Recently I have been answering lots of questions about LD in children in 4th through 7th grades.
These youngsters were previously diagnosed with ADHD and are now receiving poor grades or performing poorly on standardized assessments. Maybe the students were once A/B students and have been supported at home by their parents.
Several students were on IEP’s, but parents were advised that the student’s ADHD was not affecting their academic work and, as a result, the student no longer qualified for an IEP. As part of the IEP students were receiving services such as: a supervised homework time, backpack checks before leaving school, testing in a quiet location with a monitor and a printout of assignments for the evening.
Now, without the protection and support of the IEP, the students are struggling. This is like telling someone who takes insulin for diabetes that they no longer need insulin because their blood sugar is stable. ADHD is a disabling condition.
If a student previously had average grades, has been tested as average in reading comprehension, written expression, spelling and math, it is unlikely that they have developed a learning disability. LD is characterized by a struggle in learning to read, to decode words, to learn spelling rules and to express themselves in writing. These deficits would have been apparent in the early elementary years.
What is more likely the case is that the greater emphasis on self direction, independent problem solving, long term projects, organization and follow through are contributing to the student’s struggle. These skills are part of Executive Function, which is a significant deficit for people with a diagnosis of ADHD. As the school environment requires increasing Executive Function skills at each grade, there is less direct guidance and support provided in the classroom. Not surprising, with reduced environmental support for Executive Function, grades on report cards and in standardized assessments may decline.
As a parent what can you do?
Parents are part of the school team. The team must consider data in determining student needs. Parents can provide documentation about their support of the student and student behavior. Keep a daily log documenting hours spent on homework each night, trips back to school to retrieve forgotten materials, instances of failing to turn in homework at school.
Parents might also consider stopping extensive support at home with schoolwork. Let the teacher, principal and School Psychologist know that for the next month, the student will be working on their own, like other students in the same grade. Compare grades when parents were helping the student with the grades when parents stopped extensive help. This might be necessary to gain or retain support at school.