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Accomodations, pt. 4: Fewer classes & free periods

Dec 20, 2018

I was an English/History kid. But I'm also not the fasted reader, writer, or processor. That made it really hard to take honors/AP classes in those subjects. I had to make tough decisions about how to allocate my time. (I guess I still do.) It was pretty clear that I couldn't take the classes that I wanted to and still carry a full load. So, my parents and I had a discussion before my freshman year about how to handle that. The basically asked me if I wanted to do high school in 5 years or take something during the summer to lighten the load during the academic year. That was an easy choice for me. I wanted to graduate with my friends. So we decided that I would take my sciences during the summer. I took Bio after my freshman year and took Chem after my sophomore year. I think I just sleep for two month after surviving my junior year.

Of course that was one few class to have to worry about. Less homework, etc. But, it also gave me four extra blocks during the week to... do what? That's the question. Back in the day at Newton North, underclassmen weren't allowed to have free periods. So they wanted to stick me in study hall four more (total of six) periods a week. When I think about the idea of being in a classroom with 20 other kids who don't want to be there and may not be so quiet trying to do work and having to mostly sit still, I think I'd rather be in science class. What I needed was to go find a quiet place, put on the discman (yes, I'm old) and do whatever I needed to do to survive high school. Sometimes that was staring at the wall, sometimes it was homework, sometimes it was playing chess with a friend, sometimes "hanging out" with my girlfriend who I shared a free block with my senior year. 

The bottom line is that I may not have used those periods strictly to do homework. I may have used them as down time. But that down time allowed me to conserve energy and attention throughout the school day to get work done at home. And, being able to move around and not be sitting and chair probably helped me pay attention better during my actual classes. If your kids aren't prone to getting in trouble or just being glued to their phones, they will probably use the time "better" without having to report to a study hall. At least that was the case for me.

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. An imperfect post completed is better than a perfect post that goes unposted.

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Medication journal

Dec 14, 2018

I may have more accomodation posts, but I wanted to talk about the importance of a medication journal today. What, you may ask, is a medication journal? It is just a record of medications, dosages, changes, and symptoms. Finding the right medication is usually a process of trial and error. I think this is especially the case with ADHD meds. Or, perhaps I should say that the changes and effects happen so rapidly and there are so many options that the number of changes in a short period of time can be extensive. 

I've been on the same stimulant regimen for almost 20 years. So there isn't an issue there. My current antidepressant gets adjusted from time to time, but that's only one variable and the effects are pretty obvious and rapid. My son's meds are also pretty straightforward. So I've never really needed to keep track of them in a detailed matter. My daughter is a whole 'nother story. I won't get into detail about her journal, as it's kinda personal. But it did prompt me to write this. So let's start with the macro.

Especially with our kids, who are constantly growing and changing during the period of time when we are responsible for their meds, it is extremely important to keep track of what meds, what dosages, what age/size, when, and for how long. Often parents will tell me, "he took Stimulant A when he was in 3rd grade but I don't remember how much and I'm not sure why we stopped that one." This is not meant to criticize those parents. In the moment things seem so obvious and memorable, but six years later when that kids is in 9th grade, how likely is anyone to remember all the details. Specifically, one reason this is important is that as we get older, we tolerate medication much better. I've had many a client who's tried a med at 8-years-old and "hated it" for some reason. But, with a more mature body and a different outlook at 14, that medication is magical. However, if there was a serious side effect of it really didn't work at all, it's nice to remember that so as not to repeat the missteps of the past.

The following are the things that I would consider tracked as much as possible:
  1. Date's of Dr.'s appointments with a brief description of what was discussed and any decisions made.
  2. General trends in symptoms/behavior. You observations of results. 
  3. What your child is saying about how they feel. I can't tell you how many kids have said, "It makes me feel weird." Don't brush that off. Help them find the words to explain what "weird is." For one, that will empower them to take charge of how they feel and help them buy in to the treatment by making them feel heard and helping them process their feelings. Second, weird can just mean different. Read: stick with it and see how it goes while continuing to talk about it. Or, weird can be not good at all. Read: don't force it and consider changing something.
  4. Dates of changes in dosage.
  5. Dates that you start a new prescription bottle if the manufacturer has changed.
  6. Dates you go from generic to name brand or vice versa.
  7. Any potential side effects in frequency and severity. (Even if it isn't listed as a know side effect.)
Don't feel like you have to write a novel. Quick bullet points are usually enough to jog your memory. But having this detailed data can be invaluable when trying to figure out what is going on with you child... your yourself!

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. An imperfect post completed is better than a perfect post that goes unposted.

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Accomodations No. 4: Fidgets

Dec 7, 2018

Fidgets are an important part of managing or physical restlessness. But, they have to be "respectful" fidgets. Check out Fidget to Focus. It will give you many great ideas. But the short version is that your kids (of your) fidget needs to be something that isn't visually or auditorily distracting to everyone else. I would love to click a pen all day, but that would drive the rest of the world nuts. Something simple like a squeeze ball or a piece of putty are great. Even a paperclip or a piece of string can work. I would suggest having a variety of things in the school bag to rotate through so your fidgety-ness doesn't bet bored. 

