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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Disorganized Child

At the beginning of the school year I wrote about my ADHD child that was lacking executive functioning; that is, he can’t organize himself or remember what he needs to do.  It has been a real struggle in school, especially as he approaches junior high school age.  We went into this school year with an elaborate system how to get him organized and help him get past this lack of executive function.  Well, that didn’t work so well.  At the end of the first semester, he is struggling academically, not because he can’t grasp the subject matter, but because he doesn’t do or turn in homework.  The good news is I have learned to accept the temporary academic shortcomings because I know he is a smart and capable kid.

We recently initiated the 504 process with our school.  The 504 plan is a guarantee under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that a child with a disability receives accommodations to “level the playing field” with children who don’t have that disability.  Disability is defined as anything that affects essential life functions, including learning.  A 504 is different from an IDEA that addresses children with learning disabilities so they can have equal access to education.  It’s a subtle difference, but basically a child with an IDEA needs special education or learning resources, where a child with a 504 needs circumstantial accommodations within the classroom.  

The school has been very helpful in working with us to choose accommodations, but we did have to be firm, advocating for the help we need.  It has been especially helpful to have the school psychologist assist us.  She understands that the problem isn’t that my son is lazy, but rather that he can’t follow a series of directions.  We are trying very hard to keep it simple – a translucent folder for “turn in” work and a manila folder that stays in the backpack for “bring home” items.  The teacher and parents are responsible for getting things in and out of the folder.  In addition, the school has agreed to publish homework assignments on the web and accept assignments that are late for full credit.  The hope is to enhance my son’s self confidence and generally improve his academic reports.

It’s still very scary, especially as we approach the grade level when he will have multiple teachers.  However, it is vital for us to have a 504 plan so there is no confusion about what the accommodations will be.  Whether it is ultimately as successful as we hope it will be, remains to be seen.  We intend to keep trying.  I would highly recommend that anyone in a similar situation seek out a 504 plan with the school.  This website has some great FAQ and more information about a 504 plan.