How Creating a 504 Plan in the Earlier Years Can Benefit Teens with ADHD
Our primary back to school focus this year has been getting Reagan ready for college. Going to college involves back-to-school shopping on steroids. Sheesh. This doesn’t mean the other two went ignored though! As Hayden starts his junior year of high school, we have hope that he will be able to reap the rewards of the tools we have set in place over the years.
When Hayden was in middle school, I wrote a post on the organizational system we used for him. It involved five small notebooks and it worked really well for that time in his life.
At that school though, all of his classes were located in one area and he could go to his locker in between. His high school is gigantic and over 100 years old, resulting in a labyrinth layout that means he visits his locker about three times a year because it’s inconveniently located. There’s no time to go there between classes. The result is that everything, including textbooks, gets shoved into his backpack which weighs -- no joke -- about 40 pounds.
So we have simplified. Last year we bought him a laptop which he takes to each class. It’s actually written into his 504 plan that he be able to use a laptop to take notes and that he be given permission to type any/all assignments and tests.
The reason for the typing?
Hayden’s handwriting is bad. Really bad. Whether or not that can be attributed to his ADHD is debatable I suppose, but it is what it is and any teacher who has tried to grade his scrawling has gladly let him use his laptop.
Although, looking through his math notes the other day, I have to say: his handwriting has improved. I can read everything on this page.
It’s math, so I can’t understand any of it, but I can read it.
Back to organization: Carrying the laptop means he can organize much of his schoolwork electronically which has been wonderful. It saves a ton of space and time spent rifling through papers. For assignments that come on handouts, I bought him this one accordion folder with pockets for each class. My hope is that this will cut down on the crumpling.
Moms: We live on hopes like these.
As a junior, Hayden is facing the Year Of Tests. In addition to the typical standardized stuff, he also has the ACT and SAT coming up. These tests are stressful for any kid, but can be even more so for teens with ADHD.
We will have a meeting soon with his counselor and a coordinator to update his 504 plan to make sure he gets the accommodations he needs to be successful on these tests. Ideally, I would like for him to have extra time on each section, scheduled breaks, and (fingers crossed) some way to type any essay questions because his typing is so much faster (and more legible) than his writing.
These tests are actually why we went ahead and put him on a 504 plan when he has in 6th grade. I wasn’t sure he really needed one and was afraid it would “label” him. In our experience though, the “label” has been a good thing. Teachers are so much more patient and helpful when they understand Hayden’s needs up front than they are when they get completely frustrated with him before they realize he has ADHD. Additionally, the 504 means that systems are in place to help him succeed from the get go, not after he has floundered and feels like he’s failing.
This year, the 504 is crucial to making sure he gets the best shot at an accurate score on his ACT. For parents of younger ADHD kids, I highly recommend looking into a 504 plan. It feels like a huge, scary thing, but really, it’s a tool for success.
I think this is going to be a good year for Hayden. With all the turmoil in our house last year, plus typical 15-year-old complications (WHY must they spend a whole year at age 15?? It's purgatory!), his sophomore year was not stellar. At this point though, he seems back on track. He has his goals in mind and is working hard. ADHD may make things more challenging than for other kids, but with proper planning, it does not have to dictate his success.