Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hot topic: SFUSD resources for kids with ADHD

This from a reader:
While we wait for our wait pool letters, I was wondering if you could start a topic about problems encountered during kindergarten. For example, my son (July birthday) is currently in a private kindergarten. He's having behavior problems and could possibly be ADHD. Its been suggested if he were to stay at this school, he would have to repeat kindergarten. We've applied for SFUSD schools, we're currently 0 for 7 and hope for a good school. But now I'm worried, what school would be appropriate for him? How do you find out about services or classroom set ups that can accommodate us? If the private school suggests repeating kindergarten, can I enroll him in 1st grade at public? What if I need to enroll him in K, how would that affect our assigned school?

I would love to hear of personal experiences with this issue, though I realize most of your readers are new to the system. Also suggestions of resources would be very helpful.


  1. I would see a specialist (not one recommended by the school) and first determine if you child has ADHD or any other sensory issues. With the July B-Day does your son turn 6 or 7 this year? With private school, you never know. Since you do not have to go to K in Calif, I think your child will be fine in 1st grade but would talk to the specialist. I would also try to figure out from the Private K in a roundabout way if he would be repeating because of maturity level or academics. There are a number of boys who enter K at 6 years old so if you conclude he needs to be assigned to K then I would see if you get can get a medical appeal or hardship at your assigned to school for a K spot. I believe in public school you can ask to be evaluated for IEP and that the IEP puts in place what assistance your child gets from the district (tutor, extra time, etc.) Best wishes!

  2. parent of son with adhd (not at cacs)April 20, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    I've heard that Creative Arts Charter School has many kids with ADHD who are doing well in their less structured environment. Are you on their wait list?

  3. I strongly suggest that you have your child evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. If they do find that your child has a diagnosis for ADHD or some other developmental disability, the public schools may have more to offer than private schools.

    There are several avenues to get "accommodations" for your child, even for non-traditional disabilities. Our family found the greatest comfort and information available from a non-profit in the Mission, Support for Families with Children with Disabilities at www.supportforfamilies.org.

    Our experience is really one of gaining knowledge. We have a very bright child who displayed what we considered personality issues. It was the teachers and social worker at our public school that encouraged us to have an evaluation, one that ultimately showed a neurological issue was causing some of the behavioral problems. We've learned a lot and are grateful to our public school for taking notice and pointing us in the right direction.

    We are in the middle of the IEP process and won't learn if our child qualifies for a few weeks, but if so, we will have many, federally mandated, accommodations for support.

    Hope this is helpful.

  4. I also recommend contacting Support For Families. Wrightslaw.com is another good source for information. This link talks about eligibility for Special Ed and other support services:


    You really need to educate yourself as to your child's rights and how to best navigate the system and advocate for him.

  5. We have been in the school system with a child with an IEP for five years now. It is good you are asking these questions now. We didn't when our kid was first starting and have lived to regret it now. We just assumed that all the schools had good special ed people. We also assumed that all the schools treated special ed the same. Neither is true. At some schools, the principal is very supportive of special ed -- at Claire Lillienthal, for example, the principal during tours actually talks about special ed as one of the school's programs. At others, the principal is not. Ask to speak to the special ed people at the school and try (I know it is hard) to get a feel for how good they are. From this blog, you will see comments about particular schools. The only consistently positive comments I've seen here about SE at a particular school have been Claire Lillienthal and Lakeshore. Perhaps others might chime in now and help this person if they have good experiences in special ed at their school? (We haven't so we can't.) Finally, the reason your K decision now is so important is that, once you are assigned somewhere and become dissatisfied, it can be very hard to transfer. For example, one of the SE designations -- "Inclusion" -- has a completely different assignment system with its own rules. I have heard that hiring a lawyer is the best way to get to a better school. But we didn't want to do such a confrontational thing with our school, especially when we had some support going on. This year has been so bad at our school that, if we don't get a transfer this year, we will DEFINITELY hire a lawyer for our next IEP.

  6. I teach Kindergarten and am a person with ADHD, so while I can't share a personal experience with my child, I do have some recommendations:

    1. Look for a classroom where children are able to fidget, select their own seating, walk around and so on providing that they are on-task (or taking a break for a moment to refocus on the task).

    2. Share strategies that work at home with the teacher. Identify times/situations that are likely to be difficult for your child so that there can be a plan in place. If your child can be involved in this process, that might be very useful. It could help him with impulse control by going through the planning.

    3. I personally (and in my classroom with all of my students) have had a lot of success with deep pressure and body awareness activities, and a lot of teachers/schools use sensory strategies like these. It might be worth looking for.

    4. Given your son's age, unless his behavior is extreme, a formal diagnosis of ADHD is unlikely. There is a big range in expected behaviors.

  7. I have a preschool child who may have ADD so I am learning the ropes myself. We have been told that reputable doctors/therapists/etc don't give an "official" diagnosis on this until children are about 7 because it is difficult to discern fidgety bored kids from those with diagnosable learning challenges.

    Look on page 14 of the 2010-2011 SFUSD Enrollment Guide for various programs for kids with varying levels of learning disabilities.

    Maybe make an appointment to speak w/a counselor at the Board office? I might do that too.

