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Questions about Elementary School
Advice about ADHD
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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
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
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
Frustrated, but trying to be patient Mom
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''
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
[See Arrowsmith Academy for more recommendations.]
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\ .]
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.
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
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