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Schools for ADHD Kids

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Questions about Elementary School Questions about Middle School & High School Advice about ADHD Other Resources

Questions about Elementary School


School for socially anxious 9-year-old with ADHD

Oct 2011

Our son, now in 4th grade, has been attending a private school in El Cerrito since Kindergarten. Though it is a wonderful, progressive school, because of his anxiety and ADHD, it has never felt like a good fit for him socially or academically. He has wavered between loving this school and hating it, the latter being the latest sentiment. He is having trouble connecting with his peers, who are often too overscheduled with other activities, and the academic pressure is getting to be too much for him--and he is starting to resist going in the morning. Though his teachers have been very supportive of his issues, his sometimes inappropriate behavior and difficulty reading social cues seems to be alienating other kids, and support from preoccupied parents seems to be nonexistent.

We're looking at other schools whose community can offer him more support and accept him for the unique individual that he is. It would also be nice for him to connect with friends who are not too busy to get together for spontaneous play time. Any thoughts on Archway, Walden, or others that might be a good fit for a sweet, bright, but anxious 9-year-old boy? concerned mom


Try Beacon Day School (510) 436-4466. Not only the number of children in each classroom is very small compared to other schools but they have incredible activities. The staff and teachers are thoughtful, knowledgeable and they really care about each child. Express your concern - I am sure they will address it and work with you to provide the best. narniaph
My son is now 11 and was diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and anxiety when he was 7. It was getting worse in 2nd and 3rd grades. We were in a private school in San Francisco that boasted 2 learning specialists per grade and 2 counselors - he did not thrive and in fact, became more anxious and lost his self-confidence. Last year, we decided to commute to Oakland to have him attend the Pacific Boychoir Academy. My son enjoys music and singing and this environment has changed everything for him. Since we started there, he is so much less anxious just due to the supportive environment, small class size, and attention he gets. The musical aspect of the school has also had a profound effect on helping him stay calm and focused - he has come alive through music. He has been taking medication for ADD for years, but finally the days of tutoring and struggling over homework are gone - he's happy and motivated. The issues he used to encounter daily have disappeared. I know from experience that it's worth looking at many school options to find the absolute right one - I'm a believer that it's about environment - identify what makes him anxious (numbers of kids, pace, different interests, need for praise, etc.) and then look for a place that really addresses what he needs - it's worked for us. I've found that small classes, creative programs, and individualized attention go a long way for kids with ADD and anxiety. I'm happy to share more about our situation. kts
I would highly recommend Montessori Family School (MFS) in El Cerrito. My son has been attending MFS for 5 years now. When he started there he was 8-years-old and had a lot of problems with making friends, dealing with conflicts and being able to stand/sit still. MFS provided all kinds of recommendations, support, additional tutors, etc., etc., etc. It took a while, but the improvement in my sonC-s behavior is tremendous. He has learned how to deal with people and manage conflicts, able to concentrate and study well, and generally become part of school family. Happy MFS Parent

Services for kids with ADHD at public school

Oct 2009

Our eight year old (a 3rd grader at Malcolm X in Berkeley) was diagnosed with ADHD last year. We put her on Concerta which seems to be helping her focus--at least somewhat. The school agreed to provide her with a ''full educational evaluation'' after seeing some very skewed speech and language test scores in second grade. They have completed these tests now and want to meet with us on Wednesday to discuss next steps.

We were told in a nutshell on the phone that our child even with the meds is ''borderline'' in qualifying for ''services'' and that it could go either way in terms of their decision on what to do.

So I am wondering whether it would be important for us to advocate hard for her getting ''services''--or whether ''services'' aren't all that helpful?? I don't really know much about ''services'' and their usefulness. Any and all advice would be extremely helpful to us. We want to do what will be best for our child. SH


You will definitely want to advocate hard for your child. The first thing to know is that your child has the right to a free and appropriate public education. The sticking point comes in defining ''appropriate'', hence the decision about what services and supports are needed for your child to succeed in school. If you are able, I would strongly advise that you get either an attorney who specializes in education/special education, or an advocate to assist you. I am a parent of two Autistic sons, one who also has Down Syndrome. I am not a paid advocate, just someone with a lot of experience who is always willing to help out fellow parents. Sarah
My son was diagnosed with ADD at the end of 2rd grade and for us the ''services'' weren't very helpful or there at all. We live in the WCCUSD and the money is just not there for these important ''services''. I found that working with the teacher worked much better. I set up a meeting with his teacher and figure out with them what they were comfortable with. His teachers gave him extra time to complete assignments and let him bring work home. He was even given his homework packet on Fridays (on the hush hush of course)so we could get through the more time consuming assignments in the morning when he was more focused. He wouldn't finish the homework over the weekend but would get a good start on it so it wasn't so much during the week. Now he is in middle school and I still find it much easier to deal with the teachers directly. For example.. he is in advanced classes because he can do the work but in Algebra he only does the odd numbers. That way he gets through the assignment but doesn't spend 2 hours doing it. I am not sure what the BUSD offers but this is how I got around the ''services'' or lack of. anon
Education Advocates at DREDF (Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund) can help you understand what special education is all about, and help you sort out whether your child needs special education to benefit from her education and how to best work with your school. Our services are free of charge. We are located in Berkeley, and serve families throughout Alameda, Contra Costa and Yolo counties. Contact us at (510) 644-2555 or iephelp@dredf.org. Robin Miller, Education Advocate, DREDF
My son has ADHD and was tested within the school distict. Testing gives you a sense of what is going on, but never as good as private testing. The school district never uses the term dyslexia even when you are searching for answers and it seems to you that what else could this be? The services were generalized, although you get an individualized plan that doesn't quite happen for a variety of reasons. Kids get pulled out in groups twice a week. I now have my son in a private school (they vary as well) and they very much support my son's needs and the teacher abides by the plan within the classroom. One thing to know...When we originally did the testing, we were told that it is the difference between the measured intelligence and the child's performance that qualifies him for the extra services. Howerer, in talking with a resource educator recently, it seems that this has changed and that even without this difference, the child may qualify based on performance only. Good luck. Been There

Services for kids with ADHD at public school

Aug 2009

Our son is 7 years old and was diagnosed with mild dyslexia and ADHD. We have already given him the gift of another year (per all the great advice I found here!) so he will be entering First grade this fall, instead of Second grade with the rest of his peer group. He went to a Waldorf school for his early childhood and to a Catholic school for his first academic experience of Kindergarten. He loved both. The Waldorf school is 30 minutes away, Catholic school 5 minutes away. Our son is very social and outgoing, loves knowing ''everyone'' in our neighborhood, being a part of the community. I definitely feel more comfortable with the Waldorf community, so it was an adjustment for me getting used to the Catholic school environment.

Our son is very creative, loves to be outside, and is extremely active. All those qualities are encouraged and developed at the Waldorf school. He can't read yet, has trouble paying attention but behaves very well at school (at home, he is very difficult, but that's where he ''lets his hair down'' so to speak). He likes the ''big school'' feeling at the Catholic school: the fact that it is in our neighborhood, the pool, the gym, all very cool from a 7 year old's persepctive.

My concern: I am worried that he will have a very hard time keeping up academically at the Catholic school. I am trying to protect him from feeling as if something is ''wrong'' with him because he doesn't learn in a linear fashion. He already has received extra help and tutoring for speech, reading, writing, etc., but is still in the bottom/middle of the class after being held back another year and he still hasn't begun to read. I'm not worried in the big picture sense, but I am worried about him struggling in school.

I am wondering if he would fare better at the Waldorf school, using a multi-sensory approach to learning. Or, perhaps the rigid setting of the Catholic school would benefit him. Does anyone have experience with this situation/decision? I would love to hear from parents and/or students themselves who have been through this before.

I am also trying to seperate what I prefer (Waldorf) with what would be best for him (being included socially in the neighborhood, not having to switch schools again).

Thank you very much in advance for help in making a decision that is keeping me up at night. Lynn


Hi, My daughter has ADHD and Dyslexia and is now a freshman in high school. The very best thing you did for you son was to diagnose him early and get help.

The best thing you can do is get early intervention. Private schools don't have to adhere to any Special Education laws and normally don't have the intervention programs that public or specialized schools have. I do think it really depends on how severe his dyslexia and ADHD. If he is severe (not reading yet seems severe), I would get him the most intensive intervention now.

As for keeping up with his class, it is difficult for them and their self esteem does suffer because of it. But, I think it is good to find something he is good at, no matter how small it is, and to build up his self esteem with it.

I also think you need to look at what reading programs both schools have to offer. If the catholic school does not have an intensive reading program, then I would seriously think maybe it is not the best school for him at this point in his education.

Reading researchers tell us the ideal window of opportunity for addressing reading difficulties is during kindergarten and first grade. 95 percent of poor readers can be brought up to grade level if they receive effective help early. While it is still possible to help an older child with reading, those beyond third grade require much more intensive help. The longer you wait to get help for a child with reading difficulties, the harder it will be for the child to catch up.

The three key research conclusions that support seeking help early are:

* 90 percent of children with reading difficulties will achieve grade level in reading if they receive help by the first grade.

* 75 percent of children whose help is delayed to age nine or later continue to struggle throughout their school careers.

* If help is given in fourth grade, rather than in late kindergarten, it takes four times as long to improve the same skills by the same amount.

You will need a lot of support, you are your son's number one advocate and you know what is best for your son. If you have more questions, please feel free to email me.


My 8-year-old has ADD. You probably know that ADD starts to be a problem around 2nd grade when kids need to be able to listen to the teacher and stay focused on work long enough to finish a 15-minute task, neither of which my son can do! The developmental pediatrician who diagnosed him explained how ADD is actually a chemical deficit in the brain -- not a strong enough signal is getting through. The meds work by strengthening the signal so the kid can stay focused on a task that requires brainwork. No amount of tutoring can fix that.

