New Approaches School Based Program – Neuro-strategies for School Aged Children

When my son was 5 years old, he was put on his first behavioral plan in his kindergarten class and was kicked off the bus 3 times that year. I was both devastated and very concerned. Were we horrible parents? What was wrong with my child?

This began the path down the road of ADHD for my son and our family. I remember sitting in the psychiatrist’s office and telling him I didn’t want him put on medication, when what he really needed was better parenting. I know that sounds over harsh towards parents, but as an Occupational Therapist I knew the tendency to slap and ADHD diagnosis on a child, give him some medication and call it good. I did not want this for my son. We were fortunate enough to be taught, by my son’s counselor, some very sound parenting tools to change the way we dealt him. This doesn’t mean he avoided the medication because he did end up with the ADHD diagnosis and the medication that went with it. It does mean we became better parents and not just with him, but our other two who did not have ADHD.

I’d like to tell you that was the end of it, and everything has been great since, but that would be misleading to say the least. We continue to struggle with this every day. We struggle with completing homework, lost homework and getting it in on time; if at all. We struggle with organizing his folders and attention in class as well as attention to detail when completing a task.

As parents we struggled with navigating a 504 plan at school. What was a 504, how was it different from an IEP and what goals should we have that would REALLY work to his advantage and not just fulfill the legal obligation of the school. We also struggled with where to find out his homework assignments so we could help monitor; different teachers used different tools. How do we carry over strategies between school and home? And maybe most importantly, how do we help our son be independent and not use the ADHD as an excuse?

This is how the New Approaches school-based program started; through the frustration of a parent, who happened to be an OT, trying to navigate the cracks that my child was at risk of falling through. He did not qualify for OT or ST at school because he wasn’t learning disabled. So, who was going to help him? I am thankful everyday that my professional background allowed me to pick up what was happening and what needed to be done. Now, the goal is to share it with all the families who have children struggling in school.

Our school-based program is designed to assist parents and the child in first identifying the needs of the child. Once the specific areas of concern are determined, this program will work to use neuro-strategies to assist the child and family in making sure the child can be as successful as possible in school. The Occupational Therapist will help put into place individualized, organizational tools for school material management. This means, what tools work best for the child and the family and not just giving the child a planner to use. A plan for how homework is monitored and turned in will be established. The OT will also observe, assist and make recommendations on homework completion skills. The OT will help determine individualized goals for the 504 or IEP plan that are specific and not generalized. The OT will attend meetings with teachers, the school counselor and/or the 504/IEP plan as invited by the parents. Finally, recommendations can be made to other professionals that might benefit the child such as a vision therapist. Most people don’t realize that many children with memory, attention and reading difficulties will sometimes have visual processing deficits that impact these areas. Moreover, many schools do not test for visual processing deficits. Other health professional recommendations might include a tutor, a sensory therapist or a family counselor.

There are many ways to help a child who is experiencing even the most minor of academic learning and the New Approaches School based program will help bridge the gap between school and home. As mentioned, many of the neuro-strategies used at New Approaches have been tried and proven successful with my own son. If the above story sounds familiar, please contact us; we are here to help.