Extending Accommodations Beyond The Classroom
Recently, while attending a student-parent-teacher-counselor meeting at a local high school, I became overwhelmed with the rapid-fire information being delivered. I politely asked the counselor to slow down as I was concerned the student, who has been diagnosed with processing delays, working memory weaknesses, and ADHD, might be feeling a bit lost. We were meeting to review IEP accommodations and determine how they can most effectively support the student in each class. However, the adults at the table were not fulfilling those very accommodations. After the student was dismissed, I expressed my concern: what is required in the classroom needs to extend beyond it in order for a student to succeed.
The realization that we might be overlooking an important piece to the support puzzle dawned on me about a decade ago. I had been a teacher for seventeen years when I decided to go into private practice as an educational therapist. I had felt ineffective in the classroom, since so much of my time was devoted to special education related paperwork. Feeling like I was not truly helping the students to the greatest degree possible, I came to the conclusion that one-on-one work would be more effective. One day, while working with a student who experiences executive functioning and working memory weaknesses, I found myself asking, “Am I fulfilling her accommodations?”. Was I providing written instructions in addition to giving them verbally? Was I asking her to complete one step before presenting her with another or was I giving a string of directions in one breath? Did I allow adequate time for her to process what was being asked? Was I paying attention to her needs? Are the other adults in her life? It was then that it hit me; what we ask for and, often times, fight for in the schools, we sometimes neglect outside of them.
When a 504 Plan or IEP is written for a student, the school becomes responsible for providing services and accommodations that ensure the student has the same opportunity as her peers. These accommodations must extend outside of school. When working with tutors, therapists, coaches and at home, a student’s cognitive needs must continue to be consistently met.
What does this look like?
A student with ADHD/inattentive type coupled with executive functioning weaknesses receives classroom accommodations that include preferential seating, extended time, prompting and refocusing, on-task reminders, and the use of checklists and schedules. At home, these accommodations will help the child complete her chores and tasks easier, alleviating any stress or conflict.
A common scenario follows; it is Saturday, the day your child needs to clean her room. Typically, she will be given a reminder of the chore and then will be left to start, work on and complete the task on her own. This has the potential for the task to be left undone. If her accommodations are applied, the process, from start to finish, will be smoother.
Steps to take might include:
You and your daughter compromise that ‘clean’ means no clothes on the floor, all dirty dishes and empty food bags taken care of, bed made, and desk top organized. Your child determines it will take two hours to get the job done, which includes one fifteen minute break. She writes out what needs to be done in order to make it clean and how she will get there, and you agree that you’ll look in every thirty minutes to track progress. If this sounds like a lot of managing or oversight, we must remember that a child with cognitive differences needs support just as a child with diabetes needs insulin or a child with 20/100 eyesight needs glasses. Accommodations for cognitive disorders are not as black and white, but they need to be put in place just the same.
Integrating accommodations into the home daily routine may take some time. A good way to start is to look at what is written in your child’s 504 or IEP and ask, “How does this translate at home?”. For a child with auditory processing disorders, writing down important information will help her understand and remember what is being asked more effectivley than telling her. For instance, as she is running out of the house, try texting her what you want her to remember rather than calling out after her. She will then have the info in writing. This reduces the risk of her forgetting or misinterpreting the message. Also, give directions one at a time. We tend to speak in lists, which might get lost on some. Asking your child to take out the garbage, wheel the pails to the curb, replace the garbage bag and then prepare her backpack for tomorrow’s school day may overwhelm, resulting in the garbage going out but nothing else getting done. First, ask her to take out the garbage and set the pails at the curb. When she comes back inside, ask her to replace the bag. Then, making sure you have her attention, remind her to prepare her backpack. If she does not hear you or needs something repeated, use the same wording.
Below is a list of the most common school accommodations given to students with learning differences and how they may be incorporated at home:
We all operate differently, eventually learning how to accommodate our strengths and weaknesses. Integrating school accommodations into a child’s daily life affords her the opportunity to develop coping strategies. An environment that fosters support, awareness and acceptance allows a child to feel secure and confident in who she is and how she thinks and learns. This serves as both the greatest lesson and gift we can give our children.
Beth Pauline, MSE, is a Professional Educational Therapist with twenty-seven years of teaching and educational therapy experience. Beth works one-on-one with students who experience learning differences and cognitive weaknesses, specializing in supporting the needs of teenage and young adult learners. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Tags: Accommodations, Cognitive disorders, Parenting tips|