I also have an older son who made it almost all the way through K-12 public & private schools with untreated ADD. I say ''almost all the way'' because he dropped out of HS. Since then he's had a series of low paid jobs, and started community college several times without being able to finish out a semester. He is a really great guy, smart too, but he has big gaps in his skill set from being tuned out for most of K-12. He also does not have the focus for anything more demanding than running a cash register, which is very boring for him, so he doesn't stay long in one job. He never went on ADD meds because I didn't believe in ''drugging children'' as they say. Now that he's old enough to make his own decisions, he says he is opposed to treating ADD with drugs. I love him dearly but I'm not that excited about supporting him for the long run. It is also very sad to me that he thinks he is dumb. He is not dumb, he just has ADD.

So, with that lesson learned, I now have a very different view about my 8-y-o's ADD. We began a trial of meds at the end of 2nd grade, and his teacher, who confessed a bias against meds, nevertheless told me that he noticed a 75% improvement in my son's ability to stay focused in class. What I noticed is that for the first time my son could carry on a conversation without my asking him the same question 5 times.

To answer your question: the Waldorf school will not be very demanding academically for a few more years, so your son will not have the problems he is having in a more conventional school. But he will still have ADD, and eventually he will hit the same roadblock he's hitting now. I really urge you to give the meds a try for a week and see how it goes. All the best to you


My son has ADD and learning disabilities that present as dyslexia though they are caused by long term memory and retrieval issues. He will be going to his fourth school in four years this fall. Two of those previous schools were Catholic schools. At both we found a high level of intolerance for his learning issues. The constant refrain was ''public schools have resources for children like that and we don't.'' While some teachers were willing to make some accommodations there were an equal number of teachers who were rigid that he must learn and produce in exactly the same way as everyone else. This is not true of ALL Catholic schools. I know of others (that are too far for us to commute to/from) that are more progressive toward children who already face challenges, but after two horrible experiences, where the learning problems were exacerbated by unchecked bullying and ostracism from classmates, we stopped searching for a Catholic school that would work with us.

I can't speak first hand about Waldorf and learning disabilities, but I have heard that the approach doesn't address them particularly well. Children with learning disabilities need very specific instruction that will not be taught in any general classroom. Frequently, especially with a child with ADD, that instruction is best delivered either one on one or in a small group setting. Your best bet is to either go to a school that specializes in learning disablities education, like the Raskob Day School, or put your child in a school that will be tolerant and accommodating of learning differences and get an educational therapist who can teach your child how to read and write around the dyslexia. We've paid anywhere from $45-$75/hr for ed therapy... that in combination with the tuition you are paying may be the decision maker as to which route you follow. a mom who has fought the battle


Dear Concerned Mom,

My older son sounds very similar to your son. In 12 years of teaching I have also had several students with dyslexia/ADD. I don't think Catholic School will present any problems for your child. My own experiences as a teacher in a Catholic school early in my career showed me how very supportive the school community can be, and usually is, for all students.

My son repeated K, and by the end of 3rd grade he was only reading at a mid-1st grade level. He was very frustrated with reading, and he was starting to give up. He began vision therapy in 4th grade at the beginning of December. The therapy is very expensive, but well worth it. The vision therapist suspected that he might have some form of dyslexia. The weekly therapy sessions lasted 9 months, and he still goes for check- ups every six months.

By the end of 4th grade he was reading at a late 2nd grade level. In 5th grade he was reading at a mid-5th grade level by January, and is now reading at a beginning 6th grade level as he begins 6th grade. He made the honor roll all three grading periods in 5th grade and tested advanced in English Language Arts on the CST at the end of 5th grade. He had tested basic in English Language Arts at the end of 4th grade.

Many doctors will tell you that vision therapy ''does not work'' for kids with dyslexia. My son used to say he was dumb, and it almost broke my heart. He doesn't say that anymore. His therapist was Dr. Iole Taddei in Corte Madera. There is a very informative survey on reading behaviors on her website. Best of luck to you and your family. Anne


I missed the original post on this topic, but in reading the responses want to chime in. My son has adhd/dyslexia and was attending a public elementary school where he had an IEP and received very routine ''pull out of the class'' assistance once a week (in and of itself very stigmatizing). We have had him at Beacon Day School in Oakland for the past several years where his IEP was honored, and actually steps were taken in class to address the modifications. It helps that the class sizes are small (14-18) and the teacher has the time to answer my son's questions so he can progress to the next step of whatever problem they are working on. His math, reading and writing have improved substantially. Also, Beacon is great for providing an environment of acceptance. Kids with learning differences seem to be accepted by other kids without too much notice. Hope this helps
I believe that the best educational model for a child with challenges like these is one in which the classes are small, the teachers are kind and have enough time to create curriculum that offers the possibility of success on the child's terms. Some children with AD/HD respond well to a highly structured environment, others do much better with a more flexible model, so the decisions have to be made on a case-by-case basis. In any case, it sounds like schoolwork could be very taxing for your child with this dual diagnosis. I am an educational therapist specializing in AD/HD. If you would like some professional advice or support for the development of organization and study skills, writing or reading comprehension, you can contact me at the email below. Also, check out the CHADD Educator's Guide and Parent-to-Parent Training classes. You can find information about them at www.chadd.org and www.chaddnorcal.org. Good luck. linda

Which Elementary School for ADHD child?

August 2008

I am looking for a progressive elementary school (public or private) in the Bay Area that will nurture my ADHD son. Some of the schools I am interested in include: Park Day, Aurora, Archway, Beacon, The Renaissaince School, and Orinda, Piedmont, and Marin Public Schools. I would love to hear from parents of kids with ADHD who have had either positive or negative experiences with these schools/school districts. Is there a school out there that has the resources to give ADHD kids the special attention they need??? Antonia


We have been quite happy with the services the Piedmont School District has provided for my 8-year old, who has ADHD-type issues, as well as learning differences. We have had to advocate to get our child appropriate services, including hiring a consultant/advocate, but generally have found the district to be responsive after being presented with the appropriate studies/data. At the school level, the principal and most of the teachers and staff have been very compassionate and open to learning about my child's disabilities and willing to make necessary accommodations in the learning environment, even before we officially qualified for special ed. services. Additionally, even outside the special ed realm, the district in general seems to have realistic homework expectations for grade-schoolers. Another factor to consider is the length of the school-day. Until the middle of 3rd grade, the kids are in school for only 5-1/4 hours (3-1/2 for kindergarteners). Plus, Piedmont in general has many services for special-needs kids, like after-school social skills programs and social skills groups, even outside the special ed program. Piedmont also has a strong special-ed parent group called PRAISE. If you're interested, you could call the school district for more info. about PRAISE and for the names of some Piedmont parents who might be willing to talk to you.

As far as private schools go, you should be aware that most private schools, unless they are therapeutic schools, will not test or give your child the services he or she needs. Public schools are mandated under federal law to identify the children with special needs, and federal funding is provided through the public schools to provide these services. A private school is not positioned, nor charged with servicing special needs students. If it turns out the public school system cannot adequately service your child, it will be required to find, and pay for, a private school that can meet your child's needs. So, if your child is disabled enough by his illness to have learning issues in school, I'd advise looking for a responsive public school district. I'd suggest that you call the director of special ed at some target school districts to talk about school services. I also highly recommend www.starfishadvocacy.org as an excellent resource for special ed needs for children with neurological disabilities.

Good luck! Another concerned parent


Best School Districts for ADHD boy

April 2008

I'm ready to start looking to buy a house in the East Bay, but I need to be in a school district that will be accommodating to my now 8-year-old son who has ADHD and some writing difficulties. Is there an East Bay district that is better than others about offering special services and accommodating special needs? - Anonymous Mom


I have a high school student with ADD and writing and processing disabilities. My student was in the Moraga school district for elem. school. We found them hard to work with: holding a student study team meeting and trying to characterize ADD as an emotional/family issue; refusing to look at any third party professional educational testing (ours was done by a highly reputable phd) - even if they were not being asked to pay for it; disputes about whether our child qualified, testing disputes with our professional, when comparing the private testing to low star tests, telling us that the star test results are irrelevant; once qualified, having a protracted delay in receiving services, and once services were provided, not meeting IEP goals within deadlines and services being of minimal value; taking the position that they did not provide math remediation although other students received remedial math services.

We ultimately removed our child from the Moraga public school and went the private route. We checked into coming back to the Moraga middle school. Since we had already qualified, qualification was not an issue, but the type of services offered did not fully address my child's disabilities, so we remained in private school. Based on my experience, I would not recommend the Moraga school district, although, in fairness, I have heard, that the district is trying to change to address learning issues in the lower primary grades. While you need to look at the elem. school level for your 8 year old, don't forget to look at the programs on the middle school and high school level.

