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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fun With Accommodations

This post is for all those parents out there whose children are "twice special." My dear daughter is one of these children, and while I wouldn't have her any other way, it can be a challenge to ensure she is receiving the education she is entitled to. In her case, she is labeled both gifted and ADHD.

For being gifted, she has an IEP (or Individualized Education Plan, for those of you lucky enough to not know what that means) that sets out certain goals that she should be striving for in her education. This is the same type of document that someone with a learning disability would have. In order to meet these goals, her school district has placed her in a full-time school for the gifted. She is currently in 5th grade, and she has been at this school since 2nd grade. She absolutely loves her school and does not want to leave it. Ever. She will be able to continue through 12th grade at this school, which has been rated in the top ten public high schools nationwide.

Then there is her other paperwork. That would be the 504 accommodations she has because of her ADHD. I know that this is a controversial diagnosis in some circles, but in my daughter's case, there was nothing else we could do but talk to her doctor. We have tried multiple strategies at home to help keep her organized and on track, but to no avail. We tried several medications, but the ones that helped her most killed her appetite and caused her weight to drop too low. We ended up using Strattera, which is a non-stimulant, but which also does not control her symptoms nearly as well as, say, Concerta did. At this point, we found we needed to take paperwork from the doctor into the school and meet with a whole roomfull of people, including teachers, counselors, a social worker, etc., to decide what needed to be done to help her be successful so that she can do academically challenging work without failing because of a lack of orgnizational skills. This meeting took place last school year, and it went very well. One of the accommodations that she received was that her teachers should check her agenda to make sure she is writing down everything she needs to turn in.

Which brings us to this year. My daughter's school has a seperate "Work Habits" grade at the elementary level, and she failed this for the second marking period just two weeks in. This grade is based on demerits (there are no merits), and once a student has received 10, they fail. She had done an essay incorrectly, and her teacher asked her to do it over correctly. This information never made it into her agenda. Her teacher never checked her agenda to make sure it was in there, so I never saw it. However, her teacher did give her one demerit for every day it wasn't turned in, which led to the loss of 6 or 7 demerits within two weeks' time. So, back to the drawing board. We emailed her counselor, because this failing grade has actually had a detrimental effect on her behavior. We'll be scheduling a new 504 meeting to figure out what can be done to help her succeed, for real this time. What fun!

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