Thinking Outside the Box for Better Accommodations

Your child's not like anyone else — so her IEP or 504 should reflect that. Creative ideas for making sure her plan grows and changes as she does.
Success at School | posted by Lisa Aro

Making sure kids' accommodations grow with them can mean the difference between a successful school year and a frustrating one.

— Lisa Aro

Two sets of textbooks. A dual set of textbooks is a great help at any age. One stays at school, one at home. No more problems with forgetting materials at school needed for homework.

Highlighter tape. To ease some of the mental exhaustion from all the handwriting required in school, use highlighter tape to find and mark answers in the textbook to questions on study guides or for word definitions. Instead of turning in the worksheet, our daughter highlighted the answers in the textbook. After the assignment is graded, the highlighter tape is easily removed.

Note-takers. Getting someone in the class to take notes is a common college accommodation offered to ADHD students. But why wait for college? Taking notes during a lecture is one of the hardest tasks for our ADHDers. Processing what is being said and prioritizing it while writing is an overwhelming and difficult task. Note-takers can be assigned in high school. In addition, we’ve had teachers who printed out their PowerPoint lectures for our children, so they can follow along, mark important parts, and add their own notes.

Test taking. The pressure of taking an exam in a room full of distractions, combined with time limits and anxiety over remembering information, can spell disaster for an ADHD student. Too often test results don’t reflect the material our ADHDers know and understand. Test-taking accommodations have let my kids take tests in a quiet room, away from the classroom, and eliminated time limits to ease test anxiety. When one of our kids had a hard time expressing his answers in written form, we tried oral exams. Talking with the teacher to answer short essay questions showed a mastery of the subject that was lost when writing it down. Remember: Some of these testing accommodations extend to state standardized testing, as well.

Break up big projects. High school throws a lot of big projects at our kids that stretch over a long period of time. Breaking up those bigger projects into smaller assignments with more frequent deadlines has helped more than one of our kids. It also ensured that the whole project didn’t fall at our feet the night before it was due.

Homework. Doing homework is only half the battle. Turning it in seems to be as hard, if not harder, for our kids. A good friend found a unique solution, and she had it written into her son’s IEP. He met each morning with the school’s intervention teacher and handed off all of his completed homework. The intervention teacher then distributed it to the appropriate teachers.

It’s easy to feel limited or restrained in asking for modifications and accommodations. Parents often stick to the most common accommodations rather than trying new or different strategies. I encourage you to be bold and creative and to ask for what will meet your child’s needs. The accommodations process is designed to have parents, students, teachers, and administrators work together to come up with strategies as unique as the students they serve.

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