We recently checked out the local high school which is in the Acalanes district, and again qualification was not an issue, but due to the future budget issues in the California public schools, we had questions about whether the special education teacher would be able to have direct instruction or remediation services with our student. -Anon


5th grader's ADHD meds and afternoon homework

Oct 2006

My son has ADHD and takes medication to help him concentrate during the school day. It is a shorter-acting medication and generally wears off around 2-3pm. It very difficult for him to concentrate on his homework and get it done in the afternoon and evening. He is in the 5th grade and the homework is becoming more challenging and more important. We have been trying a very short acting homework dose of medication in the evening, but it is tricky to time it so that it doesn't affect his appetite for dinner, but still takes effect in time for him to get his work done, and then wear off in time for bedtime. These efforts haven't been very successful and all of us are getting very frustrated. His homework has become a huge source of stress for everyone in the family. How do other families with children with ADHD manage this? Do your children take a longer-acting medication that lasts thru the afternoon, and do they do their homework then? Or if they take a later homework dose, when do you give it to them and how does that work? I know we can't be the only family with this struggle and we need help. I would really appreciate knowing how others manage it. With 5th grade homework being this tough to get thru, the prospect of middle school and high school is overwhelming. We really need to come up with a better way for him to handle his homework. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.
Frustrated mom


As an adult with ADHD and a coach, I have a tip that might help your son. Perhaps you can work with him to teach him how to break down his homework assignments into small pieces. Then each day the first 15 minute attention span would go to the breakdown, then he can take a break and do a completely different activity (sometimes only another five to ten minutes is needed) then go back and spend 15 minutes on the first homework chunk. The ''small bites'' and permission to rotate through other activities or even different types of tasks might work for him sydney
Ask your MD about a longer acting medication. We use Concerta which lasts about 10-12 hours. The shorter acting meds. were giving us too many peaks and valleys and moodiness in addition to being harder to manage. Our MD really thought Concerta would work better and he was right. best wishes
The leap in homework keeps increasing in amount and complexity, steadily from 4th grade! My son is in 5th grade - and he struggles too with homework and keeping track of assignments, projects being due at different times. Partially due to his age and wanting more independence - homework becomes quite a dramatic event in our household too! We're still trying to figure out how best to deal with this. I wonder also how he's going to manage in middle school.

I don't have specifc advice for dealing with ADHD medication/strategies - but I'm wondering if you've asked your son's teacher/school for accommodations - perhaps resource so he can do part of his homework at school and get help there, or a modification in the amount of work assigned - does he have an IEP or 504? Have you talked with his teacher? Some parents I know have their child work with tutors - often times they interact better with tutors. I've also heard of educational therapists who work specifically with ADHD kids. Would you be able to have your son's medication switched to a longer acting one or change the timing of when he takes his medication - so perhaps he takes another dosage at school? Have you checked the Schwablearning website? There's alot of information there and also supportive parents with alot of expertise. Check out http://www.schwablearning.org Hope this helps! Good luck!


My daughter is in 7th grade and just starting taking medication herself this year. She takes a long acting formula, but with afterschool activities many days she isn't able to start homework before 6:00. I try to give her incentives to get her homework done as soon as possible -- playing a computer game or something like that -- but it is still often a struggle. I realized too, that nagging her to finish her homework by a certain time didn't really work, and just raised the stress level for everyone. So I try to give her some space to relax before she gets started on her work. Remember that this is not all about the medication. We are still new to this process ourselves, but I am realizing that it requires understanding how my daughter learns, and how keeping her interested and motivated requires a completely different approach than will work for her more typical sister.

I suggest talking to your child's teacher. I always found that if I had an honest talk with my daughter's teachers about the stress that homework was causing, enlisting them as an ally, they always offered accomodations of some sort, as long as they knew she was doing some of the work and understanding the concepts. Maybe there is a different kind of assignment, a more interactive or hands on approach, that might be a more suitable way of learning the material. Don't just struggle through this alone. I've never met a teacher who wants to hear that their homework assignments are causing stress in the family Veteran of the homework wars


We give our son the 10 mg Ritalin L.A. (long-acting), and that provides enough focus to get him through school and homework time. The downside is the lack of appetite, as you mentioned. We give him a small snack after school, a medium-sized ''dinner'' around 6 p.m., and a larger ''bedtime snack'' around 8 p.m. Sometimes he doesn't get sleepy until 10 p.m.! This is not ideal, obviously, so I'm interested in how other parents respond --Oakland mom
sounds like you need to move to a once a day, longer acting med for your boy. homework will only get more intense and he will need to have all cylinders firing at 6p to get through without major stress. my ADD son is in 6th gr at a private school where homework is definetly a factor and he is doing very well. this woudl not be possible without his morning pill. he does not eat lunch regularly as a result of his meds, but i give him a HUGE brekkie complete with bangers and eggs - high fat, doctor's orders - to kick off the day just before he takes his pill and later he eats a large dinner with only neglible snacking in between. The lack of midday appetitie is a hard pill for mom to swallow but we've found a good balance we feel. As needed he takes his med on saturday to get through any homework project, but generally we try to keep the weekends med free. Good luck. nicole
Our son is 13 and has ADHD. We have been through a lot of different medication plans over the years. What we have done for quite a few years now is working well. He takes a long acting stimulant in the morning and a short acting booster at noon. This takes him through afternoon homework. He must do his homework right after school. We allow him to eat dinner later than most children. He usually gets hungry between 7 and 7:30. We stop TV and games one hour before sleep. Research has shown that this helps to quiet the mind in all children, but especially kids with ADHD. By the way, he eats a big breakfast and no lunch to speak of. We have never had a weight problem with him on this schedule. Anne
I found two things that improved the homework situation. Switching to the timed release formula of a medication so that it lasts more like 8-10 or even 12 hours makes it possible to still have that concentration in the afternoon or even early evening. Also, I found that as my daughter matured, she just seemed to be able to become more independent in her homework. That happened in grade 6. ak
We have a 4th grader with similar issues, and have struggled with homework for the last couple of years. His meds don't seem to help a ton by the time he gets home and we have chosen not to supplement them (he is now on concerta). I swore I would not be the homework monitor again this year and challenge/ruin my relationship/feelings with my kid. Last year he had a tutor at our house, which helped some, but this year we sent him to Raskob for tutoring, which lasted all of two weeks, since he totally rebelled. He has been doing homework club in the ams, and the work is getting done, albeit in a half-assed manner. Someone has suggested hiring a high school kid - a boy for our boy - to come over two times a week to help, hang out, be a cool friend. That seems like it could be the best solution, I just have to make it happen. I appreciate your struggles and look forward to others' responses Tired Mom
It's hard, and no wonder you're frustrated. To answer your question, before the school year started, we changed our 7th grader from Ritalin to Concerta, mostly to address the late afternoon/homework slump. The lack of appetite and insomnia side effects seem manageable, although I must say I often have him skip his medication on weekends (I'm not recommending this because I haven't even told our doctor and I'm not sure he'd approve) and I'm astounded at how much he eats. You didn't say exactly what the problems with homework are. I play a very active role in his homework, not doing it for him, but making sure he knows what to do and actually does it. If your son isn't clear about his assignments, for example, you'll have to set up a way to get that info from the teacher. And incentives are good - when our son is done he gets to play computer games, so that's his motivation to stay focused and finish. Good luck and I hope you get some good suggestions. another mom dealing with ADD
You are so right! Every family struggles with this! We had the same issue and worked with our son's doctor until we finally switched to strattera which doesn't have that same impact on appetite and sleeplessness. Talk to your doctor. (Ours is Brad Berman and we love him.) Maybe a change of meds will help. Good luck! mom who has been there
My son takes ''Concerta'' on school days. It lasts 12 hours, supposedly. We used to have a problem at home when it wore off around dinner time, but the coming down effect seems to have evened out over time. It did help with after-school homework.

It also seems to work as an appetite suppressant, so this may be a problem with a younger child. My son seems to get plenty to eat anyway (a teenager) but is just not hungry at all until it wears off on school days. We make him eat breakfast before taking it in the morning, and it usually wears off by dinnertime, so he gets two good meals (and doesn't eat as much junk in the afternoon as some teenagers). You could ask your doctor if it might work/be safe for your child another mom


You might consider a trial of Concerta, the long-acting medication. It lasts 10-12 hours and is designed to have a lesser effect at lunchtime. Works for my daughter and is available in very low doses so you can start slow as you see what works for him Parent of ADDer

Help from OUSD for private school student with ADD?

October 2006

I have a 11 year old daughter in a private school in Oakland who has ADD. Tutoring is becoming expensive and overwhelming. I'm wondering if OUSD offers any assistance with ADD, evaluations and tutoring. Does she have to be enrolled in a public school. I don't want to label her as being learning disabled, but what about later when she needs to take exit exams and needs extra time or help. Will they give her those considerations without a diagnosis from OUSD. Please help, any advice is greatly appreciated.
Frustrated, but trying to be patient Mom


OUSD is required under the new special education laws to assess (called child find) and provide services to children who are in private schools where the private schools are located in the OUSD. Before the OUSD has to provide services or any accomodations it must evaluate a student and determine that the student has a learning disability that is recognized under the federal laws (determine that the student is eligible for special education). No evaluation and determination of eligibility means no services and no accomodations by the OUSD. I suggest that you get the NOLO press book the IEP Guide. You can also call the State of California Department of Education Procedural Safeguards Referral Service. Your concern about labeling is valid, but that has to be weighed about the ability to get services and accomodations. Annon
My heart goes out to you, becuase I know how hard this is. I have an 8 yr old adhd son with severe LD. I don't know about OUSD, but let me say what I do know from WCCUSD, and what we learned from private services. You said you have had tutoring. Did you have any testing done to see what kind of learning aassistance your daughter needs? If not, this should be your next step, and I would recommend both a school eval, and a private eval. Also, please please do not worry about labling your kid as LD. ''LD'' kids can get services from the school district. Kids with LD need to KNOW why they are not like other kids. The self esteem issue is HUGE. Once they know that their brain is wired different, they are relieved to know they are not just dumb. LD does not mean dumb, it means differnt. My son has an IQ of 120, but he cannot read. He is just different. I have learned that getting and paying for exacltly the right kid of intervention (tutoring) is critical, otherwise, you are wasting lots of money. An educational therapist is essential. So, about testing. Call your local public school, and ask if you child can be tested for learning disablities (something specific). Find out if they do this- I don't know if you have to be enrolled. I would recommend asking for the full phyco-educational test, as well as speech- expressive and receptive languge (there can be hidden problems there). If you where in public school, they would do some observations, and preliminary testing to see if full testing is warrented. I don't know how they would do that at your private school, but ask the OUSD. You have have to call the superindentands office. Second, find out if your insurance will cover an evaluation by a developmental and behavioral pediatrician. Get a freferral from you pediatrician. I was suprised to learn that our insurance, pacific care, covered the whole cost (over $2000 of testing). Children's hospital has a great program, but the insurance hoops can be great (but do-able). Third, Lindamood Bell in Berkeley does a great battery of tests, it costs about $700. They are a very expensive option if you go there for remediation,(about $1650 a week for 20 hours of one-to-one remediation in the summer), but they usually get great results. The reason I recommend both the school, and private is because they come from different sides of the fence (in my opinion). The school does not want to find anything wrong, because they do not want to provide services. Lindamood Bell may Want to find problems, so they stay in business. In my situation, the school took more notice when we came in with a pile of tests, and previous remediation (we went to Lindamood bell for two summers). Once our school in WCCUSD found my son had specific problems, there was not trouble getting lots of services (he has an IEP, special ed, speech, OT). If money is a big issue, you may do better enrolling in a public school, getting as many services there as you can, and suppliment with an educational therapist. But you really need the testing to know what kind opf help your child needs. My son get about as much help as the district can give him, and we still need to pay for extra. But with adhd, things can get bad, so we are trying very hard. Good luck!
another mom

Does daughter's ADD entitle her to special services or accommodations?

