At the beginning of the 2008 school year I got more aggressive on behalf of my Son who struggles with severe ADHD and was having a tough time in school. At the time he was entering 7th grade and I knew we were running out of time to find successful strategies for him before he heads to the high school. 6th grade was terrible. 7th was stressful but a huge improvement. So far 8th grade is even better.
What is responsible for the improvements? Finally finding the right ADHD treatment for us, and the change from a 504 to an IEP at school.
With regards to treatment we have been experimenting with medications and dosages for years. We finally found the one that allows him to best focus at school but still allows him to have an appetite and sleep at night.
Despite our struggles in school, all the school would do for my son is qualify him for a 504. Basically a 504 mandates the removal of potential barriers in the student’s education but, unlike the IEP, does not provide any special tools or assistance. In addition to even light amounts of homework taking hours to do after school, Andrew struggled inside the classroom. After staying up all night doing his homework, he would get nervous and distracted and either forget to pull it out of his backpack for each class, or stuff it in his desk while the other kids were passing forward or dropping on the teacher’s desk. During timed tests he would drift off. Classroom distractions prevented him from hearing much of the teacher’s instruction. 6th grade resulted in many D’s, E’s, tears, confrontation, and eventually a mama meltdown at school.
In 7th grade I started off much more firm and prepared, and demanded a meeting and walked in with my list of demands. I could tell the new team of teachers and support had already drawn their conclusions about me, based on communications with the previous team. Regardless, I was able to convince them that the 504 wasn’t working and the IEP is what we needed. There was still a lot of struggle at home at homework time and on behalf of the teachers to help him remember to turn things in and stay focused during class, but his grades soared. And the teachers slowly came around and understood that Andrew was facing challenges, not being a slacker.
As the first marking period of 8th grade comes to an end, our biggest struggle seems to be getting him to sit still long enough to do his homework after school, since his medication is wearing off. During school, however, thanks to just a few strategies put in place in the classroom and Andrew’s new found confidence in his abilities and relationships with teachers, he has made improvements beyond my expectations.
Age and maturity has a lot to do with this I am sure. “He will grow out of some of it” is something I have heard a lot over the last five years but had a hard time believing and counting on because we had no control over when or if that would happen. What we did have control over is working with his doctor to make sure he was taking the right medication and working with the school until we found the strategies that worked for him.