For artistic kids, doodling can be a great option. I think I've mentioned this in a post before, but that won't stop me. I have a client who's in middle school who is quite the artist. We used to meet in person and I always let her doodle while we were meeting. She would be staring down at her paper, not making eye contact. But I could tell she was paying attention. And, I don't think I ever asked her a question and she wasn't present with the conversation. Many teachers, parents, and neurotypical people find this rather disconcerting. I would suggest they got over it. If an artistic kid focuses better while drawing, let 'em do it. 

Lastly, when doing homework on one's own fidgets can be a little less respectful and on a larger scale. I had an instructor at my coaching school who told us that he never finished a book in his adult life until he realized how kinesthetic his learning style was. He realized that he could read if he was actively rocking in a rocking chair. Now he blows through books and enjoys them.

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Accomodations No. 3: Preferential seating

Nov 30, 18

Preferential seating is often offered, but in  very specific sense. Usually it meas front row center. This is great in some respects, but other options are better for other types of kids. For example, those of us who benefit from movement, might be better off on the side of the room with the understanding that it would help us to stand up at certain time during the class. I always liked to be up front but by the side so I could go for a walk without feeling like I was disrupting class. When I take classes, go to conferences, check out lectures at this point in my life, I prefer to grab a seat in the back and end up either standing up for much of the session or even sitting on the ground in the back to afford me the most possibility of moving around. 

My point is that most kids could benefit from targeted seating, but that might not be the same for every kid with ADHD. It may even vary from class to class. And, it may be somewhat depending on who else in in the class and how long it is. Think it through with your kids. They might have an insight into this that you wouldn't have thought they'd have.

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Accomodations No. 2: Extended time for assignments, not just tests

Nov 23, 2018

Pretty much everyone gets extended time for tests as a standard accommodation. But there are some nuances to think about. 

First, many systems require the student, even young students, to ask ahead of time for extended time. Why? I don't know. I always had access to extended time. I couldn't tell you how often I used it but it wasn't all the time. So how was I supposed to know? This also puts a lot of pressure on kids who are reticent to be open about their accommodations to ask the teacher in front of the class for the extra time. It also puts pressure on kids who are somewhat conflicted about the idea of accommodations to take their time. Maybe they can finish but only if they rush? Lastly, I think it's important to make sure the how and where of finishing is ideal for the student. Some teachers are worried about the integrity of the test. I guess that's reasonable. But I have yet to meet a criminal mastermind who's using the accommodations to game the system. 

I guess I'll throw this in while we're on the subject of test taking. A quiet supervised environment outside the classroom might be best. Allowing the student to wear noise canceling headphone, and maybe even listen to music. 

But the real crux of this post is that ADHD kids will often need extended time in on assignments, not just tests. On one level, this is important because the ADHD kid is usually fighting through organizational and other EF challenges just to get to the place where they can complete the work. It is also important because most of us take longer to complete much of our work due to attentional challenges and/or slower processing speed. But, fundamentally, the challenge is the sheer quantity of work most students face. There is always an issue with the allocation of resources. whenever I do a speaking engagement I ask the parents how many of them have 6 different bosses who assign them work independently, without consulting each other? No one ever raises their hand. My brother-in-law is the closest. As a lawyer he is always juggling many cases, but rarely more than a few at a time. The point being that it just may not be possible for an ADHD student to get everything done on time even if time and attention are managed optimally. I spent most of my school vacations catching up on papers. I never took advantage of it and seem to have turned out fine.

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. An imperfect post completed is better than a perfect post that goes unposted.

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Accomodations No. 1: Competency based grading

Nov 15, 2018

After my epic, cathartic, and very personal post from last week, I'm going to do a few weeks of quick tips around the holidays. I'll start with a few on standard and not so standard accommodations for students with ADHD. The first is my favorite, though not so standard: Competency based grading. 

For someone who processes slowly, has limited attention, and who's kryptonite is boredom, doing 30 math problems every night is a problem. Especially since I was an English/History kind of kid, math also wasn't my priority once I got to high school. My theory was always that I shouldn't have to be tortured by all those problems if I knew the material already. (Of course that's the key, knowing the material.) I figured if I could do the last five questions or the last one in each section, I probably knew my stuff. As it turned out, my performance on tests bore that out. Therefore I wouldn't be graded down for only doing a part of the homework if I demonstrated reasonably mastery of the material. 

No system that I'm aware of offers this and they usually fight it. They really cling to the idea of homework being integral to the learning process though many studies demonstrate the opposite. The have some idea that as ADHD kids we are trying to get away with something, like it's not fair if we do less homework. Frankly, I think it's unfair that my homework takes me twice as long as my intellectual peer sitting next to me. The school doesn't seem to have a problem with that though. Anyway, ask for it if your kids need it. It can make a big difference.

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. An imperfect post completed is better than a perfect post that goes unposted.

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