Sept 2004

We have been told that attention deficit disorder in our child does not entitle her to any special services or accommodations at her public elementary school because it is not classified as a learning disorder, and only learning disorders entitle children to special help. Is this correct? If not, can anyone steer us toward a good source of guidance for getting the school's help in addressing our child's problem? Her teachers have all acknowledged that it is a serious one, but their only answer to it has been to seat her apart from other children when they feel she is too talkative, and to advise us to ask our pediatrician for medication.

In case it is relevant, our daughter is nonetheless advanced in reading and math, which may be why the school won't help. We are concerned that her distractibility and her inability to organize and finish tasks will create severe problems for her in middle and high school, and we would like the school's help in helping her learn and practice strategies for addressing the problem. Father of a ''space case''


I think that attention deficit disorder can qualify your child for services in the public schools under the ''other health impaired'' category. It is not true that only learning disorders qualify a child for services. If the add affects her ability to achieve her potential and impacts her successful participation in the classroom, then she should qualify for services. You might want to get the book ''The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child'' by Lawrence M. Siegel. I know it's available at Amazon and possibly @ nolo press. It is extremely informative and helpful. Special Ed departments are overwhelmed and underfunded, be polite, but learn your rights (the book will help), make it clear to the district that you know your rights, and be a squeaky wheel. You will have to push to get services, but it can be done. There is also an organization called CASE,Community Alliance for Special Education, that will advise you on a sliding scale basis and has an excellent publication (I think for free) called Special Education Rights and Responsibilites. Their # is (415)928-CASE. Good luck! Been there
I am a Resource Specialist in a Hayward Elementary school and I see this regularly. If your child has been diagnosed by a medical doctor with ADD or ADHD then you can request testing through the public school to see if he/she qualifies for special education (most likely resource time). If there is not a significant discrepancy in her cognitive ability and her cognitive functioning she would not qualify as learning disabled, but if she is having significant problems in the classroom she can be qualified as Other Health Impaired because of the ADD. I have a few kids in my class to whom this applies. Also, if she is not significantly low and you do not want her tested or in special ed, she should be able to qualify for a 504 plan which entitles her to modifications made in the classroom. This is not a special ed function, it is part of the American Disabilities Act. If you have any questions feel free to email me. Good Luck! Rebecca
Being a private school administrator and parent of a developmentally delayed son, I do know that public schools do not recognize ADD/ADHD as a disability and therefore, these kids don't qualify for special services. I think that stinks but I have been able to help parents find other resources of support through Bananas and Kaiser Permanente has a good support group. Hope this helps... lena

Applying to Private Kindergartens for ADHD Kid

November 1998

My son is having problems in kindegarten and we are applying to private schools for next year. I have two questions from parents who have been through this process.

1) We are considering evaluation from ADHD. I made the appointment and then I began to receive the applications many of which ask if the child has been evaluated for it (not if he's been diagnosed, but evaluated). My inclination is to simply wait until the application process is over before I have him evaluated because I don't particularly want to lie on applications, but I'd like to start the process sooner rather than later. Has anyone else run into this? How have you handled it?

2) This child's kindegarten teacher does not like him and does not enjoy having him in class. We are required to have her fill out an evaluation for him. I'm inclined to think that we have her fill one out and also have his preschool teacher, who actually liked him, fill one out as well. Would this be a good strategy?

Thanks for any experience/Advice you might have.


About trying to get the possible ADHD kindergartner into private school:

Your son is having a bad experience right now. Yes, work on next year, but also try to improve the rest of his kindergarten year in any way you can. Meet with the principal ASAP. See if you can get him transferred into another kindergarten. Be as pushy as it takes to get him as positive an environment as he had in preschool.

Don't assume private school will be better, especially if your child *does* have ADHD, or ADD, or maybe just some simple learning delays. I have seen kids with mild special needs, including my own, flounder in kindergartens in a very highly regarded private school, with teachers everyone (at least everyone whose kids are completely on track) raves about. These teachers didn't dislike the kids, but they also either didn't have a clue as to how to help them learn, or didn't see teaching to kids with different abilities as their responsibility. The attitude was very much "we don't do special ed; you better get some outside help".

The above is especially true if you get your son into a private school by "tricking" them about his possible ADHD diagnosis and the difficulties he's having this year. If you can't be honest with them about who he is and what help he might need, don't be surprised if they're not willing or able to provide the help when he's finally enrolled there.

We made the opposite switch, from private school to public, and with a combination of some outside help and lots of very real, enthusiastic, quality assistance from the school, saw tremendous improvement. Good luck.


I would not recommend disclosing testing, definitly not just the intent to test. I would wait till after applying to do the testing unless you think the results of testing would have a big impact on your choice of schools.

On the advice of my son's 5th grade private school teacher I had him tested for ADD and learning disabilities. He was OK - not in the range. Most of the other boys in the class, I later learned, had also been recommended for testing (!). This was an academic private school. We eventually decided to change schools because this same 5th grade teacher just really didn't like my son and was coming down on him pretty hard. As a result, he had completely tuned out during class time and he was doing poorly in the school. He is a great kid and very enjoyable and social but not the sit-still-be-quiet-and-follow-the-rules type. The principal at the school also was not very supportive so I didn't want to try another year there - there wasn't any way to make him into something he is not. So, we were looking for a new school. In applying to new schools, I answered "yes" to the question "Has he ever been tested for a learning disability?". I don't think I would do this now. The school we were most interested in had an unofficial percentage of slots available for learning disabled kids, and that percentage was full. I think that because he'd been tested, my son was assumed to be in this group, so he didn't get in.

Another point: the private schools I looked at all had some sort of test to administer, usually academic, but some schools had an additional interview/test to assess maturity and personality of the kid. So I think if they want to screen out learning disabled kids, they can, regardless of whether you've had your child tested previously. Of course if you are looking for a school that specializes in learning disabilities this is probably irrelevant. but my experience was with schools that want few or zero kids with learning disabilities, and the kid in question is maybe/maybe not.

As to another recommendation, yes I would get a recommendation from the preschool teacher. But I think many private schools are used to getting apps from kids who didn't get along with the teacher they had last year so don't sweat it.

In retrospect, I am very happy with the way things turned out. My son started junior high at a Berkeley public school and got a teacher for 6th grade who found him delightful and who inspired in him a love of math and science (this is George Rose at Willard). Though my kid is never on the honor roll, and still has the occasional run-in with "The Law" for Dennis the Menace type pranks (last month it was detention for opening every single locker in Building X and then leaving the premises), he is very happy and has a lot of friends and is making decent enough grades - even an A in math on the last report card (but don't ask about History). Good luck!


As a teacher I have to say that I am concerned about several aspects of 
your situation. Your response to a child who is having difficulties is 
to a) say the teacher does not like the child    b) change the school, 
and c), mislead  his future school about him.

First of all, if a child is having difficulty behaving in class and 
getting in trouble for it, the child will sometimes say, "The teacher 
doesn't like me." The parents needs to help the child see the difference 
between the teacher not liking the disruptive behavior and not liking 
the child.


Please think carefully about what you hope to accomplish by moving the 
child to another school. First of all, your child will have a different 
teacher next year anyway, even if not moved. Secondly, ask yourself why 
you are hesitant to let the potential new school know that your child 
might need testing. If you think that would deter the school from 
accepting your child, why would you think it would be a good place to 
send a child with that condition?

Obviously, you think there is enough concern to get an evalution.  Maybe 
this is where your first focus should be -- evaluating the child and 
determining what his needs are. If your son is now attending public 
school, that school should be looking at what support he should be 
given, if the issue is an academic one, and not just a question of 
behavior. If this is potentially the case, you should know that you have 
a lot of rights as a parent and should push the school to see if he 
needs services and if so, that he get them.

In any case, I think it makes sense to first evaluate his needs and THEN 
to determine the best placement for next year based on that. Then look 
at the first grade teachers at the current school as well as at private 
schools.

I know it's very hard to be objective as a parent  but your son has a 
lot of this school year to go and you being angry at his current teacher 
is only going to make it more difficult for him, and I'm sure he's 
frustrated enough already. Try for his sake, rather than being angry at 
his teacher, to ask her to give you specific suggestions on what might 
help your son this year. Also ask what she is doing to address the issue 
and whether she thinks he should be referred to the School Site Council 
for possible resource specialist help.

The issue of whether the teacher likes him comes up because children 
really want their teachers to like them. For the sake of your son's 
happiness over the rest of the school year, I would suggest you help him 
make his behavior as acceptable as possible. If you can try to be 
cooperative and supportive of the teacher this may help her put things 
in a better perspective too, and see your son as the child you love so 
much, not just as a disruptive influence.

