Reply To: What happens when the schools policy is unfair to kids with ADHD and ODD

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Linda Strahan

Sometimes classrooms and schools are ‘management’ focused and not ‘student’ focused. This can result in rough days for students like your daughter. You may want to approach her teacher support team and ask to look at her accommodation plan, or her IEP. The hard part of putting together an IEP is ensuring that appropriate goals are written. A behavior goal should focus on something that will help her move forward, not something that punishes her for not reaching a certain benchmark. “Behaving immaturely”, “being off task” or “not following through on assignments” are examples of behaviors stemming from a disability. By taking ‘points’ away for doing something that is a function of the child’s disability is counter-productive and does nothing to help that child grow academically, socially, or emotionally. Is her day thoughtfully structured to minimize her chances for getting into trouble? Are clear protocols in place that will help her avoid trouble spots or are options available for her at the first sign of trouble? Best practices such as providing space in the classroom for movement, having headphones handy for her use when doing independent work, and allowing her remediation and a chance to re-do a quiz that she has failed are all small examples of how her classroom teachers can make her daily learning experiences more positive. A small digital timer and short list of daily routine and/or schedule taped on the cover of her planner are helpful as well (to allow her to see that time is passing during ‘work’ time and to cue her about what’s coming up so that she can be ready for the change).An old fashioned analog watch with a minute hand can be helpful as well. If the school environment is more ‘traditional’ and movement/noise are discouraged, if it’s not student-focused, if the classroom doesn’t focus on a ‘growth-mindset’, then perhaps it’s not the best learning environment for your daughter. But even the best schools have teachers that are burned-out, rule-bound, stressed, or just struggle with students who are not typically quiet or docile. Ask about what is being done proactively to help your daughter, what systems do they have in place to head-off her errant behavior before she gets in trouble. Also ask about preventative, restorative, and positive discipline measures that involve everyone in the environment, not just one “trouble-maker”. Good luck and I hope she begins to feel better about herself and her learning soon.