Your Child’s Best Advocate is You

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adhd kids don't write down homeworkAs the parent of an ADHD-Inattentive child, you are the best advocate available. There are times when you have a gut feeling or a simple nagging thought in the back of your mind that something’s not right. Sometimes problems are much more obvious, but it’s tough to find a mutually agreeable solution. Here’s one reader’s situation (with names changed to protect privacy):

My son has a school-recognized 504 accommodation for ADHD Inattentive Type. Brandon is extremely bright, and the psychologist said he should be getting straight A’s just by sitting in class. Unfortunately, he only gets C’s. The reason is that he doesn’t complete his assignments. Why? He doesn’t write his homework down. He has a nice agenda, but he forgets to write it down.

Two alternative accommodations are allowed in his 504: 1) he will write assignments in his planner 2) he will use eChalk (an internet service that posts the assignments, tests and homework for their classes),

The problem with eChalk is that it doesn’t list all the assignments, tests and homework in one place. For an ADHD-I kid, this is a huge handicap. Just last week, Brandon took a test in Language Arts which he had not studied for. The test was NOT listed on the page of assignments; instead it was on the calendar. Brandon never clicked on that link and was oblivious to the timing of his test. Consequently, he made a D.

I asked the Guidance Counselor if Brandon could retake this test. She said no-because while e-Chalk’s not perfect, they are trying to teach students to write down assignments. (At this point, I wanted to shout: “It’s not working for Brandon!) She also pointed out that since both alternatives – writing the assignment in the planner and checking eChalk — were included in the 504, Brandon wouldn’t have the option to re-test.

Then as an aside, she let me know that Ms. Haynes had prompted all the students to write the test date on their agendas, and that the eChalk coordinator Ms. Lucas would be apprised of this problem.

Possible Solutions:

Kayla advised me to document each time that EChalk doesn’t work for Brandon and to take that to my next 504 meeting. It would appear that both professionals are going rigidly by the rules in this case, but could they consider what the original intentions of said imposed rules are? The letter of the law isn’t as important as the spirit of the law. Kayla also encouraged me to contact the teacher and counselor again to emphasize that we are looking for a team effort to help Brandon reach his goals. (One of them is to attend William and Mary. Meanwhile, I’d like to see him have some tangible success in 9th grade.)

Another good piece of advice is for Brandon to take a cell phone picture of assignments written on the board. A homework buddy – probably a girl – is also a good idea.

After being encouraged by Kayla, I contacted the teacher and the Guidance Counselor again. Even after I discussed Brandon’s case with the teacher and counselor again, he was not allowed to retake the test; however, due to a new twist of events, I believe his teacher has a better understanding of Brandon’s situation.

On the day after my appeal was declined, the teacher had my son’s class work in groups on making posters for Mesopotamia. When they were done, she put them up on the wall. She then told the students that they must walk around, look at the posters and take notes. She then said the notes were for their own use. They would not be collected or graded and most likely, they would end up in the trash. So the students began their work.

Because of my son’s ADHD-I tendencies, he was the only one to take notes! He wrote 6 pages of notes! When the class was finished, she awarded Brandon 5 extra credit points because of the work he had done. When Brandon came home and shared the story, I praised him for earning the extra credit.

He seemed befuddled. “I never heard her say that our notes would not be graded and that they would get thrown away. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it.” Now his teacher knows what I am working with! She saw his ADHD in action! She deliberately set the scene to see how Brandon would react. As I look back, I realize now that Brandon appeared to have “selective hearing”.

Obviously that’s not the case when a student misses hearing something that would’ve made his work load lighter.
I get the impression that teachers do not fully comprehend how ADHD-I can hinder a child. Even though his teacher and counselor have a copy of the complete psychological testing of my son, they still lack empathy for what he is experiencing.
So a huge step has been made in getting Brandon the help he needs. I hope it continues.

Brock: I can’t thank Brandon’s mom enough for sharing his story with us. She’s a great advocate for her son, and I hope this recent event marks a new beginning for Brandon and his teacher. When you and your child’s teacher work together with a common goal, your child is the biggest beneficiary. Such a strong support system is nearly impregnable.

If your child needs an alternate planner, consider The PAC-kit, the Planner, Agenda, Calendar we developed for use with our ADHD boys!

About Kayla

Kayla Fay is a freelance writer and the mother of four boys, three of whom have been formally diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD. When she started “Who Put the Ketchup in the Medicine Cabinet?” in 2002, her sons were ages 8 through 14, when her life was a “progression of dirty laundry, lost homework, misunderstood Algebra, and a whole lot of love and fun”.

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