful to him.”

** Next you could ask your child what he would like to do about the situation.  (You’re inviting him to do some problem-solving instead of jumping in to fix it yourself.)

If all goes well, (and we know it doesn’t always) your child can move along to another breakfast choice.

Say your child does not calm down in response to your calm approach.  Suppose it’s a really bad morning, and your child berates you for not having enough Crunchies, or letting his brother eat too many Crunchies.  You could let him know how his behavior affects you, and you could set a limit.  This might go like, “I can’t help you with this when you are yelling at me.  When you can calm down and talk to me, you can let me know what you want.” You are let him know how his behavior affects your ability to think.  And you withdraw from the interaction offering the expectation that he’ll calm down and the two of you can figure out breakfast.

Staying calm helps you and your child get to a clear-headed place more quickly.  Labeling his feelings can help him learn about his internal experience and become more articulate about feelings.  Telling him how his behavior affects you informs him about how a relationship works.  These are essential building blocks for successful social interactions.

 

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Photo credit:  haven’t the slightest on Flickr

Summer Routines for Your Quirky Child

Summer is the time of ease, of rest and relaxation, of freedom from all those rigid schedules.  Hurray!  However, if you have a child with learning disabilities or ADHD or other atypical profile, you know that your child needs some structure in order to get along well and be happy.  Not knowing what to expect next can increase anxiety and lead to trouble.

Most of the families in my area have two working parents, so they have probably already put some sort of summer plan into place.  But for most families there are gaps in the summer arrangements.  These bring the opportunity to spend more time with your children, and with proper planning these interludes can be delightful.  The challenge is to have enough structure so that your child is not thrown off but enough flexibility so that it feels like a vacation.

I find that for many families it is important to set an expectation for how much screen time you will allow.  Perhaps you will have some days with no plans.  You might imagine your child doing crafts, playing with a sibling, or exploring outside.   However, for most children television, video games and computer games are so attractive that they can quickly trump the other activities.  It is a good idea to set an expectation for how much screen time is OK and when it will be.  For older children you will need to get their input on this and come to some negotiated agreement for it to work without struggles.  Be prepared to be tested and to need to stand your ground.  It’s a good plan!

Now, what will your children do when they are not occupied with screens?  Perhaps you have children who will engage with Lego or crafts for an hour or so.  To be sure that this will work, you might want to be sure that you have the supplies for the crafts. You might want to plan to invest in a new Lego set during the summer to keep the interest going.  Regular trips to the library will outfit you with new books to read.

Other times you will plan to do some activity with your child. Consider some outings that you and your child will enjoy.  Many public libraries have free passes to area museums.  Find out how to reserve ahead and make your plans accordingly.

In addition, many children have (and should have) some responsibilities around the house.  The morning is a good time to attend to these.

Now that you have some activities in mind, you can come up with a loose daily schedule.  It is a schedule, so that your child will know what to expect, but it is also loose so that it feels like summer.  It  might go something like this.  Your child gets up and has breakfast.  Then she can play on her own for awhile either on screens or with other activities, like the Lego or crafts or books.  This gives you time to do some things you might want to do: return phone calls, read the paper, pay some bills.  After an hour the screens go off, and your child can play off screen if you are still busy.

Now you are done with your work, and you and your child can go out on an expedition — a visit to a local park or a museum, or the library.  Many towns have story hours or other summer entertainment for children.   Perhaps you’ve arranged a play date.  Lunch happens somewhere in here.  Perhaps you pack a lunch, or you eat out.

By mid-afternoon you arrive back home.  You child might be tired, so a quiet activity would be a good option while you prepare supper.  Maybe a little more screen time or independent reading.  After dinner, maybe some board games, a TV show the family likes, and reading together.

The schedule might look quite different in your family.  The point is that the day is chunked into somewhat predictable parts.  There are times for independent play (you provide engaging supplies), time for entertainment on screens, time for you to attend your business, time for activities with you.  This is a schedule you could make predictable for your child and still have flexibility to enjoy summer.  You can make a schedule and post it using pictures to make it accessible for younger children.  If your children can contribute some to the schedule and the activities, they will be more cooperative about it.

You will notice that I did not put in a great deal of time for you to work from home.  If you have a quirky kid, it is likely that this is not realistic, unless you are willing to let videos and TV keep your child occupied.  I hope that you will be able to take some time off when your children are not in programs.  If you are torn between work and children, neither gets the best of your attention.

Let me know what ideas you have for making the most of summer free time.

 

Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report on how to improve morning routine with children who have ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or other executive function deficits:  Smoothing Out Your Morning.

