Dear ADDitude

Dear ADDitude: Why Does the School Keep Rejecting My Accommodations?

“The accommodations I suggest for my daughter’s 504 Plan keep getting shot down. Meanwhile, her school counselor says she isn’t trying hard enough and uses the words ‘I can’t’ too much. How can I stop this cycle and actually get some useful accommodations in place?”

ADDitude Answers

It’s time to request another 504 meeting. Before the meeting, do some homework. Some schools use a boiler-plate type 504 Plan, with the same accommodations for every child with ADHD. That’s not acceptable. You want accommodations to fit your daughter’s unique needs.
Before the meeting, list your daughter’s strengths and weaknesses. Write down which accommodations you use at home that work well for her. Write down problems your daughter is experiencing in school, and suggest several accommodations that you think will help with each problem. Make a copy for each person who will be attending.
If the school shoots down your accommodations, it is your right to ask for a written explanation of why they are doing so. Also ask for their suggestions on how to combat the “I can’t” attitude. Once you reach a consensus, set up a way to monitor progress on a weekly basis. If you find some of the accommodations aren’t working, it is your right to request another meeting to reevaluate.

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

ADDitude Answers

I am in the exact same place. My son is a 7th grader, twice-exceptional, with significant organizational deficits. His teachers think lectures and punishments are what he needs – but they’re only doing more damage.

I have been pushing all year about his executive functioning deficits, reminding them over and over that planning and organization is in his IEP and they must help him. Their idea of help is to remind him how important it is to write assignments in his planner or give him “silent lunch” every time he’s not prepared for class. Um, if that worked, he would be “cured” already – argh!

When they told me they’d only give him silent lunch until he did better, I lost it. I reminded them that they cannot punish him for a disability and were violating his civil rights. I also requested a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) – I’m hoping to address not only school avoidance (the reason they agreed), but also his significant need for daily and consistent help with planning and organization. With snow days and not enough behavior specialists for our county, it’s been six weeks and the behavior specialist still hasn’t made it to the school to observe him so we can have the meeting.

It’s such a defeating system, for the kids and the parents.

It’s hard to come to terms with it, but sometimes these schools are not right for our kids. I know that most of us don’t have a choice; even if I had the funds for private school, there isn’t one here for kids with special needs. I already have him in the best school district in our county. I am doing the very best I can for my son, and it’s not enough. It’s maddening.

So, where to go from here?

1. Hire an educational advocate if at all possible.

2. You say she only has a 504 Plan. If possible, I’d request that she gets services and an IEP – she may need that greater level of support. Use this sample letter.

Parents do have recourse under the law when children with disabilities aren’t accommodated appropriately. However, you need to have the financial means to use these options – thousands of dollars to hire an attorney, and even then possibly losing because the school systems have better lawyers and more power in the community. And, even if you do win in court, it’s not likely to make much of a difference for your child in school day-to-day.

Here’s what other parents have done when a 504 or IEP isn’t being followed.

And some expert advice on the same.

I’m sorry to be a bit of a “Debbie Downer” about this, but I’m stuck deep in the hopelessness muck on the very same issue right now. Stinks to be powerless to help our children, especially when we know what would help.

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

A Reader Answers

You have a deep sense of what is right for her and the examples you have chosen demonstrate that the school has a limited grasp of the the fundamentals of ADHD. More seriously, their approach is demotivating.

In my experience no amount of advocating, experimenting or explaining will get someone to change their belief system – regardless of the science.

So, she’s in the wrong school.

Congratulations on having the courage to meet this challenge head on, recognizing the error in the school’s approach and raising the issue before it is too late.

Your daughter, of course, must follow the course of her dreams. We are in the business of fostering hope – not killing it.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach

A Reader Answers

I am very sorry for what they’re doing to you. I have been in the same situation (kind of) for over a year now. I’ve been advocating for my son by myself, while sending emails to professional advocates. Finally, I found one who was willing to hear me out. She heard my story and wanted to pull my son out of his school the same day. Unfortunately, I am unable to homeschool him, so that’s not an option – but she took my son pro bono, and she is one of the best around (though very expensive normally). She was on fire because of what this school did and the damage they did to my son.

Unfortunately, there are no Twice-Exceptional schools close to us, we can’t afford to move, and the one gifted school I found does not take kids with disabilities. There are just not enough schools for these kids – and there are a lot of them. I wish I could do something about it.

Try to find an advocate, I’m telling you – the tone of the IEP team changed big time once ours showed up. She was very upset with them, and she had so much experience she was able to provide concrete examples of what they were doing wrong. Now, they will be paying for a private day school, which will help him with both his behavior and his academics.

He could’ve outsmarted his teachers at his old school – he really is super smart – but he was punished for having ADHD. This new school will support him and help him learn tools to deal with his challenges by focusing on him one-on-one. As I said, it wasn’t my first choice of school, but if you can find a day school that isn’t totally focused on behavior-fixing – one that still puts academics first – I think that will be the school for her.

Now I’m on the hunt for an attorney. The school did so many things that I think were illegal – not to mention the emotional damage they did to my son – that I will not let them get away with it. There are other kids in his class who may be suffering too.

Posted by momwhocares

A Reader Answers

I live in Canada, so this may not apply to you, but I took an advocacy course where we were told that if you didn’t agree with the teacher, go to the principal, and if you still weren’t getting anywhere, go to an administrator, trustee, or special education coordinator. Make sure you put all requests in writing. Our IEP is a legal working document that needs to be followed.

I’m sure if going to another school is an option, it may be your best choice – but if you’re meeting resistance with your daughter’s counselor, you should definitely start by going to the next person in line. Also if you can, take an advocacy class; we took one at no cost from our local learning disabilities association.

When it comes to the meeting itself, sometimes I bring my digital voice recorder so I can really focus on what’s being said – then I transcribe the meeting later. I carry a binder with my son’s picture, his report cards, his previous IEPs, and any assessments he’s taken; it can be intimidating so I try to look prepared and organized. I’ve also asked my husband or mother to come along with me for support. Good luck! It can be frustrating, but satisfying!

Posted by JulieBmotherof3

A Reader Answers

I cringe whenever I hear stories like yours. I had a similar experience with my child (diagnosed with ADHD) and our school district last year. It left me with a terrible feeling about the state of our school system. The blatant dishonesty that I witnessed was very disturbing.

What I ended up doing was hiring an advocate, speaking with (but not hiring) numerous special education lawyers, and contacting an advocacy support group in my state which helped me to understand my rights. It was time-consuming and it took a big battle, but I succeeded in having my child placed in a private school, out of district, at my school district’s expense. My child is now doing significantly better. She attends school daily, whereas previously, she was a school refusal case. This is because she has anxiety and LDs which caused her to feel inferior because she could not spell or write like her classmates.

Be persistent, learn your rights and the laws, and do what comes naturally: fight for your child. Hopefully, the school district will end up doing what they are required to do by law – provide a free and appropriate education for your child, out-of-district if necessary. At THEIR cost, not yours. Good luck!

Posted by Dina2015

A Reader Answers

I work for the special education department at a middle school. Although I’m not an expert, my suggestion is that you contact a parent advocate. You can contact the Director of Special Education at the district office, and ask them to give you the name of a parent advocate – it’s a free referral service. The parent advocate can answer your questions and even attend meetings with you. Good luck.

Posted by roque