Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) may mean that a student has special needs. Some students with ADD, also known as ADHD, have been identified for special education services. Many times, they have been identified as ďOther Health Impaired.Ē What does this mean? Students with special needs have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) to insure that they get a ďfree and appropriate public education.Ē Their educational process is guided by their IEP team.
A team is made up of individuals who have an interest in the studentís educational welfare. By law, there is a representative from the local education agency (LEA) who knows about the school districtís resources. This person is usually an administrator. A team needs at least one general education teacher, a special education teacher, and the person responsible for the childís education, often a parent. A child who is fourteen or older is expected to participate in his IEP team. Optional members can include educational advocates, nurses, social workers, mental health professionals, and family members of the student. That makes the parent an integral part of the studentís IEP team. There is a positive impact to the studentís education, if the needs of the family are considered.
As a professional, I try to be sensitive to familiesí needs. When I am crafting the IEP, I invite the parent to participate in writing the rough draft. While I am the educational professional, the parent is the expert who knows their child! Parents have a wealth of information about their children.
I call the parents and discuss various parts of the IEP with them. What are their dreams and concerns for their child? What does the student aspire to? I always ask what they think their child needs to be successful in the classroom. What accommodations does the child need? What can the student do really well? Which activities do they find enjoyable?
There are IEP teams that expect a parent to just sign off on the teamís recommendations. Of course, when a parent wants to participate fully in team decisions, some professionals think that the parent is becoming too pushy. When my husband and I went to the first three IEP meetings for our son, we were not very assertive. We let people tell us what he needed. If we disagreed, the educatorsí opinions were always a lot more important than ours. We caved in on some issues that we should have fought harder for. Our son missed at least one recess a day for years because of his lack of focus and slow writing. We should have never let those lost recesses continue.
However, by his sixth grade year, we became savvy. All of our communications with the school about any IEP questions were in written form. We went to the IEP meeting equipped with folders for all of the members of the team. The team members were provided with copies of articles and lists of resource books. They could use these to educate themselves and their colleagues about ADD.
Inside each folder was also a list of accommodations that we felt were reasonable and necessary. Based on educational research that we had done, the accommodations were realistic expectations for our sonís teachers. We insisted that these accommodations would be fully implemented. It was a much better year for our son.
You are your childís best advocate. Ask your child what he needs to be successful in school. There are questions that you can ask to guide his thoughts. Where in class should he sit? If he has paraprofessional support, where does he need them to sit? Does he need some breaks scheduled in? Would a quiet place to work help him? If he is getting agitated, may he have a pass to hand to the teacher, so that he can go lower his stress level? If handwriting is a problem, and for many of our guys it is, does he need his writing load reduced? Could he use a copy of the teacher's notes, or is he keeping up with his note taking? Should he test in several sessions, instead of just one session? These questions should get you started. Your child is the expert on his needs. Ask him what he needs!
ADD means, at times you will see that your childís needs are not being met. My best advice is to become a full partner with the school. Educate yourself about the law. Know what an IEP can and canít do. Praise the teacherís efforts to work effectively with your child. If a teacher is not working well with your child, talk to that person first. If the situation does not improve, speak to the administrator. Put your concerns in writing.
Your child is a precious part of your life. The ADD shouldnít define your child. Your child is more than a diagnosis! He needs an appropriate education to realize his dreams. A well-written and fully implemented IEP should help a student with ADD to get that education and achieve his goals.
The IEP process can be daunting to parents and educators who are new to the Special Education process. An excellent resource is Wrightslaw: All About IEPs.
Wrightslaw: All About IEPs
This book provides parents with effective ideas to raise strong children with ADD. It puts the power in the hands of the parents, and not the schools or clinicians. A must read!
Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child