Juggling the Many End-of-Year Events: Some Tips

This is a busy time of year for families.  It seems that every activity has an end of the year event, so parents and children are hurrying to recitals, chorus and band concerts, ball games and graduations.  Hopefully, these events bring pride, joy and satisfaction.  I hope that your child is beaming from the stage, and that you are relishing the moment.

But all these extras can cause stress even for the more mature and resilient among us.  Yesterday I got home in the late afternoon after a day of activities, and I got snappish when I heard that my young adult son was coming to dinner.  Yikes, what would we eat?  My husband wisely stayed calm and told me to take a nap. That reset my system and allowed me to enjoy the serendipity of the day.  Dinner went fine.

*  First consider yourself.  You need to be resilient to help your children get through all the fun.  Notice your own perfectionism and see if you can let go of it some.  Try to get enough rest.  Try to tune into your emotions and your body during the day.  Are you tense, worrying about the event to come, having difficulty staying in the present?  Take some deep breaths and try to stay in the moment.  It is the only moment you really have any control over anyway.  If there are activities that you know are renewing for you, try to keep them despite the busy schedule.  Perhaps you meditate, walk the dog in a pleasant park, enjoy listening to music, or savor reading a mystery at bedtime.

*  For many families with quirky kids all this change of routine can be very stressful.  Here are some ways to manage the demands.  If you have a child who is easily upset by changes in routine, try to anticipate with him.  Be the planner for him.  When you get the notice about the concert or whatever,  put it on a family calendar.  Preview the day with your family, preferable the night before.  The fewer surprises the better.

*  Let go of some of your own expectations about routine.  You might eat a lot of take out for a week.  Or if you are very good at planning, you might be able to take some dinners out of the freezer that you made ahead.

*  Consider whether all of your children can manage the schedule.  You might have a child who rolls with the punches and can smoothly move from event to event.  But you might also have a child who does not do that well, or who might not enjoy his sister’s dance recital.  Can you let go of family togetherness enough to hire a sitter for the child who would be unhappy and disruptive in the recital?  You might need to divide and conquer.

*  Also consider the stresses on the performers.  Children who tend to get anxious and rigid under pressure can find the band concert or graduation worrisome.  If this is the case, let the adults in charge of the event know so that they can be reassuring.  Make sure that your child knows exactly what to do.  Lastly, consider whether it is wise to invite the extended family to this event.  Perhaps that would only put more pressure on your anxious child.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins can come for cake afterwards.

I hope that this gives you a few ideas to help ground yourself and your children in this season of celebration and transition.  Let me know on what your ideas are for coping with this time.

 

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Photo credit:  Focus Photography on Flickr

Talking to Teachers: Seven Steps to a Productive Meeting

When your child enters school a new institution enters your family.  The school influences your family life, your child’s life, and his or her sense of well-being.  Often this is a positive influence — new experiences, new friends, pride in learning.  However, for most parents there comes a time when you need to schedule a talk with the teacher.

Think of this relationship as a collaboration.  You need each other.

Here are some tips for making that talk as productive as possible.

1.  Manage your feelings. When your child has difficulty in school or you feel that the teacher has been insensitive, it can bring out the “mother bear” in you. Listen to Mother Bear and let her know that you are going to attend to the problem. You will be more persuasive if you are calm.

2.  Consider the teacher a colleague with a  set of skills and information that you need.  You know your child and the teacher knows education and your child in school. Some parents carry their feelings from their own unhappy school experience, and they are intimidated by classroom teachers. To them I say, you are the expert about your child and what happens at home.  The teacher needs you.  Other parents are condescending to teachers.  You might have more education and you might be ten years older, but this teacher has training that is specific to education.  In addition, the teacher sees your child during the school day — she or he has important information for you.

3.  Be clear about what you want to address.  Perhaps you want to tell the teacher that the spelling homework is taking an hour a night.  Or perhaps you have a question about the requirement for independent reading which is causing havoc in your household.  Perhaps you want to inform the teacher that you child is being bullied, and you are concerned from your child’s report that the teacher is insensitive to this.  Put out your concerns without blaming or accusing.

4.  Ask for input and listen.  You may learn things about the homework, the classroom, the teacher, and your child that you did not know before.  This is useful to you.

5.  Offer a solution.  Be open to the teacher’s solutions as well.  Perhaps your child could have fewer spelling words.  Perhaps you need some guidance in choosing independent reading material for your child.  Agree to give the solution a try.

6.  Arrange be in touch to share information about how the solution is going.  Regular contact by e-mail can reduce the need for future face-to-face meetings.

7.  Thank the teacher for his or her time.  Everyone likes to be appreciated.

Working in this way sets the groundwork for a respectful working relationship.  This is the most likely way to be helpful to your child.

