No Accommodations for Son with ADHD

Find out what to do when your child's teachers doubt a diagnosis of ADHD, or don't understand it.
Q
Today I had a second meeting with my child's teachers. He has been diagnosed with ADHD since first grade; he is in the seventh grade now. I am having so much trouble getting help. They agree that some small modifications would help, but all agreed that an IEP and "labeling" my child would be harmful to him. One teacher stated that when I have him "labeled," he would not be eligible for a regular high school diploma, he would only get a resource diploma, which isn't the same.

You see, my child is auditory, very intelligent, but can't get things from his head to the paper to show that he is getting what is taught. If you ask him orally, he knows his stuff. He is making average grades in most classes like English and reading, good grades in math, which he loves, but he is failing social studies and science. Now, get this -- last year he placed "second" in the school in an ORAL social studies bee, but failed his class.

I have gone over this so much with his teachers and they just don't get it. They say he is too smart to be labeled and there is no inclusion for social studies and science. If I pursue the IEP, they tell me I'm going to cause my son to be a "chair warmer," who knows that he doesn't have to do anything to get a passing grade. I expressed that they should know that, in my home, education is considered my child's "job" and I encourage him to give his all to succeed. But in his case, he just can't get things down or complete some work. I think they should at least give him credit for what he does complete.

I have four sons in all; the older two are honor students. Both hold a GPA of over 4.0. This child and my youngest are ADHD. The younger one is getting the help he needs and is doing better this year. But this child is in middle school and I am getting very frustrated with this fight. Have you ever heard that ADHD children with IEPs get a different diploma? Where can I turn for some answers? Thanks for listening and I appreciate any advice I can get!

A
If your son has been diagnosed with ADHD, then he has the condition. If the teachers doubt the diagnosis, or don't understand it, then you should have the person who made the diagnosis in the first place come to a meeting and educate them about ADHD and how it affects your son and his learning. If that person is no longer around, then you should have an updated evaluation. Look for someone who specializes in ADHD and who is likely to be respected by the school. Ask them who they would recommend. Then have this person present his/her findings at a team meeting.

Your son has many obvious strengths. If he wins the social studies bee but flunks the class, there's something wrong -- and not with your son. His teachers need to make reasonable accommodations so that your boy can demonstrate his strengths, and not his weaknesses. This means they need to teach him in ways that match his learning style and test him in ways that let him show what he knows, and not how poorly he takes tests. If he were blind, they wouldn't give him a test printed on a piece of paper, right?

I think you are headed in the right direction with the IEP. If your son has an IEP, then his teachers are obligated by law to provide an appropriate education. Sounds as if the teachers are saying that if he's on an IEP, he'll waste away in the resource room. If your son is capable, but has difficulty learning, he should be able to do well in the regular classroom with modifications. They say there's no "inclusion" in some classes; this doesn't make sense. Special education laws require the school to offer a program that best meets his needs. If that's the regular class with support (e.g., inclusion), they've got to provide it. If kids in special education are "seat warmers" with no motivation to do anything, something's wrong with the special education program.

I think a team meeting, attended by the current staff and an advocate who knows about students' rights would be a good way to get an appropriate program built for your son. You can call your state's Department of Special Education or Office of Civil Rights if you need help in finding an advocate. If he passes the standardized tests, with modifications required by the IEP, then he will graduate. In some states, if a student doesn't pass state competency exams, or doesn't take them, he or she cannot get a "real" diploma. Sounds as if your son is too competent for this scenario. Learn more about your rights and your son's rights, and hang in there.

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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