Independence for 9 year old

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    • #47177

      Hi, I’m new to this forum.
      My son has ADHD (not hyperactive though). He struggles at school to keep up.
      He goes to therapy, has a 504 plan, and has started Concerta recently.
      He is doing so much better on the medication. He is still an ADD kid though…
      My trouble is that he teacher is saying he needs to be more independent. I agree, but he is already so scattered that I question what pushing him to be more independent will accomplish right now. As a kid, I was left struggling and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t keep up and was always losing things…
      Anybody have an idea of how I talk to the teacher and communicate how I feel?

    • #47180

      Saying “he needs to be more independent” is a pretty broad statement. Do you know what specific things the teacher is suggesting that he do more independently? If not, that would be a good place to start:to get more information and find out exactly what actions the teacher would like to see. Once you know the specifics, then you could be open about your concerns and maybe as a team you, the teacher–and his therapist–could work together to come up with some ways he could take small incremental steps.

      You asked what “pushing him to be more independent” would accomplish right now…the answer is that it depends but in general, the more the can do for himself, the better off he will be in the long run as an adult. So to the extent that you can ease him toward that step by step, the better off he will be. But it doesn’t have to be all at once. Here’s a swimming analogy to consider that hopefully will resonate: throwing someone in the deep end is not an effective way to teach them how to swim. But in order to eventually learn how to swim, they do have to venture away from the wall by themselves and sometimes, they will get water in their nose and flail around a little.

      When you put more responsibility on him, he might struggle at first. It’s hard as a parent to watch our kids struggle, but it’s important to recognize that this is how they learn and grow.

      Joyce Mabe
      Parenting Coach, school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD, author

    • #47198

      Thank you Joyce!
      I am confused by the teacher wanting him to be more independent also. I think what she wants is him to do basic things like remember to bring his homework home, to remember to tell me information to organize his supplies…
      He is a nice kid with anxiety and ADHD. The Concerta has helped with the chronic crying episodes at school and with his ability to handle frustration.
      Back to the teacher- I’m going to ask her for specific things she wants him to do on his own. I just have this feeling that she doesn’t understand that my son isn’t spacing lout and forgetting things on purpose. Example- he lost his new glasses in about two weeks. He liked them and needs them but he has no idea what happened to them.
      I think she may see me as trying to “baby” him. I just want to maintain a level of confidence and give him support in the areas he struggles with like organizing and remembering things.

    • #47230

      I agree with finding out exactly what the teacher means. I probably have a chip on my shoulder. My son had certain accommodations related to homework and behavior that required teacher participation. For example, at 9 years old he had a daily behavior report that was sent home that was broken up into hour increments. The report was sent home daily so that I could reinforce proper behavior and/or identify and help work through problem behaviors. It worked surprisingly well, but his teacher felt it hindered his “independence”, which was code for her not wanting to have to make on a paper whether my son was good or bad every day. She was also supposed to prompt him to put his homework folder in his backpack. And in the beginning, instead of turning in individual assignments – he turned in all of his homework in his folder at once. Again, the “independence” argument was used. I received significant push back from the general education teacher, to the point where the special education teacher was going up to the general education classroom to ensure teacher compliance because she also knew how helpful these strategies were for later success. And I do understand the general education teacher’s perspective, I can only imagine how difficult it is to teach 30 kids a day AND remember that 1 kid’s special accommodations.

      Over time, those accommodations were lessened. Daily behavior reports turned into every other day (and now we’re on weekly). For homework it was “okay on Mondays you have to put our folder in your backpack unprompted” and then we gradually added days. He gets no assistance with making sure homework gets home now or turned back in.

      Bottom line, in my opinion, support with small increments leading to the end goal of independence is the way to go.

      PS – We have the same issue with glasses. We went through 4 pairs last year! He has managed to keep the same pair of glasses for the last 5 months now. We think we’re on a roll!! (knock on wood)

    • #47235

      Pump2Duncan- thanks so much for sharing. It’s nice to be heard.
      You understand exactly what The struggle is!
      My son’s teacher has been at this school for 30+. She has had so many days off this year that I usually ask my son if she was at school today. She has been an excellent teacher in many ways. I hate to sound ungrateful.
      I will email her later and ask what specific things Owen should expect to do. So it isn’t a vague goal for him. Thanks so much!!!

    • #47298
      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

    • #47309

      Thank ADHDmomma! I’m going to read the articles. I emailed the teacher and asked for specifics. He forgot to write in his agendA and forgot his reading list again. I’m going to look for a little kids watch with timers on it- crazy, but I have timers set for a bunch of things. It really is tough to be an ADD parent with an ADD child. Sometimes it just feels like a slow motion train wreak!

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