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ADHD and Schoolwork
Q: My eight-year-old, who has ADHD, is having difficulties at school. All of the work he brings home from school is below passing. When I have him do his homework, he gets everything right. I think his teacher has simply given up on him. What can I do?
A: It sounds like its time to sit down with your son's teacher and find out why there is such a difference between his performance in school and at home. You don't say if your son is receiving any kind of treatment for his ADHD. Even if he is on medication it is often necessary to add some classroom accommodations or direct interventions to help him to meet his potential.
Here are some questions you might ask your son's teacher:
1. What are my son's strengths? What does he do well at in school?
2. What are his weaknesses? What subjects does he consistently struggle with?
3. Under what conditions does he work best: Alone, with a single "study buddy," or in a cooperative learning group?
4. Is my son completing work within the time frame you have set for him? Is he rushing to finish so his writing is sloppy or his attention to detail erratic?
5. Does my son seem to understand what he is supposed to do to complete a specific task? Is he paying attention to directions?
6. Does my son ever ask you or another student for help if he's stuck or doesn't understand what to do?
Once you get the answers to these questions (and others you think are appropriate), it will be easier to talk together to devise a plan to help your son. Some of the plan may involve accommodations (e.g., slower, simpler presentation of directions; shorter assignments in class; opportunities to take a brief break between periods of intense work). Other parts of the plan may require more direct interventions (e.g., If his work in class is sloppy and/or incomplete, he may need instruction/practice on improving his handwriting or in organizational skills).
If you son doesn't already have one, he should probably have a Section 504 plan outlining his needs and the accommodations put in place to help him. Ask your school principal or guidance counselor who is in charge of this. Once the plan has been created, it needs to be updated every year and modified as necessary. Have a look at Harvey C. Parker's book, Problem Solver Guide for Students with ADHD for some concrete suggestions about the kinds of things you can ask for on a Section 504 plan.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.