I often see in dealing with teens and families as an ADHD coach the lack of support in the school. This week I have seen something never before seen! A teen, a sophomore in high school, has been diagnosed with ADHD since age 5. The parents have been to multiple professionals looking for help for their child. He does have an IEP. The last evaluation was done in the fall of 2015.
Dad told me that he was told that the only reason for this IEP is his son’s math difficulties. Sure enough, that does appear to be the sole reason for the existence of the IEP. Nowhere does this IEP talk about his medical diagnosis of ADHD, only his math calculation difficulty that necessitates daily pull outs for support in this area. In an IEP, it is mandated that goals are written based on the functional and academic performances. The only goals that are there relate to focus and the need to not react to distractions. So, ironically, the IEP minimally addresses symptoms of ADHD and does not address the stated reason for it, math difficulty.
In addition, there are signs in the testing that indicate very low processing speed as well as difficulty with comprehension. Again, the only stated reason for this IEP is math.
So this teen has shut down. No one understands why he sits in class, avoids work, seems distracted, seems inattentive, and remains quiet. He is accused of being disinterested and lazy. Our kids with ADHD are intuitive and sensitive. They pick up all those assessments, even when not spoken directly. Why wouldn’t this child give up?
He has not been supported based on a medical diagnosis, ADHD. Nor has he been supported based on his academic testing: the areas in which our kids with ADHD are affected. Are those areas specific to a learning disability or are they related to the main medical diagnosis of ADHD? It could be a combination of both. But the reality is that these areas of struggles need support and strategies, not condemnation.
This teen needs an IEP that primarily addresses ADHD with a secondary diagnosis of a learning difference. Goals should relate to those diagnoses and statements of academic and functional performances. In addition, there needs to be a plan and a way to assess achievement. If not, this child continues to give up and fall through those cracks, never to raise his head again with confidence and the ability to achieve success. And what a shame for a child this bright and able! We need to make this invisible diagnosis visible, viable, and supported.
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