School, Your ADHD Child and 504 Plans

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If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, regardless of what form of treatment you choose to undergo, one thing you must do is start to educate your school and teachers on how best to work with your child. The most important role you will start to undertake over the next few months and years is to become his advocate to the school system.

When our son was diagnosed with ADHD, we went through a brief period where we debated whether or not we should tell the school. We had concerns, albeit misplaced, that he would be "classified" by the school. It was our doctor who dispelled those concerns, saying, "he already is classified, now it all depends on whether or not you want him classified as a bad kid, or a kid who needs help."

Even so, when we communicated with the school administration, it was just a heads up regarding what was taking place and we initially chose to deal with the issues informally. We were very lucky in that the first couple of years that we knew something was amiss, we had very supportive, flexible teachers. Their styles worked very well with my son and they were very open to suggestions and adapting their behavior to make him more successful. Because of this we did not explore or institute formal plans that would help ensure that my son got the assistance that he needed.

We soon learned that an informal approach, when working well, is all right, but if things aren't going well, without a plan, you have no recourse with the school. For us, that time happened when my son hit fifth grade. Prior to the school year starting he was assigned to a teacher that we were familiar with and had concerns about. We had conferences with the principal and teacher prior to the start of the school. What became very apparent was that the administrator and teacher were woefully uneducated when it came to ADHD and considered it my son's responsibility to remain focused and accountable for his work, something, because of the disorder, he was unable to do without help.

There began a two and a half month battle to get him the help we asked for, nothing crazy, simply that his assignment planner be reviewed each day and signed by the teacher, a second set of books at home should he forget his (which he did a lot), and visual redirection when he started zoning out. Not only did the teacher not provide this assistance, but she instituted what could be perceived as punishments, e.g. having him sit at a table in the front of the room by himself. Needless to say he did not remain in this teacher's class past October, which was still too long to have a child who needs help flounder.

What we learned from this experience was invaluable. First, we expected the school administration and teachers to be educated on ADHD, they weren't. We expected them to be equally concerned with our son's success as we were, again they weren't. It wasn't that they wouldn't have been happy to have him succeed but they were misguided that a strict demeanor and a firm hand would make him "snap out of it." We also realized that as the requirements for being more organized were increasing in preparation for middle school it was going to become increasingly more difficult for the ADHD child.

And most importantly we learned about 504 plans. 504 plans refer to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities act. This plan specifies the accommodations needed by your child, to be put in place by the school and teacher, and holds the school accountable, legally, to comply with them. In our case, our 504 plan stipulates seating up closer to the teacher, a second set of books at home, additional testing time, if needed, etc.

504 plans travel with your child to the next school year, and in our case the next school. At a minimum they are an excellent tool to begin discussions with your child's teachers and administrators as to what works well, and not so well for your son or daughter. And at its best, it forms a foundation of a partnership for you and teachers to help bring out the best potential that exists within your child.

I wish I could tell you that once a 504 plan is in place your worries are over with. But unfortunately, your constant attention and intercession is still needed. You will be the one who will have to ensure that the teachers are complying with the plan, and just as importantly that you are doing your part as well. It is just as important for you to understand and communicate what works for your child as it is for the teachers to enforce it.

While we have been lucky enough to have met teachers who truly care about each individual child in their classrooms, it has still become painfully clear to us that no one is as concerned about your child's potential and success as you are. And that means, you must educate teachers about your child's symptoms and coping skills, and formally document what you need from them.

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C.J. Mackey has 24 articles online

C. J. Mackey is a working mother of three, balancing a full time career while taking an active role in her children's lives. She has an advanced degree in engineering and over twenty years making technology decisions for fortune 500 companies. For more information on ADHD child you can visit our website at http://cjmackeypress.com/

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School, Your ADHD Child and 504 Plans

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School, Your ADHD Child and 504 Plans

This article was published on 2012/04/16