My son, now in fifth grade, had a horrible time in kindergarten at Head-Royce and we did not make the decision to move him until he was actually kicked out by the school in second grade.(We kept hoping things would get better.) So you're smart to make a change right away. My son went to the Elementary School of Arts and Sciences(ESAS) on Broadway in North Oakland after his horrendous Head-Royce experience. This school is very small, only 18 kids, in a mixed grade setting (K-3), and although the teacher did find my son difficult, he ended up doing extremely well there. (My son in kindergarten was very "advanced" academically but way behind socially, so that a mixed grade class worked very well for him.) If you want a small setting with lots of parent participation, you might want to look into this school. (By the way, my son is now at Montessori Family School and doing very well)
Regarding the letter of recommendation from the current, unsatisfactory teacher: We had a similar problem and I chose not to request a letter from the current teacher. I did find another person at the school who knew my child (in our case, the speech therapist) and requested that she write the letter. I also made it clear to the private schools that we were leaving public school precisely because of our inability to resolve the problems created by the teacher and the current classroom situation. I also got letters from several other former teachers: a public school teacher from a previous year, an afterschool art teacher, our rabbi. My daughter was admitted to both schools we applied to. I can't imagine that risking a negative letter from a teacher whose opinion you disrespect can be better than omitting that letter with an explanation.

Questions about Middle School & High School


High schools with extra support for Inattentive ADD son

Oct 2013

We are looking at high schools for our 8th grader who has ADD (inattentive type). He is bright but emotionally immature, has performance anxiety, and has very poor organization and planning skills. We don't think he'll be able to handle a large school, an academically intense/competitive school, or a place that is too unstructured. We are looking at Orinda Academy but are trying to figure out other options as well. We're wondering if people with knowledge of Realm Charter, Envision Charter, or Millenium think that these schools could be a good fit. I've heard that ACLC is very unstructured. Any other ideas/suggestions also very welcomed. mom worried about high school


If by ''Envision Charter'' you mean Envision Academy on Webster Street in downtown Oakland, I would urge you to drop it from your list. I am a parent of a student. While the school and its very dedicated, passionate staff do certain things well, it is a very chaotic environment, to put it mildly. And if your son needs an IEP, I feel even more strongly that it's the wrong school. The on-the-ground resource staff is great, but the school's director of special education is not, and they report to her. I won't say anything else this publicly...
Dear mom worried about high school,

Worry no more! There is a high school in Orinda, Holden High School, (www.holdenhigh.org) that provides lots of individual attention and a very nurturing and supportive environment. Holden is a small school that serves students from all over the Bay Area, accessible by BART. The staff at Holden recognizes each student's unique learning style and supports the student in developing emotionally as well as academically.

This is our student's second full year at Holden and he is doing well, his organizational skills are much better, grades have improved considerably, and he has matured emotionally.

Hope you will consider Holden to see if it might be a good fit for your son.

Wishing your family the best, A grateful Holden parent


I would encourage you to investigate ACLC more closely for your son. ACLC is not an unstructured environment, it is a more flexible environment which can really work to the advantage of kids with alternative learning needs. Many kids with learning challenges like ADD thrive in their project-based curriculum because it is more creative and addresses their different learning styles, while avoiding the boredom many ADD kids experience with traditional teaching methods. As a result, these kids feel empowered and engage more directly with their education and thus develop increased self-direction and independence in learning. ACLC is offering Information Sessions and School Tours of their program for interested families, see dates/times here: http://www.clcschools.org/page.cfm?p=436 You can also contact the Lead Facilitator (Principal), David Hoopes, for information or request a meeting at: (510) 995-4300 or david.hoopes@alamedaclc.org Best of luck in finding the right program for your son! Parent of multiple ACLC kids

Highly gifted ADHD student - which high school?

Nov 2012

We are looking into Tilden Preparatory, Mentoring Academy and the BISP for our highly gifted 9th-grader with ADHD. He is currently in BIHS, but it is an ill fit in all possible ways. He finds the class size and behaviors distracting, and does irrelevant homework. He feels at home in the advanced classes he is taking (Honors Music and French 7-8) and only one of his core classes, and we cannot find a solution for his needs within the school. He is asking for a more intense yet freer learning environment where he can be with other kids who really want to be there and learn. He is enthusiastic about all subjects, but has a special love for science and writing, and a gift for languages (fluent in Eng, Sp, Fr) and music. We have appointments with all three mentioned programs, but need some disinterested opinions about their relative strengths, weaknesses, and fit for such kids. Your input about each program and even better, about how they compare and how you'd rank their fit for a kid like ours, would be most appreciated, especially if you speak from experience.


My daughter attends Tilden Prep. Like your child, she's very bright but also has ADHD. Academically Tilden has been a great fit. The pace is flexible, redundant assignments are avoided. She loves literature and has a lot of choice about the books she reads. The best thing about Tilden is the teachers, they are very smart and knowledgeable. She feels like she is treated like an intellectual equal when having discussions with them. She gets detailed editing and feedback on essays to improve her writing, that wouldn't be possible if a teacher had to edit 30 students' assignments. There is minimal social interaction among students. There are some clubs that meet at lunch time (book club, anime, gaming) and organized community service events. My daughter feels like there are basically two groups of kids, those who are really smart and don't fit in at 'normal' schools and kids who had to leave their schools for drug or other types of violations, but that doesn't have to change the flavor of the positive aspects unless you want it too (those are mostly her words). The flexible schedule is great, she has a whole day a week with no classes to pursue other interests, music ensemble and other hobbies. Overall it's a good fit for an introvert who is comfortable with adults, because the primary interactions are with the instructors in one-on-one class sessions. We are overall quite happy with the support she is getting around her learning differences too. Satisfied Tilden Parent
To the mother who asked about the three choices for her ADHD son, I have had a lot of experience with Tilden Preparatory School; I am the College Counselor for many of their students. I think it's an environment well suited to a student who would do well with ''mastery learning''. The teachers there work one-on-one with their students, learning a unit until the student feels ready to take a test on the material. A student can, therefore, go at his own pace and when he feels he knows the material, he can be tested. The students get to know each other from meeting in the hallways, going for breaks together, or having the same tutor. However, there aren't traditional ''classrooms''. I love working with Tilden students because they range from A - Z in terms of ''types'' and ''backgrounds''. They all experience ''success'' academically, and that turns them into confident and happy individuals. I would highly recommend Tilden if the environment I described suits your son. You are doing the right thing by comparing the three schools; your son will instinctively know which one is best-suited to him. Best of luck with your process. Jan
My son and I love Tilden Prep. We've been there through 11th grade and now part of 12th, struggling with ADHD and other issues. Sorry I cannot compare Tilden with the other schools; I don't know them. My son has not been able to learn in a classroom with other students, getting too distracted and then falling behind and getting into trouble. The Tilden 1:1 ratio of student:teacher has allowed my son to do well for the first time after a long series of other approaches, none of which worked well. He has truly blossomed in the last year, after succeeding with his academic work at long last. I've been hugely impressed by the quality and caring of the teachers I have met, as well as the two school heads. Please feel free to contact me via Tilden if you want further details. Parent of a Tilden Prep Student
My 8th grade daughter was diagnosed with anxiety and info processing disorders and her public school was not making needed accommodations. Long story short, we tried Tilden's Walnut Creek campus and it was godsend. Without the visual/auditory/social distractions found in a typical 33-student class, she was able to learn more, faster due to the one-on-one teaching. The directors have a backgrounds in psychology so they GET kids - whether behind or advanced - just looking for a safe, accredited place to learn. Very positive atmosphere, teachers are stellar. maritess
I'm responding to the parent interested in Tilden Prep compared to BISP and Mentoring Academy. My daughter attended Tilden Prep for three years because even though she is very bright, her test scores weren't reflecting what she knew, no matter how hard she studied, and her grades were starting to slip in 10th grade. She thrived academically and socially at Tilden. She loved her teachers, and felt like they made the courses interesting and also helped her do her best. She even attempted classes she would never have considered at her previous (highly ranked public) school, like high levels of math and science, and she did well in those classes! She is extremely extroverted and social, and had a large group of friends there. She said there are all kinds of kids at Tilden, the students respect each other, and everyone finds one or more student that they get along with. All in all, we were thrilled to have Tilden as an option for our daughter, so was our daughter, and she felt very well prepared for college. Proud Dad of Tilden Grad
Since you didn't receive any input on Independent Study, and since I didn't read the issue in which you originally posted until yesterday, I thought I'd give my thoughts on the matter. My daughter was in BISP for most of high school. It worked out well for her, although we worried that she was isolating herself socially, which was probably more a personality issue than a result of working independently. She learned how to study and write papers, she was able to take classes at Berkeley High that she wanted to take, and she is now a college freshman at an institution that values individuality and intellectual rigor. This is not to say that it was an easy road for her or us - she wouldn't consider private school, and BISP was her choice - but she was successful in school, however you measure that, and we're all pleased with where it has taken her so far. former IS parent
We have experience with both Tilden Prep and Mentoring Academy. Both schools are good at what they do but they work on very different models.

Our oldest child attended Tilden for one year, getting individual instruction from teachers. The directors are both knowledgeable in the education field, and we found the teachers to mostly be good. They are well-prepared in the topics they teach but they are not necessarily trained as teachers. The school seems to work well for students who are motivated and are able to get work done independently. It also allows students who are struggling with a subject to go at a slower pace. Because the classes are one-on-one it can get expensive.

