Teen Diagnosed with ADHD - ClassRoom Accommodations

Hello Parents.  Our high school sophomore daughter was just diagnosed with ADHD last week. I am catching up on my readings and research on ADHD/medications/IEP/support for ADHD teenager and so on, and I have myriads of questions in my mind.  Here are a few most important ones - and I would appreciate your response:

1. Does anyone have any suggestions about classroom accommodations for a sophomore? While we work on the IEP, the school suggested we work with the classroom teachers as well.  I do not clearly understand what classroom accommodations we could ask for high school students   She does not seem to have any learning difficulty - most likely mainly organizational/exec functioning. But she hasn't been able to clearly and coherently express the exact issues she is facing (other than not turning in assignments) - so I am wondering what to request the teachers.

2.Would love to hear your experience of how medication (or nonmedication interventions) helped your teenager. We are very new to the concept of this medication, and I am worried about side effects and long-term effects vs the scale of relief received by the medicine.

Thank you so much.

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

When my teen was diagnosed with adhd as a sophomore, he was in mostly honors classes. His accommodations included: no penalties or points taken off for late work; individual check ins from teachers if he was falling behind; and in some classes, no penalty for missed work if he was showing mastery over all. I will note that not all teachers followed the accommodations and we had to pick where to follow up with them—mostly where his grade was borderline and having the accommodations would bump him up. His adderal definitely helps him focus and study better but he hates how it makes him feel, and only takes it  when he has to. I’m glad he has it.

Hi -  Our AFAB teen had the same diagnosis (ADHD, inattentive type) a couple of years ago when they were a sophomore. We got the official letter of diagnosis, and were told that our kid was eligible for more time on tests, but as in your daughter's case the issue was not about needing more time, but rather executive function based (following directions explicitly, submitting assignments correctly and on time, etc.). Our kiddo never took medication for ADHD, though was/is on an SSRI for depression.

I think working with individual teachers is the key. In hindsight, we should have checked in with each (with the support of their counselor) and set up systems for the teacher to double check that the work was done if it did not show up, rather than simply doling out an F. Our kid actually did do the work, and very well, but hobbled themselves with the late and incorrectly submitted assignments. If there had been some kind of individualized protocol it would have been helpful.

Also in hindsight I wonder if we should have tried some kind of medicine. Unlike the SSRI's, my understanding is that most ADHD medication leaves the body very quickly, enabling the kid to potentially use it as a crutch (if it is helpful) when it is most helpful. I know kids who take it during the school week, or some of the school week and then don;t take it over the weekend.

I hope this is helpful. Good luck to you and your daughter! Glad you have the support.

We were in the same boat just a bit ago.  There is a lot to work through and it probably seems overwhelming at this point. My daughter didn't show any signs of learning difficulties EXCEPT for the fact that she didn't hand in her work on time or at all if she didn't think it was good enough.  Things that helped my daughter - going to counselor's office and doing her work there.  The counselor doesn't have to actively work with your daughter just be there and promote accountability.  Talk to the teachers about giving more time to hand in assignments.  Maybe ask teachers to break down big tasks into small bite size tasks and give multiple due dates.  Determine a finite number of assignments that can be turned in late without negative impact on grades.  More time for tests.  These are just a few of the things that helped us.  I cannot offer any advice regarding medications.  

How awesome that your daughter is getting recognition and help now!  

I have a super smart teen that exhibited signs of ADHD —not turning in assignments, procrastination, easily distracted. She is also a teen that had an incidence of psychosis under stress. Use of ADHD meds just multiplied the events.  I would say use extreme caution when initiating any stimulants. I’m sure lots of people might be helped by the meds, but I sure wish I knew then what I know now. My advice would be cognitive behavioral therapy or tutoring to help with organizing, just about anything before initiating medication. 

Please feel free to contact me.

Our daughter has inattentive ADHD diagnosed at age 6. She has a gifted IQ but had a hard time learning even to read because of the storm of distraction in her brain, and she was constantly in trouble for daydreaming. She has been on meds since the start of 2nd grade.

Meds:

We've been fine with Adderall XR. It allows her to pay attention. Stimulants seem to have a very different effect in kids with ADHD than they would on others. Our kid gets quiet, even subdued. The theory is that kids with ADHD have low levels of internal stimulation, and that hyperactive behavior is self-stimulation. Our kid doesn't like the meds because she enjoys her whirling ADHD thoughts, though she says she's grateful for them because before, school was a misery. She doesn't usually take them on weekends or holidays.

Main side effect: loss of appetite: Our kid simply won't eat lunch, so we give her a big, high-protein breakfast and after-school snack.

The data says that meds plus behavior modification is the most powerful approach. We haven't been diligent about behavior mod. We used to give a lot of small rewards, like beads that she could trade in for ice cream cones or sparklers.

School issues:

If you haven't gotten a neuropsychological evaluation, please consider getting one. There may be important learning issues you haven't spotted. A common one is slow processing speed, which our daughter likens to webpages that load very slowly. Despite her intelligence, she reads and writes slowly. The meds don't much help with slow processing.

Our kid was given informal accommodations in private school until entering Berkeley High. We didn't get an IEP, as BHS said special ed is for kids with serious intellectual disabilities, not for a kid who can keep up in regular classes.

We have a 504 plan, and our kid gives every teacher a copy of it and talks to them about it. The teachers have been fine. The main accommodation is extra time on tests because of slow processing,. Other accommodations are being able to photograph the whiteboard with her phone, and using voice-to-text when other kids are writing by hand.

Our kid adds: Keep all homework in the same place. It doesn't have to be organized, just in one place so nothing gets lost or forgotten. Second, try to do all your homework at school (during lunch, or at the library), or soon after coming home, while the meds are still in your system. Finally, if you're struggling to turn in assignments, ask the teachers to remind you as an accommodation. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself, it's necessary to self-advocate.

It's important to find exec function strategies. Our kid uses her phone alarms to remind her, for example, to leave for school. She also recommends timers like the Time Timer (https://www.timetimer.com/).

Websites where people with ADHD describe their experiences and strategies help a lot, e.g., https://howtoadhd.com/. She also reads ADDitude magazine, and https://chadd.org/. Websites that express what ADHD feels like provide validation and the words to explain to others. Our kid put some poems online about having ADHD, and got feedback that it helped others understand: https://www.wattpad.com/1046453261-adhd-poems-how-my-day-went?utm_source....

We hope this helps!

Thank you all for your comments.

My kid was not diagnosed until college. He has found the medication very helpful, and is able to just take it when he needs to study. The accommodation that has helped him most is extra time on tests. Also, avoiding remote classes as much as possible. It was very easy to get accommodations at UC. He has managed everything himself and is graduating this spring.