 

Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report on how to improve morning routine with children who have ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or other executive function deficits:  Smoothing Out Your Morning.

Photo credit:  U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

Learning Disabilities and Family Life: Four Ways Learning Disabilities Affect Home Life and Ways You Can Help Your Child

If you have a child with a learning disability, you are probably learning that your child learns and reacts differently at home as well as in school.  You will likely have to adapt your parenting strategies to your child’s neurology.   If you have a diagnosis, then it is likely that you also have a neuropsychological testing report.  These reports and the IEP (individual education plan) include recommendations for instruction.  Good test reports will also have recommendations for home. You can look at these recommendations and adapt them for home use.  Here are a few that I run into in families I work with.

Slow Processing Speed

Your child is bright enough to do the work, but she thinks things through slowly.  Think of having a computer with an old CPU. Often the IEP will recommend that a teacher provide “wait time” after asking a question.  Parents need to do the same.  If you patiently wait for your child’s response after a question, you can include her in family dinnertime conversations that she might otherwise be left out of.  Processing speed can especially be a problem in tense situations.  For instance, suppose you are asking about a missed homework assignment.  Give her a minute to remember and give her response, instead of filling in for her.

Nonverbal Learning Disability

This is a disability that affects children’s ability to read social cues and to understand metaphor and sarcasm .  They can be very sensitive to tone of voice, and their own modulation of tone of voice is poor.  However, they can be taught these skills over time.  It helps to understand that if your child responds angrily to a request, it might be because he thought you were angry.  It is important to keep your voice neutral.  Joking with this child is a tricky business.  You will need to explain teasing because he won’t pick up from your tone of voice that you actually mean the opposite of what you are saying.  Adding, “Just kidding,” can be essential.

Poor Working Memory

This is a problem that affects a person’s ability to keep a few ideas in mind in order to manipulate them or use them for problem solving.  This could come up if you give your child complicated instructions.  For instance you might say, “When you go upstairs to start your homework, check on the hamster food, and if we don’t have enough for the week, tell me so I can buy more.”  This is a lot to keep in mind — go do homework; check on hamster food; and then what?  You can have more success, and your child will feel more successful, if you break down the requests.  Start with “Go check to see whether we have enough hamster food for a week, and tell me what you learn.”  Then say, “Ok, now start your homework.”

Adjustments like these avoid misunderstandings that frustrate everyone.

Executive Function Deficits

This seems to be the diagnosis dejour in my caseload.  If executive function is a problem for your child, you are probably already well aware of it.  Your child loses and misplaces things related to school and everything else in life.  It’s really frustrating for all.  But scolding and shaming her for being disorganized doesn’t teach her strategies.  I find it helpful to give kids like this lists for different situations.  For instance, before going out the door in the morning, she could check off backpack, lunch bag, instrument for band, gym shoes.  For going to soccer practice:  cleats, socks, shin guards, ball.  The same list applies for leaving soccer.  Some kids are visual learners, and for them, a picture or drawing of themselves labeled with all the right equipment would be more useful.

These are just a few of the ways that learning difficulties affect home life.  Learning about how your child thinks and learning strategies for managing life with a person with this brain will save you and your child a great deal of aggravation.  Using accommodations at home can actually teach your child coping strategies for life.  I know young adults who have learned to make their own lists so that they don’t travel without essentials.

My website, www.drcarolynstone.com has a number of resources listed that can be helpful for parents in learning what they need to know about living with learning disabilities.

 

Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report on how to improve morning routine with children who have ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or other executive function deficits:  Smoothing Out Your Morning.

Photo Credit:  Steve Webel on Flickr

Tricky Balance

Lately I have had balance on my mind.  I am thinking of the difficult balance between a parent’s desire to protect a child and the child’s normal desire to be more independent.  This balance is more tricky when with an atypical child — whether due to ADD, learning disability, or Asperger Syndrome. Now add the child’s normal desire to be more independent in middle school and the significant increase in the complexity of work in middle school, and you have a situation that can become a crisis.

The challenges of sixth grade are quite significant for these children.   There is always a long and complicated research project that involves learning many new skills.  For children who have difficulty organizing time, materials and ideas, such projects can be overwhelming. Even the “typical” children are quite challenged.

For many children this situation triggers anxiety and poor coping strategies, such as denial, not asking for help, procrastination and “fibbing” about the work to be done.  Parents may find out rather late in the game that work is missing and be shocked by poor quiz grades.  Yet at this age children often bristle at the suggestion that their parents become more involved in their homework.

