Q: “How Do I Get My Embarrassed Teen to Use Her ADHD Accommodations?”
Parents should perpetually assess the value added (or lost) by using resource room services. If your teen’s ADHD accommodations are yielding more distress than help, change the IEP or 504 Plan.
Q: “My teen daughter has ADHD and is embarrassed to receive and use the accommodations set up for her at school. She hates being pulled from class for services that we made sure she received in her IEP. How should we handle this?”
It is not uncommon for students to feel embarrassed when they are pulled out of the classroom for any kind of learning difference (LD) or ADHD accommodations. No student wants to feel “exposed” for their neurodivergence. To avoid this, some kids deny the critical need for additional services or question whether the payoff is worth the emotional price of getting assistance. For either group, we suggest our WORD model for engaging kids in IEPs and 504 Plans.
As parents, we spend a lot of time thinking about what our children want. Does any teen really want to go to school, much less a resource room? Most kids are willing to go to school because they have friends there, and they know there’s a higher purpose in learning. Willingness means tolerating painful feelings because you value what you can get from the experience.
On the Team
In my practice, we achieve high compliance, both in the use of medication and psychotherapy, because we tell teens at intake that they are not only on the team; they are the team leaders. If you don’t have a teen’s membership on the team, you don’t have buy-in or willingness, and you’re sunk. Likewise, we encourage teens to lead their IEP or 504 Plan meetings and, with adult support, to express their needs, critiques, and concerns. They should always be taken seriously.
Teens smell inauthenticity a mile away, so an invitation to lead the team must be genuine, even when it hurts the adults to relinquish control.
Reward vs. Risk
Perpetually assess the value added (or lost) by using LD or ADHD accommodations. If your teen uses the resource room for one grading period and it isn’t paying off, then change the plan. Using rewards to persuade your child to attend and participate in the IEP or 504 Plan can work well.
The most profitable thing I’ve ever done with my kids is pay them for behaviors I wanted to reinforce — and schoolwork is front and center in that plan. This is not “bribing” kids. It’s behavior modification, and it works if the reward outweighs any painful or uncomfortable downside so that the teen becomes willing.
Inclusion room teachers are rarely trained in special education. Some are great at quietly supporting students who need to step out for services. Others are far from subtle, calling out, “Jordan, it’s time for your reading class!” If your teen reports the latter, talk with the teacher and include in the IEP that the dismissal will be done with minimal interruption. If a prompt is needed, a tap on the shoulder or a hand gesture would work.
Teens thrive when they understand and accept the value of IEP support services. For parents, it’s important to accept that, in the end, teens really are in charge of their own willingness and participation.
ADHD Accommodations: Next Steps
- Read: 50 High School Accommodations for Every ADHD Challenge
- Free Download: Best Accommodations for Children with ADHD or LD
- Read: Is 16 Too Old for a 504 Plan or IEP for ADHD?
Wes Crenshaw, Ph.D., co-author of ADD and Zombies: Fearless Medication Management for ADD and ADHD, and author of I Always Want to Be Where I’m Not: Successful Living with ADD and ADHD.
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