Q: I Never Hear From My Kids’ Teachers
Your child’s 504 Plan requires regular communication from teachers, but they don’t return your calls or emails. While consistent updates are ideal, your child can succeed with ADHD anyhow – with these strategies.
Q: “I have two sons with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD). One is in middle school and the other is a senior in high school. They both have a 504 Plan that includes regular contact with and updates from teachers on how they are doing in class. Even when we initiate contact with the teachers, only a couple of them will respond. If the teachers won’t communicate, then what is happening at school is a black hole. How do we get them to cooperate when they feel that ‘students this age should be able to manage their own assignments/calendars’?” – In The Dark
Dear In The Dark:
Let’s begin by agreeing that teachers should be familiar with the 504 Plans (and IEPs) of their students and should follow through with any strategies or guidelines that are set out in these Plans. However, as a practical matter, middle and high school teachers can have more than 100 students in the course of their day. Being fully familiar with each student’s 504/IEP and providing the regular contact and updates to parents that these documents may require can be difficult.
Beyond that, it might be helpful to consider the situation of your two sons separately.
For your middle school student, it is important to help him learn to manage his own work, while you monitor how he is keeping up. Many schools have websites or other tools where teachers post assignments and sometimes even grades. You may be able to access these with your middle school son and see his assignments so you can help him plan and study.
You might want to meet with his 504 Team to brainstorm ways to keep informed about his assignments and tests without putting the responsibility on the teachers. These can include getting advance copies of the syllabus, working with a “buddy” in each class who can share the day’s notes and any homework instructions, and using calendar apps and other tech tools to make it easier for your son to keep track of assignments and test dates on his own.
Your high school senior presents a different set of issues. His school isn’t wrong when it tells you that students his age should be able to manage their own assignments/calendars. The question is, How do you get him to the point where he can do this? You might want to consider investing in an executive functioning or organizational coach, who can work with him to organize his time and materials, break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones, and determine what or how to study. A coach might meet with him weekly and call, email, or text reminders until he is able to manage independently.
If that isn’t a practical solution for your son, we have seen guidance counselors require that a student “check in” each day to make sure his work is up to date. It may pay to explore this option. However, at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the 504 Team to find ways to “level the playing field” for your son, despite his ADHD, and come up with effective ways of helping him stay on track.
Even with coaching and use of technology, your sons may need continued accommodations and support beyond high school. While all colleges must offer accommodations to students with disabilities (under the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 504, since there are no IDEA rights in college), a limited number of schools offer more extensive support, such as executive function coaching and specialized programs.
You may want to explore the kinds of supports offered by the colleges your older son is considering. It would be important for him to have support as he navigates the steps in obtaining and implementing accommodations in college: providing documentation of his ADHD, meeting with the Disability Office, advising his professors of his accommodations (things like extended time for tests), and making sure he actually gets the accommodations to which he is entitled. You and your sons should also be aware that colleges generally will not deal with parents; college students are considered to be adults with the right and obligation to manage their own education.
The opinions and suggestions presented above are intended for your general knowledge only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your own or your child’s condition.
Updated on November 22, 2019