Our younger child attends the new Mentoring Academy. The students take a mix of Mentoring classes and on-line classes. The classes are accredited and meet UC requirements. A wide range of classes is available and students who are ready for more challenging classes take college-level classes. They are at school from 9-5:30, working on their classes, getting individual tutoring, or working with other students on projects. They also participate in various social events. They complete all their work at school and don't have homework. Our child attended a private high school for two years and was a good student, but somewhat bored. At Mentoring he is taking classes that really interest him. The director, John Muster, is a gifted educator. He was well-respected by parents and students as the head of Maybeck High School. He has an amazing rapport with the students. At Mentoring he works closely with the students to make sure that they get the right classes and are actively engaged in their own educations. Mentoring Academy is new and still very small, but I imagine it will grow quickly as the word gets out, and there are plans to add art and other classes. It has been exciting to see our son so engaged in his classes. Even though he does not have homework he sometimes works at home because he is so interested in what he is doing. A Berkeley Parent


Each of the three schools mentioned has strong and effective solutions to meeting the needs of students. All three provide self-paced instruction. This posting is a brief explanation of the features of Mentoring Academy because there are some important differences. Students are expected to be at Mentoring Academy from 9 to 5:30 each day to meet with teacher-mentors, engage in projects with other students, participate in discussions and to complete their individual work. We do not send students home with homework, rather expect them to complete all work with the support and guidance of the mentors on staff and engaged with them during the school day. Evenings are for families, following personal interests, and resting in preparation for the next day. Social, travel, all school and joint events provide for a rich interpersonal life as well as a strong academic environment. Every student is placed at their appropriate level whether it be Advanced Calculus, AP courses, or modules that assist in mastering skills missed in earlier schooling. All courses are mastery, project, self-paced, mentored and engaging. A-G approved courses. The approach is to support individual student mastery, accepting the fact that no two students are alike. John Muster, Director of Mentoring Acadcemy
Thanks to all respondents. Our conclusions:

1. Tilden: respondents indicated their child's happiness and achievement at Tilden, and parental satisfaction with the quality of education there and the attention to individuality. We decided against Tilden due to cost.

2. Mentoring Academy, John Muster: the program is small and new. We visited and met twice with John. Significantly, my son wanted to transfer there after meeting and feeling extremely comfortable with John and the students. I found John's engagement with my son and the other kids to be excellent -- respectful, insightful, and encouraging a reflective and investigative attitude. Different than Tilden in that although each studies on his own, students are on site all day, interacting during breaks, with John and the tutors. We decided not to enroll there, and not for reasons of cost -- it is actually sliding scale. We decided for BISP instead to facilitate our kid's sustained participation in BHS classes and groups he is already involved in.

3. Berkeley Independent Studies Program: Nobody replied about this program, but we researched it and visited many times before eventually deciding in its favor. We met several teachers, the new director Edith Smiley, and observed daily functioning. We were extremely impressed. Run by the school district, so it is free. Designed for students with professional lives (dancers, etc.), parenting obligations, and/or who are very bright but bored in Berkeley High and prefer studying on their own as fast as they wish. Concurrent enrollment with BHS and/or BCC is common and permitted. Students meet once a week with their teachers and work on assignments the rest of the week. There is a full-time tutor and although kids can study wherever they want, they can also spend their entire day at ISP, as they have computers, books, and peace and quiet. Kids who are unmotivated, need constant supervision, or thrive only in large group settings would not do well here, I don't think, as it does require a greater degree of autonomy and curiosity regarding learning. BHS and BISP counselors coordinated the transition, which was bureaucratic but pretty smooth. Our son now takes non-core classes at BHS and core ones at BISP, and is thrilled to be free of the distractions and constraints of large classrooms. I would highly recommend that parents of bright, motivated and quirky kids consider BISP. Vera


Help finding an appropriate school for my ADHD son

Oct 2012

Hi!! I'm a mother of a 15 year old son who has a mild case of ADHD, no learning disabilities, just focusing issues. So far I've had no luck with schools accepting him because of his grades, and because of his focusing issue his grades suffer. Funding is also another issue. When you are a new student to a specialized school they designate money to current students and can only give so much to new students.

I've been trying to help my son for a very, very, very long time and I am running out of ideas, places to go, people to talk to about the whole situation. I don't know how to help my son anymore. It's beyond after school programs, even if they are great. The problem lies within and during his schooling and I need a specialized place that can really give him what he needs and accommodate his social skills as well.

Exhausted Mom needs help! Thanks for any suggestions, advise or opinion you're able to give to me. RG Loving Mom


Our son also has inattentive ADHD but is out of HS now. I know how hard it is as a parent to try, to keep trying and hoping.. I've never felt that there's a good fit out there for kids like ours in the academic arena, at least and surprisingly not around the East Bay. Academia has never come easily for our son, although very smart - and was very difficult to navigate for all of us. No school has ever been quite right. A lot of heartache with some good moments in between..If money was no object, Drew in SF, has a good program for kids with LD. They do seem to encourage one's individuality, dedicated to each kid's learning style while instilling good work habits and desire. Perhaps they have a decent scholarship program and can see through his grades.. (which are such poor reflections of our kid's)..

Tilden Preparatory School, in Albany, seems good, they try very hard to accommodate all kids. For some, reduced class size is utterly important, engaging those with inattentive issues. Your son might get lost at Berkeley High, but it could work out well. Bottom line is, these kids need structural support, even though it's hard for them to take it. At BHS, additional tutors and organizational helpers can make a big difference. Our son ended up at CPS - totally the wrong place. Lots of lip service, they really didn't get how out of the box he was. (very narrow norm there)

There aren't many good choices for our lovely kids with LD's, but in the end, they have to want to get the help we've made available for them. If BHS is the place, then build structure around it to help navigate through their uber political, chaotic, but very exciting environment. Keep eyes open for bullying and a system very lax in addressing it. I wish you a lot strength, perseverance and some good luck. Lisa


Does he have an IEP? If he doesn't then you can request an assesment from the school district, put it in writing I can't stress that enough! the district has 30 days to respond. Also there's an organization in Berkeley, DREDF they are an excellent resource. You can Google ''DREDF'' and it'll pop up. Best of luck & don't give up. cmr
I completely understand your frustration. My 17 ADD son has been to 7 schools trying to find one that worked for him. I had really good results at Envision Academy in Oakland. It is a public charter school focused on getting graduates preparred to get into college. They have an advisory period every day and must complete all work during and after school. This worked well for my son who didn't do well with homework or managing his own time. Unfortunately, he begged me to put him back in his old school with his friends, and I did. I was really happy with Envision, although my son was only there for a semester, so I really can't speak to the social environment or extra curricular activities. Anon
Have you looked into Bayhill High School on Bowden Way in Oakland? Bayhill is a small highschool for kids with learning issues, ADD, etc. My son is a junior at Bayhill and it is the PERFECT school for him. The staff ''gets'' these kids and they know how to teach them appropriately. I dont' know how the financial aid works after the fact, but it's worth checking into to see. We've gotten financial aid every year so far. Bayhill will let your son come and ''shadow'' for a day so he can get a feel for it. Good luck. Their office # is: 268-1500 (510) Feel free to e-mail me if you have further questions about Bayhill. june
Have you checked out Holden High School in Orinda? www.holdenhigh.org It's a small, alternative school with tiny classes, great support and academically sound. I spent three years there as a teacher and counselor several decades ago and know quite a few successful young adults who were previously my students.
I would highly encourage you to contact Holden High School in Orinda. http://holdenhigh.org/who-we-are/our-mission 925-254-0199

This very small school is amazing and truly is committed to working with kids who have struggled in school for any number of reasons. Their approach is non traditional with the goal of helping each student find success and graduate. Many of the administration/staff at Holden have worked there a long time and continue to do so because they are committed to helping teens who need and benefit from staff who genuinely get who teens are. Give them a call and make an appointment to go visit. They will put you in touch with parents like me who will be happy to tell you more about our experience there. Good luck. I hope this will work for you as it did for us. A parent who understands


I'm sorry to hear that you have been struggling all by yourself. Please don't be discouraged. There are a lot of helps out there. IEP is one way to get school district to help you. Besides that, you can find a good education consultant who specializes in finding matching schools/education for special needed students. They do cost a lot, but it worth the money. We got great help from Bodin. You may research this form, some parents have other recommendations. Good luck! another loving parent

High school that accommodates ADHD student

Aug 2012

Looking for high school in the Bay Area that accommodates a student with ADHD. I've been to Orinda Academy, Bay Hill and Holden. They are all great schools to check out!! I just want to make sure I'm not missing any other schools. Thanks!


My son has been at Springstone since 6th grade. He is going into 11th grade now, and is doing so much better than he was. He's been diagnosed with a bunch of things, probably bipolar, but certainly not Asperger's, which is what a lot, but not all, of the kids at Springstone have. They also admit kids with bipolar, ADHD, etc. so you should check it out. Classes are a maximum of eight, and they work on computers almost exclusively and are taught to organize their thoughts using computer tools. They have an Occupational Therapist on staff who teaches them techniques to siphon off all that extra energy appropriately. Let me know if you have any questions. HL
Hi - I would add Tilden Preparatory School to your list. My son has AD/HD and attended there last semester when he was overwhelmed at his highly academic/competitive public school. It is a wonderful supportive environment for all types of students and tries to help kids learn organizational skills without penalizing them for executive functioning weaknesses. The teaching is usually one-on-one or sometimes small groups. Kids get to focus on the course content without getting overwhelmed by the busy work that some high schools require. Grateful mom

Public High School for ADD daughter?

