Managing ADHD at School

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Our children with ADHD are wonderful and intelligent people who need our help with creating a learning environment that allows them to use their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses.

On a daily basis, students with ADHD work very hard to take in information from their environment while filtering out the irrelevant, but this is difficult and consumes a lot of energy. By the time they get through their school day, they are spent because they have processed so much information that you and I are able to translate into background noise. We don’t actively process all the sounds and sights in our environment, but the student with ADHD does.

Your child may also have the urge to get out of her seat to look at something of interest, or speak out the answer because of excitement, or become distracted by her thoughts about that game of Mine Craft she started last night.

You want your child to gain the best education possible, but how can that be achieved if your child needs to be re-focused often? Or, how can you best help your child with ADHD who struggles to express his thoughts in writing, or sit through a task that requires sustained attention?

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Well, there are supports in school to help your child. There are three types of plans and here is how they differ:

Intervention and Referral Services Plan (I&RS Plan)

This plan can be gained if you don’t have a diagnosis, but you and your child’s teacher have noticed that concentration, focus and fidgety-ness are an area of weakness. Accommodations can be provided by the classroom teacher.

504 Accommodation Plan

This plan is gained once you have an ADHD diagnosis and your child needs statewide testing (NJASK or now, the Parrcc Assessment) accommodations, such as extended time or small group administration. Once again, accommodations can be provided by the classroom teacher

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

This is a plan that can provide a special education program and related services. There are many eligibility classifications, but the one(s) that your child will likely qualify under is Other Health Impaired (OHI), or Specific Learning Disabled (SLD) if your child has a comorbid learning disability.

A special education program allows for your child to have in-class assistance in which there is a paraprofessional available to your child with re-focusing and re-directing to task due to attentional weakness, hyperactivity or impulsivity.

In-class resource support allows for a general education and a special education teacher to co-teach. The special education teacher is able to modify work and tests for your child.

Pull out replacement resource support (which is often referred to as Resource Room) allows for modification of the curriculum by a special education teacher because your child is functioning at a level in that subject that is behind his same-aged peers.

Related services are services such as Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy.  These services can be gained with an IEP only.

Statewide testing accommodations are available to your child via an IEP as well as accommodations within the classroom, lunch, recess and specials.

The goal is to provide your child with the least restrictive environment (LRE) or the class environment that allows your child to be with her general education peers for as much of the day as possible.

With that said, here are some accommodations you can request for your child via an I&RS Plan, 504 Accommodation Plan or IEP:

  • Allow [insert your child’s name here] movement breaks
  • Re-direct and re-focus as needed
  • Cue [your child’s name] prior to providing instructions in order to ensure attention
  • Ask [your child’s name] to repeat back directions in order to ensure accuracy of comprehension
  • Provide study guides and/or class notes
  • Encourage use of visual graphic organizers prior to a writing assignments
  • Break down a large assignments into smaller tasks

The list of possible accommodations is vast and dependent on your child’s needs. If you find that a particular strategy is helpful at home, make sure to ask for it to be a part of your child’s support plan.

Navigating the school system in order to give your child access to the best education possible can sometimes be confusing, but here is some information to help you de-mystify the process.

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Dr. Liz Matheis is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist who specializes in treating children with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, and learning disabilities. She created the ACHIEVE program to coach students with ADHD to create organizational systems that work for them. Dr. Liz serves as Parent Coach, in which she helps parents develop boundaries and maintain consistency in the home environment. She has been effective in helping to decrease anxiety in children, adolescents, and adults using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques. She is also a sought-after contributor to numerous publications, blogs and radio shows!

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