What is to be done?  When parents and teachers can work together respectfully and get input from the students, they can often devise systems that allow enough independence to for the students’ comfort and yet don’t leave them with so little supervision that they get way behind before they know it.  Some people refer to this as scaffolding.  You set up an arrangement in which the student has some choices but not too many.

A good learning center teacher can go over assignments with a student before she leaves school for the day so she can be sure to have the materials she needs.  Little by little she can take more responsibility for this.  For instance, she might begin to write down her own assignments and pack up her own bag, but check with the teacher before leaving school.

At home some children need their parents to go over the assignments and help them to plan their time in order to get everything done.  In time the student will be able to take responsibility for this.  This monitoring needs to be done with patience and respect.  It is important for parents to give students the benefit of the doubt when they overlook details.  Children want to succeed.  A blaming or “gotcha” attitude will lead to secrecy and deceit.  No one likes to be made to feel ashamed.

In some families the parent child relationship becomes so frayed that parents cannot be helpful in this regard.  In these situations I recommend that families who can afford it hire an organizational tutor to help teach a child the tools she needs to manage this new workload.  This protects the child from the potential shame about having her parents see her mess up and allows her to grow into independence her parents will be proud of.

Giving students more responsibility little by little means that there will be times that they miss homework assignments or get low grades on quizzes.  Unless this is a regular problem, these occurrences are learning opportunities for your child.  It could be useful to be curious about these problems and wonder how they could be avoided, but it is not useful to blame — either the student or the teachers.  Sometimes the best of students forget assignments or bomb quizzes.

 

Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report on how to improve morning routine with children who have ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or other executive function deficits:  Smoothing Out Your Morning.

Photo Credit:  Kiawah Confectionery, Samantha Chapnick on Flickr

What About College?

I find that college planning is on many parents’ minds even before junior year in high school.  When parents receive diagnosis of a learning disability, ADHD or Asperger Syndrome, the meaning of doing well in school needs to be redefined.  It is no longer, “Just work harder.”  Now it means find out how your child learns, and work with the school to make sure he gets what he needs. Often the school and family situation gets very painful before proper services are in place.  The family is in a crisis, and parents ask questions like, “Will he be able to live on his own?”  “Will he go to college?”

For many students the answer is yes, but the path to college and eventual independence might be different for your child. As the pressure and the competition build among students and parents, it is helpful if parents can link with other families who are having to “think outside the box”  about this next step.  It is helpful to involve yourself with organizations that provide education and advocacy.  In New England one such organization is the Aspergers Association of New England (AANE).  In fact, in two weeks AANE is sponsoring a daylong conference entitled “Success After High School.”  Another such organization in New England is the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN).  They also provide education for students and parents on planning for transition out of high school.

Before they have actually faced the college application process, many parents and students assume that everyone applies and goes to a four year college.  In fact, there are as many ways to make this next step as there are people.  A colleague of mine learned when his son and friends were applying to college to ask “What will Sam be doing next year?”  rather than, “Where is Sam going to college?”  This avoided embarrassing the students who were not taking the “typical path.”

If your child will be taking the SAT or ACT, make sure that you help him or her obtain testing accommodations if possible.  The requirements have tightened up.  You will need to submit data from recent neuropsychological testing.  It is worthwhile, though, so that your child’s intelligence shows through rather than the ways he learns and tests differently from his typical peers.  You will also need this testing for your child to request accommodations in college.

When you are looking for schools, look for those that have strong academic supports for students with learning disabilities.  There is actually a Peterson’s guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or ADHD .  It explains about different services available in different colleges. There is a tremendous range from the schools that offer peer tutoring to anyone who asks to those with specific services for qualifying students and finally those whose whole mission is to provide higher education to students with learning disabilities.

Often I find that students who have significant learning disabilities are also less confident and more dependent on their families.  They may need to make the shift to greater independence in smaller steps.  Some start out at a community college nearby so they can live at home.  Some might live away, but stay fairly close to home.  Some start out at a school with a great amount of structure and support for students with learning disabilities, but once they get their “sea legs” for college, they can transfer to a more challenging  school with less academic support.

A useful book about this process is Learning Outside the Lines by Mooney, Cole and Hallowell.  In this book the first two authors describe their quite checkered careers in high school and first two years of college, due to their ADHD for one and LD for the other.  They met when they both transferred to Brown University as juniors.  The second half of the book gives their very practical recommendations for managing college work when you have a disability.

All through the process it is so helpful to remember that you and your child are looking for the higher education experience that is right for him or her.  The US News and World Report ratings of schools are not all that useful in this regard, though your neighbors might be quoting the rankings.  A good fit for your child will help your child develop into the independent young adult you want to see.  Good luck!

 

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Photo credit:  dailymatador on Flickr