Public schools for grades K-12 have IEPs (Individualized Educational Plan) and 504 Plans put in place for children with learning disabilities and attention issues. (Difference Between IEP and 504 Plans) Many private schools however do not receive government subsidies for their education programs. So what’s a parent to do? DO your research, DO find out what works best for your child, and absolutely DO advocate for your child.
My daughter has ADHD (Combined type) and goes to a private Catholic school. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about asking for accommodations for my child after some of the horror stories I’ve heard in the past, one being that the student was actually kicked out because the school couldn’t handle him. I am a pretty shy person and I absolutely hate confrontation, but I wouldn’t know what the school could offer my child unless I tried and this was for my child’s education, which is extremely important to me.
It began by me sending an email to my daughter’s kindergarten teacher and speaking openly about my daughter’s behavior and negative thoughts and feelings about school. The teacher appreciated my honesty and thanked me for allowing her to know what was really going on in my daughter’s head. Almost weekly, her teacher would send me updates about the accommodations she was making for my daughter and letting me know what worked best for her. She also encouraged me to let her know if anything worked well for my daughter at home that she could do in the classroom as well. This teacher was an absolute saint (and I’m not just saying that because it’s a Catholic school). She was the reason my daughter was finally able to love kindergarten. At the end of the school year, she gave my daughter a very sweet book called In My Heart: A Book of Feelings with a special message written from her inside. She also gave me her personal email address, so she could keep in touch with my daughter. She was the type of teacher who truly cared about her students and I wish she could have had her as her teacher the rest of her school years.
The summer before my daughter entered first grade, I emailed the principal and asked if accommodations could be made for my daughter with her first grade teacher. The principal quickly responded and we set up a time to meet. After meeting with the principal, we created what the principal called an “Education Plan” for my daughter, which is similar to what public schools put in place for students with ADHD. The principal had already asked my daughter’s kindergarten teacher to provide a list of the successful accommodations she made for my daughter, so that her first grade teacher could provide the same accommodations. As stated earlier, private schools are not required by law to create an Education Plan. Fortunately for my daughter, her school is absolutely amazing and very accommodating to children with special needs. We are very, very lucky.
I would like to share the accommodations the school has made for my child in order for her to have a successful academic career. These accommodations are what has worked best for my child and if you think they would help your child succeed too, by all means, ask your child’s school to include them when you are advocating for them and developing a plan:
“As the daily work is presented, the following recommendations and accommodations may be made to assist [STUDENT] to be successful in the school setting:
- Additional time for tests or classroom work
- Focused area for work
- Reminders to refocus
- One-on-one assistance for redirection
- Allowance for movement (e.g. Sending [STUDENT] a to do some “errands”)
- Utilize “hands on” rather than sit and listen activities, as needed or appropriate
- Seat placement with few distractions in front of her (e.g. front and if possible, around students who are less distracting and can model good behavior)
- Interrupt a written activity with “art work” since this “art break” may contribute to refocusing
- Repeat directions for clarity; supplement important verbal instructions with visual instructions
- Utilize a consistent plan for classroom behavior; praise good behavior and remind [STUDENT] individually of classroom rules when behavior is inappropriate”
It is also important to note that you should talk to your child’s teacher at least once a month to discuss his or her progress, any problems either of you have encountered with school, and any changes or concerns regarding their medication. Also discuss if any accommodations should be added or removed from their plan, because just as your child changes as he or she gets older, the way they learn might too.
I realize that I have been very lucky in regards to finding a school that is so accommodating for my child and I wish it were that way for every parent. Raising a child is hard. There is no doubt about it and raising a special needs child is ten times harder, but having them go to a school that will go the extra mile, make special accommodations, and provide them with the necessary tools to be successful will make your job as a parent easier. Don’t be afraid to open up either. We are vey protective of our children (as we should be), but I have learned that it is best to be open and honest about my child’s ADHD with the staff. After all, they can’t help her if they don’t truly understand what is going on.
With that being said, what are other accommodations that has worked for your child at school? What has been your personal experience with IEPs, 504s, and Education Plans?