Two years ago, when Jack Riley, of Marstons Mills, Massachusetts, was in the first grade, he was given extra time on exams and other accommodations for his ADD symptoms. The teacher initially resisted, but Jack's mom, Christine, was able to win her cooperation.
Pushing for informal accommodations without ruffling the teacher's feathers is tricky, but it's essential to keep the teacher on your side.
"It's important for parents to approach this process as a partnership," says Maureen Gill, a pediatric social worker in Reston, Virginia. "You don't want to march in and say, 'You need to do X and Y.' Instead, say, 'My child has been having problems in class because of his ADD, and I want to work with you to find out what will help him.'"
Your push for accommodations will be easier if the teacher is knowledgeable about ADD. Says Gill, "If the teacher has been trained to work with kids who have ADD, she'll realize the importance of seating a child in the front of the room, or partnering him with a classmate. The teacher will know that ADD kids often have problems with writing, so she may reduce the child's writing load. If a child also has auditory processing problems, she'll know to speak to him face to face. Unless the teacher has been trained, none of this is obvious."
ADD training typically consists of a series of three-hour sessions, each led by a different expert. Find out if teacher training is available in your school system. If not, find local professionals qualified to do the instruction. Then band with other parents and request that the PTA pay for the training.
Making it official
If the powers that be prove reluctant to agree to your informal requests—or if more involved accommodations seem necessary—request that your child be considered for a 504 Plan.
"A 504 is useful when you aren't getting cooperation from the teacher or the school, or in a situation like middle school, when there are seven teachers and not everyone is aware of the accommodations," says Gill. "It puts more pressure on the teachers to cooperate, and gets everything in writing, so you can be sure everyone is on the same page."
If you apply for 504 status (the forms should be available in the principal's office), the school is required to evaluate your child for academic and behavioral problems. Depending on the state you live in, evaluation can mean anything from comprehensive testing by an educational psychologist to simply getting a note from your child's doctor.
If your child is deemed eligible for 504 status, a school representative will help you and your child's teacher compile a written list of accommodations that must be followed at all times.