April 2008

My smart, social daughter is in 9th grade at Albany High, but she was found to have ADD and doesn't do her homework so they want to send her to MacGregor, the continuation school. Can anyone comment who has a kid at the new location? It sounds like the program has improved but I'm still worried. I'd much prefer she go to Holden or Orinda Academy, but she insists she wants to stay in Albany. Frustrated mom


Dear Mom of ADD girl - I too have an undiagnosed teen with ADD or ADHD - I too have been in a very stressful local school district - close to yours actually - I decided NOT to go through the districts ''testing'' or ''classification'' programs - I had her tested myself and realized that I as her Mom knew her better than anyone did anyway - she is distracted and needs someone to keep her focused - what did I do - TUTORS TUTORS TUTORS - we now have a great group of women who help her IN OUR HOME and she LOVES THEM AND LOVES THE 1 on 1 attention - GET HER A TUTOR fast - there is a great group in our area called STUDY SMARTER - they have a website - ask for Joel and get started even now before school is over - HELP your girl help herself and give her what our parents probably never could or recoginized - because for sure either you or her dad have ADD too - Best of Luck and sell your soul to get her a tutor who can work with her and give her the kind of encouragement she deserves and LEAVE HER WITH her friends and let her stay calm, happy and supported - don't move to the alternative school - those are just for the ones who are really bad off or parents just can't deal with them at home (or don't want to) - write me back on a post if you can't find Study Smarter - I have used many tutors and services and they are THE BEST by far maddie
My daughter also has ADD and attends Orinda Academy, which can be a good fit if the student needs support turning work in on time, etc. But I really encourage you to keep your daughter at Albany HS if she is happy there, doing OK academically, and has a good social network. You can always seek homework help and tutoring, but you can't buy friendship or self-esteem. I'm not familiar with the continuation high school, but the change could really really affect her in a negative way. I'd fight to keep my daughter with her friends. Parent advocate

Can ADD student succeed in Berkeley middle school?

April 2005

My son will be in 5th grade next fall in one of the Berkeley public schools and he has been diagnosed with ADHD. He is a bright kid and is doing well in school now, but is still easily distractable, emotional, and has bouts of anger and depression, especially after experiencing teasing by classmates (he has some speech issues). I am very concerned about how he will handle middle school and want to start looking at alternatives to the public schools now. In particular, I would like some honest feedback by parents of ADHD kids or kids with other challenges who are in the Berkeley middle schools or who have chosen private school for their kid's middle school years. Are there any private schools in the Berkeley area that do well by these kids? Is competition for these schools especially fierce? Anxious mom


My thirteen-year-old son is ADD (he is on a medication regimen during school hours) and is going to finish eighth grade at Willard this spring. He has encountered problems periodically at Willard dealing with other students, but I have never thought that his being ADD was particularly responsible for these.

Keep in mind that the middle school years are for many, if not most kids, the most difficult years they will experience in terms of peer relations. No matter what school a child attends, there will be issues of exclusion/teasing/bullying. What's particularly difficult in a Berkeley public middle school is that there is a significant ''diversity'' of students, including children who can be disruptive, aggressive, and downright mean to other students. My son found ways of coping with these students that rendered his experience in this fairly wild social milieux tolerable. We know of other students who found it simply too loud, wild, and overwhelming. I don't think there's any way of knowing in advance how well your son might cope.

As for academics, up until the advent of ''work to rule,'' I think my son was getting a good education at Willard. Partly, this is because fortunately for him (and for us), he is very conscientious about schoolwork and he sets high standards for himself. He also has no reluctance about going to see teachers before or after school for extra help. When there are problems, however, parents of public school students often must be assertive and proactive to make sure that proper attention is paid to their children; the teachers are overwhelmed enough that they generally won't ''call home'' or take the initiative to resolve an emerging academic problem. At least at the middle school level, we found that teachers and administrators still seem very receptive to parent inquiries and concerns. This is far less the case once the students move on to Berkeley High.


I have no pat answers to your question, but our ADD (quiet form) daughter was generally far more successful in public school than in private.

We initially moved her in second grade from a Montessori school -PRINTS- where she was doing poorly (and the teacher insisted that ADD was non-existant) to a more structured environment at the Nomura School. Here she had a great run for second and third grades before coming up against another unsupportive teacher (wouldn't read/follow physician recommendations like seating her in front of the class, humiliated her in front of her classmates, encouraged them to tease her as 'peer behavior control', repeatedly suggested we put her on drugs despite physician recommending against, etc etc etc.) When we learned she would have the same charming woman for 5th grade, we moved her and her sister to our local public school.

In public school she had a talented and motivated teacher who didn't reject her. We did our part by volunteering in the classroom a few hours a week. Although we worked with other kids, it gave us a big leg up on what was going on and we felt that the teacher (Jon Mayer at Le Conte) appreciated it far more than her private school teachers.

We did try to return her to private school for middle school, because a small class size is so desirable in holding her attention. We applied to three, all with reputations for small classes, an indvidualized approach to learning, and appreciating diversity. She was rejected by all three; none would give us a reason beyond ''we had many applicants for every opening.'' (One was advertising for 'places still open' the following October.) My husband translated this as ''we'll take a normal kid over one with ADD.''

She was assigned to ML King Middle School --which was not in our zone, and I have no idea how THAT happened-- and in general that was very successful for us. Her vice principal, Dianna Penny, made us feel that she really appreciated our daughter and worked with us and her teachers to resolve problems. Although she was not disabled enough to receive assistance through the full inclusion program, she bonded with several kids in the program who provided her with the kind of accepting environment she always yearned for. She had one real problem teacher and a couple of 'FAQs'in her three years there, but we all survived.

My personal feeling is that unless you can find a private school that will embrace your son's differences, the more accepting environment of a public school might actually work better for you. And you can be a hero by donating a tiny fraction of the cost to your public school, you can spend your time volunteering in a class instead of fund raising for new buildings, and maybe even afford after school enrichments for your son that are focussed on his needs and interests.

Best of luck with your decision, Chris


Middle School Recommendations for ADD and LD Kids

April 2001

I would appreciate any recommendations for alternative middle schools in the East Bay area (Richmond/El Cerrito/Berkeley area, preferrably). I have a 7th grade nephew who has problems expressing his understanding of ideas an concepts in a written form. He is very bright, but is rapidly losing any traces of self-esteem when it comes to academics. I think an alternative school setting which emphasized more creative ways of learning and expressing ideas would make a huge difference. Unfortunately, cost is an issue as his Mom is single.


I have a son in 7th grade at Community School of the East Bay (CSEB) ... (see recommendations for Community School of the East Bay
Oct 2000

I am looking for a private middle school for my son who has ADHD. Does anyone have any experiences to relate or recommendations regarding middle schools in Oakland or Berkeley that do or do not accomodate children with ADHD or learning differences? Thanks.


Depending upon how severe your son's condition and how well he responds to treatment, there are a number of possibilities. At the far end, you could consider schools like North Bay/Orinda and Raskob (@Holy Names College in Oakland) which have a specific focus on kids with challenges like ADHD and LD. A family therapist I know and respect who deals with placement issues like these all the time thinks that Head Royce is good with bright ADD/LD kids. But I wouldn't choose to send such a kid to private school, in general.

Here's why. Based on 10+ years of experience, my personal belief is that the local private school community is quite inhospitable to children who manifest their ADD (or LD) in the school environment (and why else would you be asking?). Even mild LD and moderate ADD are more than enough to mark a child as 'a problem' and to prevent him from receiving the benefits you might expect from a private school -- respectful, individualized teaching and good peer relationships. We left the private school world at 5th grade (after two schools and a good deal of effort toward finding others) because we concluded that in private schools a child with 'differences' will always be viewed as a 'problem' rather than a jewel perhaps rough) to be valued and burnished.

Of course these kids *are* problems "from a certain point of view" -- they need teachers who make an effort to understand their problems, who are sensitive to the effects those difficulties have on the child's behavior and performance, and who are willing to make appropriate allowances and adjustments in light of their special needs. The attitude we encountered in local private schools, was, at bottom, one of "we don't need to/want to/have to deal with difficulties like this because we have more applicants than we can handle anyway." As one administrator put it (a math teacher no less!) "your son simply falls outside the bell curve."

What about the public school option? First, I'll acknowledge that the public schools are nowhere near perfect-- at least in Berkeley (if Piedmont schools are an option, take it.) Don't count on the special ed department for a thing, even if you can get your son through the entitlement process. BUT, consider these benefits:

Compared to private schools, your child will be seen as fairly normal by teachers and peers. If he is at all well-behaved, he will find himself going from a 'troublemaker' image (and self-image) to being 'a pleasure to have in class.' This alone has a terrific positive impact on a child's long term mental health.

Compared to private schools teachers will listen to and act on what parents (the experts about their child's special needs) tell them, are usually somewhat knowledgeable of the problems of such kids, and are absolutely DELIGHTED to deal with parents who care about their children and will help them do their jobs. Even if special ed isn't helpful, all you need is a "504" designation (automatic with an ADD diagnosis) and your child will get the accomodations he needs without all the special ed hassles. Regardless of legalities, thoguh, the iimportant thing is just to deal directly with the classroom teachers, starting at the beginning of the school year and staying on top of things thereafter.

Compared to private schools, your child will be much more likely to see himself as a success in academics and social relationships. Many people send their children to private schools because they want them to be tracked to go to the best colleges and generally 'get ahead.' For a child with difficulties like these, however, the first imperative is to learn that they CAN succeed in the school environment. The slightly lower pressure of public school academics is actually very positive for them. Able kids who graduate from Berkeley High after going through the public schools have no trouble getting into excellent colleges, from Harvard and Cal on down.

Compared to private schools, there is such a diverse pool of kids in the Berkeley schools that he will find friends no matter what he's like: geek, jock, social butterfly, space cadet, dancer, skateboarder .... Moreover, the kids in public schools are just as nice as elsewhere. They come from all classes and races, but are usually friendly and VERY accepting of differences. I'm no Pollyanna about class and race issues in the schools, but I have come to believe that those who haven't experienced what our public schools are like today often have a seriously distorted view of them. Sure, there are a few toughs out there, but they are few and far between and don't get away with much. King M.S. has one of the best principals (and staff) you'll find at any middle school, anywhere -- Neil Smith is absolutely first rate by any measure.

