I recently had a discussion around the topic of disability with someone who is adamant about not calling this medical diagnosis a disability. Why? Because she believes that the word is equivalent to failure, low self-esteem, and inability to succeed. She believes it is wrong to reinforce to our kids with ADHD that they have a disability because the thought sets them up for not reaching their true potential.
Initially I was somewhat frustrated with this conversation. After all, ADHD is one of the thirteen disabilities listed under the IDEA, Federal special education law. It falls under OHI, other health impairment. It certainly can be disabling for our kids especially when paired with a co-existing condition, one of the most common being a learning disability. But even on its own, ADHD can be crippling without support, information, and strategies that support areas of weakness. Everyone with ADHD is individual. There are so many areas of struggle with varying degrees of severity. In addition, I think it would also be important to say that how our kids are impacted depends on how they see their weaknesses affecting their day and their successes.
I think there were two areas of conversation. First, the question of whether we reinforce to our kids that they have a disability and if the result would end up negative. I think that is every parent’s decision as to how they inform their child about their diagnosis. It is how you present this, not just the words. One parents may believe in telling the child that it is indeed a disability. But the parent may also instill in their child a sense of empowerment. How? Positive reinforcement for successes and insuring necessary support in school, whether it be a 504 or IEP.
Our discussion also revolved around the amount and type of support in school. She was in agreement to support but not accommodations and modifications since these are not given to you as an adult. It felt like she was saying that these modifications would act as a crutch and not allow the child to explore themselves as a learner.
At first glance, this could appear true and definitely be concerning. But the take away from these accommodations is use of strategies to overcome areas of weakness. We are talking about two areas of support. First, the IEP has modifications, accommodations, and remediation of learning issues. The point of all of that is for the child to learn the areas that need strategies for success. In addition, he/she must learn what strategies will be effective. For instance, for some, white noise during periods of study can be helpful and for some, it is a distraction. If there is a learning difference, remediation of that learning difference is important. That difference may not be totally remediated and also may need strategies to overcome areas that affect success.
The 504 has accommodations only that focus on areas of struggle and weakness. Strategies used may eventually lead to no need for certain accommodations. But again, it is a learning process for that child to understand where the struggles exist.
The disability of ADHD can be so impairing in school. Whether we parents choose to call it that or something else, it is imperative that the child learns about himself and learns how to reach goals chosen. Disability does not mean failure. It means in this case a brain that works differently requiring management (accommodations) until the right strategies are put in place for that individual child. Is it a gift? I really can’t answer that since I do not have ADHD. I have received so many varying answers to that question, both positive and negative. But I do know that our kids with ADHD are bright, sensitive, and intuitive. They are capable of learning about themselves and about what they need. The word Disability means nothing other than a symbol of difference. Difference can be spectacular!
To understand more about what ADHD advocacy is, and how it can dramatically help your child, please contact me directly for a free consultancy session. On our call, you will have the opportunity to share the challenges that your child is facing, and get instant feedback on critical next steps to help both you and your child. You can contact me directly by clicking here!
A little about the author and founder of ADD Advocate, Karen Lowry: I am a certified ADHD Coach. ADHD advocacy is my passion. There are so many school support challenges facing our children, that knowing your rights as a parent have never been more crucial. Effective ADHD coaching depends on effective advocacy for our kids. Remember, if you should ever have any questions about anything regarding school support, or just understanding about ADHD, IEP programs, 504 plans, etc….