Preschool is a critical time for children with ADD, which should more appropriately be called ADHD since the term ADD is now recognized as a subset of ADHD by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. ADHD is hard to diagnose in toddlers because the disorder's profile is similar to normal toddler behavior. Behaviors start to diverge in preschool which is why children are commonly diagnosed at this time. Preschool is also parents' first experience with the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Setting the right goals greatly improves the quality of the child's future education. Finally the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that individualized behavior therapy in school may eliminate the need to put the child on medication.
Remember that IEPs are individualized. Be wary when educators try to generalize children with ADHD into a single group all with the same educational needs. Although there are some common behaviors, ADHD is a broad disorder and no two children will display have the same specific educational needs. Goals appropriate to one child may be unsuitable for another. Set objectives specific to your child's behaviors, needs and motivators.
Avoid vague goals such as "Will behave appropriately in class." It's impossible to measure progress of imprecise objectives. The book "From Emotions to Advocacy" recommends using goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-limited. A better goal than the above would be "Within six weeks, will interrupt the teacher no more than once per day." Concrete goals give the school a clear path for the child's education and minimize the possibility of miscommunication between parents and educators.
Learn what goals are appropriate to an IEP, and learn what your rights and your child's rights are under the law. Understand how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees an education to all children. Talk to other parents with special needs kids, even those with children who have challenges other than ADD. Contact non-profit organizations in your area to see if they offer IEP training or advocacy. If necessary, be prepared to educate the school. Sometimes even the best-intentioned educators are not completely familiar with the regulations laid out under IDEA.
An IEP is not a static document. The goals should be reviewed regularly to be sure they are still relevant to your child's education. Although IEPs are usually reviewed before each school year, you don't have to wait that long. If you feel the IEP is not meeting your child's needs, or the school is not administering the plan as you feel it should be, then call another meeting and discuss the issue. As a rule, wait a full quarter to allow teachers and your child to adjust to the IEP, but if you feel the plan is detrimental to your child's education or safety then don't feel obligated to wait.
- Science Daily: Nonmedicinal Treatment Touted For Preschoolers With ADHD
- American Academy of Pediatrics: ADHD - Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents
- Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide; Pam Wright and Pete Wright
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