So what about academics? In middle school, the math and science program is good to excellent. Kids at King who could handle it were taking high school Algebra in 7th or 8th grade. A few were going up to BHS for advanced math. The foreign language teachers and classes are good as well. English and history are OK but not really challenging so far as I can tell. To me that doesn't matter much: I think those are areas learned by reading, not 6th -8th grade classes. Others may differ. Moreover, if you go on to BHS after middle school, the academic programs and teachers available are very, very good. (For instance, my son is taking Advanced Biology from Dr. Charles Martin, a Ph.D. biologist in his 50's who retired after 20+ years teaching at Cal, Howard and Northwestern. He was also a regional director of the Peace Corps. He inspires effort and excellence. How much more can you want?)

I hope this rather lengthy commentary is helpful to you and others on the list, if only as a counterpoise. Whatever you decide, I wish you very good luck, happiness and success in raising your son.

-- Tim


I just read the post about ADD and other special needs kids and thought it among the most sensitive, detailed, thoughtful pieces I have seen on this subject. I am not the parent of a child with these needs, but can only thank him---and the Newsletter for giving him this forum---for his message that must mean much to many parents. Thank you for the insight, concern,. compassion, and willingness to share these views with us. Stephen
Everyone's experiences are different concerning this. I read the 10/5 advice and thought of how different our experience was. So here is another view.

I thought that public school up through the 6th grade was not useful for a boy with ADHD. Getting anyone to pay attention to a 504 plan was impossible. I worked closely with classroom teachers and spent hours every night with our son relearning the day's materials plus doing homework One teacher tried to help with accommodation of his learning style but there were 31 other students to deal with, some who also had learning disabilities. It was a struggle for our son but he prevailed. His grades were good but he hated school. Not a good combination.

More and more private schools believe that they should be heterogeneous. They desire diversity in their student body including learning styles. It is the reality of society and what their students will experience in life. We discovered Berkeley Montessori School (on Le Roy in Berkeley) for the 7th grade where for the first time our son enjoyed learning. We fully disclosed his ADHD prior to admission. The teachers worked with us. There was daily communication. The class size was appropriate. He discovered new academic areas that he loved. He related to the teachers. They set him on a good path.

Our son is now in the 9th grade at Arrowsmith Academy in Berkeley, another wonderful school to consider for High School. We fully disclosed to Arrowsmith and let the admissions process happen. We are so glad he is there. He likes the teachers and the students, He has new subjects that he likes. His grades are good and many have been amazingly good. He seems happy and to quote him, "If a kid has to go to school, Arrowsmith is a good place to be." Teachers give out their home phone numbesr and encourage you to call. In the first 6 weeks of high school we have seen a wonderful transition happening.

Best of luck to you.
(Posted anonymously)

[See Arrowsmith Academy for more recommendations.]


Many thanks to Tim for such a thoughtful letter. Our experience with one year of private school during the middle school years confirms many of Tim's observations -- our son was actually ridiculed in front of the class for his inattention and his incomplete homework. Quite a shock after years in the Berkeley public schools, and a memorable and miserable year it was. This kid was evaluated for ADHD and LD at the insistence of his teacher that year, but was found to be in the "normal" range. He is just profoundly disinterested in school and without any motivation to do homework or study for tests or participate in class. He is one of those backrow kids who keeps a low profile, never causes any problems, and just drifts along, getting by with C's and D's. We returned to public school after that experience, and things went fine for a while.

However the big-school environment of Berkeley High School did not work at all. He was in heaven at BHS - loved the school, loved being independent, loved being even more anonymous than ever before. Within a couple of months after he started 9th grade, we were getting phone calls from teachers and seeing F's on the progress reports. Despite a mighty effort at home, and concern from teachers, we found that without his cooperation it just wasn't going to happen. Try as we might, he was not into cooperating, and it seemed clear he would very happily coast along on the backrow for the next 4+ years, bringing home F after F, despite his parents' and teachers' efforts.

So, we tried Arrowsmith, recommended here by other parents. It was rocky at first, and he did not like leaving his friends at BHS, but the small classes, run seminar-style, really did make a difference, because there is no way to fade into the background - you can't be anonymous in a class of 9 kids! He has actually become engaged and is interested in many of his classes. There are still teachers he doesn't like, and he still claims to not like school, but the change is truly amazing. He now comes home from school talking about the poem he read today, or the topic in biology they are studying. Wonder of wonder, he records assignments in his little book, and does homework without prompting. He proudly shows me the tests he's gotten A's on, and he hasn't yet made below a C. Maybe other parents have had this experience all through the school years, but it's a first for me, and it is extremely satisfying.

So, it depends on the kid, as we all know, but my experience is, that if you have a pleasant bright-enough kid who is satisfied to drift along with minimal effort, and maximum bad grades, then a big school like BHS may be a very difficult 4+ years. We are lucky to have had another option for this kid, and the one we picked has worked out really well. I wish there were a place for kids like mine at BHS, because that would have been my first choice. But the independence and wide-open opportunities at BHS that so many kids thrive on really don't work at all for a kid like mine. He seems to do better in a smaller more controlled environment. Anonymous [See Arrowsmith Academy for more recommendations\ .]


Tim's response to the parents seeking advice on private middle school for a boy with ADHD was thoughtful and thorough in discussing the considerations one faces when deciding whether public or private school better suits a child's needs. Our family's experience is different in that we came to private school at the high school level, after many years of committment and involvement in Berkeley public schools. Our daughter just graduated after 4 years at North Bay Orinda School (NBOS) and our son just started there as a freshman this fall. [See Recommendations for North Bay Orinda School for the rest of this recommendation.]
My kids left the public schools in 1987 because of ADD issues which BUSD would not address at the time, and all 5 have gone to private parochial school through 8th grade. The middle three have gone or are going to BHS. This year, I have 504 plans in place for two of my kids at BHS. My 9th grader is in heaven; everything Tim Perry said applies to her: in the big mix of kids, she feels normal, well-behaved, liked and accepted; in the big range of abilities, she comes out as a stellar student. I haven't seen her so happy since she started school 9 years ago. I am very happy with the decision to have her attend BHS and I can't say enough good things about the willingness of BHS staff to hear and accommodate her needs. The times they are a-changing, in public schools, at least; getting special needs met in private school is still an uphill struggle. The main advantage we found of private school is the sheltering of your child if his/her behavior has a track record of attracting aggression in the public schools. Also, when we switched to private school years ago, a child with impulsive behavior was less likely to encounter opportunities for drugs, sex and vandalism in private school and thus was also sheltered in that sense while developing a more mature sense of judgment. Today I don't know that kids can avoid these things anywhere. Anonymous
This note is in reply to the recent discussions on ADD/ADHD appearing in the newsletter. I agree with Mr. Perry about what a private school, in general, will mean for kids with learning differences/styles/disabilities etc. However, I have to disagree with him on at least the one school I know about for kids with these issues and that is Raskob Day School on Holy Names campus in Oakland. [See Recommendations for Raskob Day School for the rest of this recommendation.]

High School Recommendations for ADD and LD Kids

Jan 2002

We have our daughter's IEP this month, and the district will recommend high schools for her, either public or private. She has ADHD, learning disabilities, and some emotional/self esteem problems that cause her to shut down if she feels unable to do the required school work. We are investigating Orion Academy, Contra Costa Alternative School, Le Cheim in Richmond, Arrowsmith (probably too academic) and we live in the Oakland High School district. Does anyone out there have any other ideas, or have any observations about the schools listed above? Thanks.


My son is a full inclusion student in Oakland schools and we are looking too at high schools next year. I don't have experience with the private schools you mentioned and Oakland didn't offer private placement. Oakland asked us to visit Skyline, Oakland Tech (our neighborhood school) and Far West. I have an appointment to visit Oakland Tech and will bring my son with me. I am trying to make appointments at Far West and waiting for someone at Skyline to contact me.

Last year I called Dr. Ann Parker about high schools. Her schedule is so busy that she didn't have time to meet with us but email me about options. Note: She knew my son when she was with Pediatric Medical Group.

My advise is to visit the sites suggested and of course talk to parents in their program. I always brought a close friend with me to see if what I saw and heard was what she saw and heard. Now that my son is older he is involved in his IEP and in the decision about which high school to attend. Not knowing all the details of your child's IEP, you need to decide which program will meet the needs of your child. Good luck. Doreen


Would you please forward my email address to the person who asked about alternative high schools? The description of their teen sounds very much like one of my daughters who is doing well at Arrowsmith. I previously wrote about Arrowsmith, and those comments are archived. I would be glad to share our experiences that might help these parents.
We are beginning the search early for a high school for a 7th grade girl who now attends a small school for children with learning and emotional problems. A large public high school will not work for her. We have heard recently of two schools that seem possible. One is Contra Costa Alternative school in Orinda, and the other is Orion Academy in Moraga, a new school just starting up. One seems to stress emotional and social needs, the other non-verbal learning disabilities. We are dealing with both, as well as ADHD. Is anyone familiar with either school? Any other suggestions?
There is a school in S.F. to look into. It's free...it's a charter school...and I understand it's good. They take some kids with learning differences and/of ADHD, and kids who what a different kind of high school experience. It's Gateway School. I don't have the phone number with me. From what I understand it's based on the ideas of Dr. Mel Levine and Howard Gardner.An MD I know sends his son there and speaks highly of it. (He lives in the East Bay). Rona (April 2001)
Hello to Anon. My son transferred this year from BHS to Contra Costa Alternative school in Orinda. I'd be happy to tell you of our experiences (90% positive) there.....write me at ________ and we can talk ....same offer to any other parents who might need a school very "therapeutic", alternative (i.e., not heavily academic, very tolerant of anti-authoritarian beliefs) and low-pressure oriented.. best, Lisa
Spraings Academy in Walnut Creek recently moved to a new campus and has been in existence for about thirty years - educating children with special needs from 2nd grade through 12th grade. Also, The Raskob Institute in Oakland is developing a high school that is scheduled to be open by Fall 2002. I've personally checked out all of the above. Rosa
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