Reply To: Independence for 9 year old

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Penny Williams

There’s a big difference between supporting and enabling learned helplessness. Starting to teach independence at a young age, a little at a time, is ideal. If you do everything for him, he won’t learn to do for himself, and will likely stop trying to do for himself. This is a trap very easy for parents of kids with ADHD and disabilities to fall into. I’ve had to dig my way out of it a couple times myself.

If the teacher is referring to him being able to plan, organize, and remember better, then she may need a bit of educating on executive function deficits common with those with ADHD.

What Is Executive Function Disorder?

When Executive Functions Falter and Fail

In my experience, executive functions do improve slightly over time, but those weaknesses don’t go away. The best approach is to create strategies and coping mechanisms to reduce the impact of those weaknesses. Those should not be, for instance, managing his papers in his backpack for him every night. Instead, you create a routine for managing school papers, and you facilitate him implementing the routine.

I have been trying to get teachers and administrators to understand that their expectation of “accountability” and “independence” of all students needs to be adjusted for kids with developmental disorders for YEARS. In 7th grade, I asked the English teacher why he didn’t put homework on the school website like most other teachers. He said it was because 7th graders needed to learn to be accountable for themselves. If they didn’t get the worksheet and write down the assignment at the end of class, then their consequence was a zero and a bad grade, and that would teach accountability. Argh! Of course, I swiftly reminded him that ADHD and autism are developmental disorders and that his neurotypical expectations of 7th graders were wildly inappropriate for kids like my son, who are 2-3 years behind developmentally. That didn’t change his mind though — he didn’t realize that it would take a physiological change in my son’s brain, literally, to suddenly change this issue for him.

Here’s more on ADHD as a developmental disorder (few seem to realize it falls in this category):

Stop Telling Your Child to Act His Age

So, yes, I also agree the teacher needs to spell out specific expectations, for you and for your son.

ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism