Teaching Your Child to Self-Advocate

Last time I mentioned how important I think it is for parents to teach their ADD/ADHD children to stand up for their rights, especially when it comes to Attention Deficit Disorder.

I think most parents, whether they have kids with ADD or not, have experienced times when they’ve had to step in and make sure that their child was being treated fairly. Sometimes it’s another child who’s being unfair, but it could just as easily be a coach, a parent, a teacher, or even a family member.

Being treated unfairly is one of those universal experiences that we all have at one time or another. As parents, we want to do for our kids what our parents did for us: prepare them for next time, so that they don’t end up being a victim again. This makes sense when we think about the playground bully taking everyone’s lunch money, but did it ever occur to you that you also need to prepare your child to stand up for himself in the classroom?

Here’s something you need to understand: many of the professionals that you deal with in an effort to help your child may not be as knowledgable about ADD as you assume. I found this out the hard way (see “About Me” for more). Professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, pediatricians, and teachers may know the basics about ADD, but they are far less informed when it comes to specifics or real life application unless they have chosen to specialize in the subject, or have firsthand knowledge. You also need to realize that teachers, even the best ones, have an entire classroom to manage. You can’t, and shouldn’t, count on them completely to see that your child’s educational needs are met.

So here’s what you do:

  • Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about ADD/ADHD and how to manage it. This site can hopefully help you with that. I will be adding a newsletter soon, and additional tools to make that process easier.
  • Educate your child. ADD/ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of, and if anyone in your family thinks otherwise (dad?), set them straight. In our house, we’re all ADD (except the pets), and we have learned to talk about it. My kids can spot a fellow ADDer a mile away, and furthermore, they understand why they act the way they do.
  • Learn about IEPs and Section 504 of The Americans With Disabilities Act. (Again, something else I will cover in another post or article on my website). Educating yourself about these will help you figure out where your child fits, and what rights they have as a result. In general, anyone diagnosed with ADD/ADHD is covered under Section 504; qualifying for an IEP has more stringent guidelines.
  • Once you are aware of what rights your child is entitled to, learn how to ask for them, and teach your child the same. I worked at a community college for many years in Learning Assistance, and I met many young people who had learned this valuable skill. I also met a number of college professors who believed that ADD didn’t exist, and that giving kids with ADD special accommodations was giving them an unfair advantage. Teach your child to be polite, but firm, when asking for what is rightfully theirs, and if all else fails, tell them to use the following magic words: FEDERAL LAW.

Next time, I’ll get into some specifics on IEPs and Section 504.

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About Brenda Nicholson

I am an ADHD Expert, Coach, and Consultant. I want you to learn how to celebrate your life with ADHD too.

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