Navigating Your Child's School System with or without an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Accommodations: In This 10-Part Series, EP Explores Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Article excerpt

Considering how much time a child spends in school and how much influence the school has on a child's future, success for students with ADHD must include your child's school. An important step in navigating your child's school system with or without an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 accommodations includes educating professionals and teachers about ADHD. Often, even the schools are surprisingly uninformed about specifics related to ADHD and may describe students as "just lazy." Such misunderstandings even occur in expensive, private schools if teachers have no previous training in ADHD.

Meet with special education staff/teachers

Special education teachers are not specialists in ADHD. They have to cope with the challenges of teaching children who are emotionally disturbed and those with a range of specific learning disabilities. In a meeting, parents can bring the evaluator (neuropsychologist) who is expert in ADHD and who can provide welcome, useful expertise to the often overburdened special education professional. Another alternative is to hire a school advocate or educational consultant who is expert in ADHD. Be aware that not all advocates or consultants are experts in ADHD so be sure to interview the people you are considering.

Schools are government institutions expected to comply with the law, even when, at times, the law seems to put undue pressure on them. With so much pressure to adhere to existing laws, schools may have few resources left for accommodations. Fortunately for those diagnosed with ADHD, there is legal support in the form of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), first passed in 1975 and updated every five years since then, which calls for protections for students with disabilities. One is the IEP, which calls for an appropriate, individual plan for the qualifying student.

With or without a formal school plan, the following strategies are often helpful for the student with ADHD. Also consider your child's specific needs and what you believe will be most helpful. Then review the recommendations provided in your child's neuropsychological evaluation and approach your child's teachers directly as well as the special education department.

* Give the student preferential seating close to the center of instruction and near appropriate role models to reduce distractibility.

* When appropriate, make adjustments in academic workload and reduce lengthy tasks into more manageable units. For example, a specified work time could be divided into shorter segments with specific expectations for appropriate behavior and work production. Work segments could be interspersed with short breaks so that students can vent excess energy and renew focus.

* Train and supervise students in the use of an assignment notebook. This notebook should be initialed daily by the teacher and by the parent to make sure that assignments are accurately recorded, to assure the student has the materials needed to complete them, has completed the work, and has handed it in on time. Frequent communication between home and school is needed with at least weekly notification of any missing or late assignments. …