This past weekend it was my honor to be a presenter at the two-day FRUA (Families for Russian & Ukrainian Adoption: conference, held at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  A range of speakers covered a variety of different topics of medical, social, educational and psychological importance faced by these parents and children. 

Over the two days I met many parents who talked to me about their children.   My overriding impression was that these parents were highly committed, passionate, caring and optimistic people, in spite of the fact that most were dealing with complicated learning and behavioral issues.  While some were quite pleased with the support and understanding they received from school, there was also a good deal of expressed frustration.

On the second day of the conference, I was a co-facilitator in a lively round-table discussion on learning and school issues.  Some of the major points made include:

·    Trust your gut as a parent.  If you think there is a problem, there probably is one. There is no gain in waiting to see if the child will “grow out of it.”

·    Try and check the problem out through a trusted professional who can offer perspective and support.  Often this person becomes the professional you will return to over the years as your child goes through different stages of development.

·    Consider evaluations as a “snapshot” as a moment in time.  Taking a “snapshot” at the transitions (i.e., leaving kindergarten, going into the upper elementary grades, starting middle school, high school and college) is most important.  use the assessments to ask the question how “good to go” is your child.

·    If the child is not “good to go” in a key area (e.g., written expression), ask yourself (and the professional) what can be done (if anything) to target the area of concern.  You may not want to wait for the school to act  on this, as they may not see the issue the same way or perceive the problem to be severe enough to warrant attention.

·    If the child is overwhelmed by difficult worksheets or assignments that are clearly over his/her head, inform the teacher that the child can’t handle the assignment and is in a frustration level.  No one can handle working at a frustration level.

·    Strive to work collaboratively with the teacher.  Use plain language, instead of using psychological, medical or legal jargon.  Rather than saying, “Zachary has ADHD and auditory processing deficits and his 504 Plan says that you must repeat directions to him,” try speaking more plainly.  For example you might say instead, “Zachary really has a tough time following directions.  I know he’s in fifth grade and he’s supposed to at this point, but this has always been a really tough area for him and it still is.  I would really appreciate it if you went over to him and made sure he was on board.”

Above all, stay calm!  Stay sensible!