    Also, the Laurel School on Geary at 9th I've heard is good for children who need a bit more attention. I know for sure they have K and 1st grade spots open for the fall.

    Good luck! I know it is hard to make sense of it all.

  8. The district cannot accomodate your child until he has an IEP. Because your child is only in K now, it is unlikely that he would get an IEP on the basis of "other Health Impaired" until 2nd grade and then only if he has a medical diagnosis of ADHD. Repeating kindergarten is better than repeating other grades. If your child is behind academically because of the distractibility, it might not be a bad idea. The public schools will likely counsel you agaimst doing it, so signing him up as a K is one way to go. Good luck!

  9. Two words: Laurel School!

  10. I don't think 11:09 am is entirely correct about when you can get an IEP for ADD. My son -- who admittedly was red shirted and thus started K at 6 -- got an IEP in the middle of K for ADD. Yes, we did have to push the school (11:09 is right that the school resisted) and, yes, it required our pediatrician's diagnosis and other supporting information, but we were able to do it. And we were glad we didn't wait until later. Work demands really start escalating during second grade, so it is important to catch the kids with learning issues early. This gets back to another thing that I really feel is the most important information to impart to a new parent with a special ed kid. With the public schools (unlike Laurel, which I agree is wonderful), you have to push -- you have to be constructive always, but you have to be pushy. If you are not pushy, then the school district will not give your kid the services he or she needs. Other commenters above mentioned Support for Families. Sounds wonderful -- but I have called them two times over the past few months and never gotten a call back. Don't know what is going on there (maybe they are overwhelmed?).

  11. Our experience was that a diagnosis of ADHD alone will not qualify your son for special services under 504 or SPED. I was told that there also has to be a discernible underperformance at grade level. Without at least a year or two of schooling how can such underperformance be deteremined. But I am happy to hear that 9:08 was able to get service earlier. You should find out more from this person because she was able to get earlier intervention than I was.

  12. This is 9:08 am again -- we did push hard in mid Kindergarten. It was certainly helpful that he was chronologically 6 1/2. Our pediatrician was really good at being willing to take the leap to diagnose him with ADD. It is funny about this because, although we were successful in getting him identified early on with an IEP and all and you'd have to credit the school for that, the school has most recently just turned into a complete mess for us. The really good support he got in the early years has completely gone by the wayside now.

  13. I posted in another recent thread that we're very happy with the inclusion team at Lakeshore -- happy enough to keep us from moving the suburbs.

    We have friends in the program at Jefferson who really like it, too.

    You can get an IEP and actual free services before kindergarten. We got ours in pre-K, and I was even told that was a little late. SFUSD is slow about the evaluation, though. If you make the request right now the eval won't happen until after school starts in fall.

    As someone else said, I doubt they'll diagnose ADD at this age, and ADD alone won't get your kid an IEP. Ours was based on other speech and motor delays that in hindsight were obvious, but it was our first kid and we had no point of reference. You might be surprised by the results as well.

    As other people have suggested, Support for Families of Children With Disabilities is a great resource:


  14. I don't know if our kid is ADHD, but he's certainly a wiggle worm. He likes to walk around or move from chair to floor and back while he studies. One of the things I liked about the boys' schools I toured was that they seemed very flexible about this, and his current co-ed private has been very accommodating. He'll be switching in the fall for financial reasons. It will be interested to see how he does in a different environment.

  15. Thank you so much everyone! I'm the original requester. Since we are 'new' to this, I had hoped he would mature out of this behavior, we're scrambling to get things in order at home and would like to be proactive at school.

    Good news: Lakeshore is on our list... just need to wait for next weeks mail.

    My son is not behind academically, he currently can get by paying attention about 5% of the time, though I fear this won't work so well in later grades. He's currently 5 and we don't have an official diagnosis, yet, but the more I read about ADHD, the more I see my child. And as for maturing out of it, things are just getting worse with every passing week.

  16. 9:08 again -- I went back to my IEP and see that my son was categorized as "other health impaired" -- that's how we did the IEP and got into Inclusion in mid-kindergarten. So other commenters are right that we didn't get an ADD label on it, but we were able to use the "other health impaired" category. Hope this helps. To the poster, if you don't get what you want in this round, I would suggest asking for a counseling session with a special education placement counselor. I saw one very nice woman when I went in for my counseling before Round II. I'd be very upfront with them about your worries for your kid and the schools you want. She may be able to help point you to schools with good Special Ed programs that might have spaces. I just wish some of the folks with good experiences would comment on this blog. Then we'd have a list bigger than Lakeshore and Claire Lillienthal. I've noticed that, in some of the school-specific strings on this blog, sometimes Special Ed parents will post comments -- I'm sure I saw a positive comment about Alamo, and a negative commment about Harvey Milk.

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  19. I've heard that Notional Subject Charter Edifice has numerous kids with ADHD who are doing wellspring in their fewer structured environs. Are you on their inactivity recite?


  20. i strongly don't recommend creative arts charter school. i know at least 4 families with children with special needs who are planning to leave the school due to how they are excessively punitive with our children. The new director is implementing policies that are pushing our kids out.