Friday, February 28, 2014

The Importance of Having an IEP for Your ADHD Child

Today’s mailbag is from Holly who writes for advice concerning her grandson. Sometimes I get letters from people who aren’t pitching their latest seminar, book series, and ADHD mouth rinse in one. Sometimes real people with real problems write to me, and I do my best to help. I may not be an expert, but I sure love sharing my opinion. You may have noticed.

I have been looking at your site and reading your posts for a little while now. I was excited to find it because I am raising my grandson, now 10, who has been diagnosed with ADHD, most likely a coping mechanism (as I understand it) for what caused his PTSD age 9 months to a little over 5. He is getting closer to the point where addressing encroachment from his past will be something he’s ready and able to do. I wonder if you struggled with ADHD when you were a kid, and if you did, what helped? We use some medication; fortunately his doctor is pretty conservative and my boy primarily uses it only on school days, though most of this school year he has used none until he asked to start again. He works with a learning specialist and the school counselor helps him with relaxation and focusing techniques. One-on-one he does well, but he almost always tunes out when his teacher addresses the classroom as a whole, which in 5th grade is most of the time.

Any suggestions or direction to other sources you know of will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, including for your humorous and helpful blog.

Thanks for writing, Holly. I’ve never heard of ADHD being a coping mechanism as part of a trauma, though pseudo-ADHD can be a symptom of other causes. Pseudo-ADHD has similar symptoms of attention inconsistency, but can go away once the cause is resolved. True ADHD is genetic and requires life skills and sometimes medication to treat.

As a child I had ADHD like a pack of hyper puppies in a pet store window. One moment I couldn’t sit still and was unable to focus, the other moment I was hyperfocused on something and ignored the commotion around me. I had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, I was always on the move, and I was socially awkward, preferring small circles of friends than the chaos of the social setting.

Staying focused when somebody else sets the pace of information’s flow can be torture for the ADHD mind. This is generally why adults with ADHD, and children as well, zone out during classroom settings. Our attention skims over the ocean of information looking for a foothold, then heads off to the beach where things are more interesting. In fact, there is no difference between the child me and the adult me except that I now know how to manage my cowlicks and manage my ADHD with a trick or two I’ve picked up over the years.

I recently wrote Adult ADHD: 7 Simple Tricks To Stay Focused in Class, but I am not sure that your son is old enough to make use of all of them. You might need to look over the list and see if there is something there that you could personally adapt for him. You know him best.

Since you are already working with a learning specialist and the school counselor, you may want to consider amending (or creating) an IEP (Individualized Education Program) to include your son’s inability to focus in lecture situations. A proper IEP helps you & your child work with the teacher to accommodate his attention deficits. Otherwise, you are on your own trying to convince a teacher to change how they do things just for your child. I found these resources for parents that might set you out on the right path: ADHD Classroom Accommodations: Guide to Getting Special Accommodations, Services for ADD Children & Classroom and School Accommodations for ADD ADHD Children.

Some of the tips I have shared with you might be just what you need to help you create coping strategies for your boy to stay focused in class. Definitely continue to involve the school as you have been doing. Thanks for writing.