Child with ADHD Is Failing

Learn how to identify whether ADHD is getting in the way of your child's learning, and what steps to take next.
My daughter has ADHD and takes medication for it while in school. She just started eighth grade for the second time. Last year she failed everything but science and gym. I don't know what to do. The school only seems interested in the successful kids.
Here are some things to consider -- NOW:

1. Does your daughter have an IEP (Individual Educational Plan)? If not, request that one be generated. This might require an updated evaluation, and you should not wait a long time for this, since it's the beginning of the year and the time to make a difference in your daughter's academic life is now. If the school tells you there's a long waiting list (i.e., more than a couple weeks), ask them if you should have her tested privately and send them the bill.

2. Schools may not consider ADHD as an academic problem, and may put it under the "other health impaired" category, which means they don't have to do much more than monitor her condition. Does the school believe that the ADHD is the cause of your daughter's academic problems? If not, what do they think is causing the problem? Does your daughter work hard or is "turned off" to school? If she doesn't care about school, is her low motivation a consequence of years of undiagnosed learning disabilities or untreated ADHD and repeated failures? These are questions that need to be answered.

3. The key here is identifying if and how the ADHD gets in the way of your daughter's learning. Then the teachers have an obligation to modify the classroom or the assignments in ways that make learning more accessible to her. She may need to work with the school guidance counselor to help her get over some of the emotional baggage she may have acquired from her failures of the past. The counselor should help her understand her ADHD and the impact on learning, and how she can be an advocate for herself.

If these suggestions don't get the ball rolling, email me for follow-up advice. The beginning of the year is a time of opportunity. Let's not miss it.

Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.

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