Back in the day most of us sat in an uncomfortable wooden desk with an etched pencil holder on the far end, facing forward, and followed our teacher’s direction for learning – which didn’t deviate much from school to school. We got what we got and we didn’t throw a fit. Not so today. Now we understand that everyone learns differently. Some learn visually, others are auditory learners and there are those who learn best by doing. These differences are celebrated and incorporated into many school offerenings. Today we can shop around and choose what the best environment is for our ADHDers. But for all of today’s forward thinking – is finding the optimal learning environment really as easy as one stop shopping for a Complex ADHDer?
Nor’s story: The right school is somewhere our ADHDer can learn. Friends, it’s been so long since I thought of school as a place to learn that I’m at a loss for words on this one. I didn’t realize that until I was writing today’s post. School has always been a place where the entirety of my emotional energy gets spent on ensuring my child’s social and emotional needs are getting met.
I honestly don’t know how my child learns best or what type of environment would encourage his giftedness. I’m thankful he reads at a college level and that I don’t have to worry about his basic academic skills. On the other hand, it’s more than a little sad that his brain isn’t turned on during school. I’m realizing that he learns best one on one with an adult. He doesn’t thrive in the classroom or in collaborative learning situations.
What to do with that knowledge about how he learns and choosing the right school? Well, this year he’s starting off with distance learning and a one-on-one tutor to work on math and science. I’m learning that the “right school” might be better thought of as the “right environment for learning.”
Ali’s Story: I was enthralled with the easy going, option-filled environment of a local Montessori. There were lots of fun seating options for a fidgety student and instruction was offered with some extra grace and nurturing. Perfect! Except that’s also the perfect storm for a student with high anxiety and our ADHDer’s anxiety was still undiagnosed. His learning was thwarted because of the lack of structure despite a fun atmosphere that didn’t put him in a box. What we thought would be a great fit just didn’t work. It did help us in diagnosing his anxiety, so we’ll count it a plus.
Fast forward four years to a summer of grade recovery. Our ADHDer’s fun in the sun was traded for Geometry and Chemistry classes working one on one with tutors. We thought it would be pure drudgery but instead it was a great plus! Not only did he make A’s in both classes, but his learning was piqued and his confidence skyrocketed! It turned out to be a fantastic experience thanks to our skilled tutors. We found out he worked incredibly well one on one as long as the tutor was engaging, encouraging and kind. Using a fabulous and skilled tutor throughout the school year became a great addition to our regimen from then on.
It sounds simplistic, but the right school for our ADHDers has to be somewhere they can LEARN. Learning needs the right environment and the right people to take place. Kids have to feel safe, valued and connected to engage and learn. As parents of Complex ADHDers this means we have to be attune to their changing needs and how well the environment they’re in is working with them. It means we have to be flexible to make changes when we see something is not working. Most of all, it means we need to stay connected with our ADHDer so we can know for sure how they’re doing, what they’re feeling and how strong their confidence in the classroom is.