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Dear ADDitude: Will My Child Graduate Without Critical Life Skills?

“At home, my son repeats things back to me so I know we’re on the same page. He does homework in 15-minute increments to build up his time awareness, too. At school, these things aren’t happening. I’m beyond frustrated and worried that he will graduate without essential life skills.”

ADDitude Answers

It is smart of you to think about building your son’s life skills. You can never start too early. If you have an IEP/504, request a meeting to modify it and ask to incorporate your ideas into it. When giving instructions, teachers can discreetly take your son aside and ask him to repeat them back rather than singling him out in front of other students.

As to time awareness, it is difficult for teachers to have students complete work in increments, but perhaps you can work around that by having your child wear a smart watch or a watch with a vibrator that will vibrate (quietly) at certain times during the day. You might have it vibrate every 15 minutes or once an hour. There are also apps for the smart phone that could help him keep track of time. He could use an app that counts down how much time is left for a task.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

A timer even at school could help him with managing time and not stressing about how much time he does or doesn’t have. Something like the Time Timer gives a visual of how much time is left and is great for individuals who struggle with time blindness. They even have a Time Timers smartphone app now, so he could be discreet with it.

Ask that teachers ensure that your son has assignments by taking him aside and discreetly having him explain what he needs to do and how he’s going to get started.

Ask for breaks. It can be as simple as allowing him to walk in the back of the classroom for a couple minutes or even just put his head down and close his eyes for 3 minutes.

Since it sounds like he has slow processing speed, ask for extended time and/or reduced assignments.

Many high schools have a guided study hall for students with learning challenges. If that is available to him, definitely request it, but also request that he’s getting plenty of help not just with assignments and homework, but also with study, social, and life skills.

Here’s more on accommodations for high school:
School Accommodations for ADHD Teens
IEP Accommodations: What Works for Us

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

Basically, the IEP is charged with addressing the barriers to educational access.

If the issue is study skills, time management, etc…then, that should be where the goals and services should focus.

Even though it may be enraging to hear someone being dismissive of common ADHD issues, or use them as a reason to absolve themselves from their responsibility/job, like saying, “He has the ability. He just doesn’t apply himself.” (We have all heard every iteration of these.) The response should still be the same, “If that is the case, what is the plan to help him overcome it?”

Posted by Dr. Eric

A Reader Answers

I’m having the exact same issues with my sophomore! We currently have a few accommodations for him in our 504 plan. He gets extra time for homework (over the weekend) without penalty since he has focus issues in the evenings due to meds wearing off (this is still a struggle though). I also email the teachers weekly to find out any missed or incomplete assignments and upcoming assignments. Teachers are also to prompt him to write down the assignment daily in his organizer and he is to have them sign it weekly to show that everything is written down.

Posted by bigmidget

A Reader Answers

Request a SST (Student Study Team) Meeting with his teacher/s, principal, school psychologist, you (his parent/s) and any other people such as psychotherapist or psychiatrist that he goes to. In this meeting discuss what accommodations he currently has and how they are working or not working, your concerns, their concerns. Advocate for your son, which it sounds like you are doing. In my experience with my son I’ve learned that you can’t push the school system too much. They won’t do extra unless asked for. By law if you as a parent ask for your son to have accommodations, they have to acknowledge and test. My son who is 11 and in fifth grade has problems with turning in his assignments even though I know he’s done them. ADHD kids have challenges with organization and with remembering. This is where 504 accommodations can be really helpful. Advocate, advocate, advocate! Wish you all the best!

Posted by Shahna D

[Free Download: How to Create and Maintain Your Child’s IEP]

A Reader Answers

I also feel your pain. I thought once my son was in high school it would be easier, but I was so wrong. You would think some of these teachers who have been around for a couple of decades would recognize these kids, but they all act like they are from another planet and like they don’t understand how to work with them. My biggest complaint is with the technology too. Our state just started using Common Core 3 years ago and now no longer use the textbooks that they still make us sign out every year. My son’s Chemistry teacher is the only teacher that does not have a website with his notes, daily agenda, homework assignments, etc. for us to refer to. When my son brings homework, my husband and I are as lost as my son and it takes hours to find the information on the internet on how to do the problems. If the teachers were required to give us all this information, the parents could make their jobs easier by having some point of reference and help our children to get the work done. My son does have a separate homework folder that he checks daily in each class and that seems to help him turn in the homework most of the time. He is still lost in Chemistry though and I can’t seem to get it across to the teacher how to help us to help him.

Posted by tazvin