Monday, February 17, 2014

ADHD, ASD, and Metacognition -- What to Look for in IEPs

It's that time of year again -- IEP and 504 season, when parents meet with school administrators and teachers to put accommodations and services in place for our kids.

However, I know that many well-meaning teachers and administrators really do not get what the problem is. They often see us as over-protecting our kids (or not working hard enough with them) and they see our kids as lazy, manipulative little snots. Yeah, really.

Even really great teachers who want to help believe that if the student just tried harder that s/he would be successful. They are missing the point. Entirely.

So, for you, your family, your child's teachers -- and mostly for your child -- I give to you the following description of what is really going on. Be on the look out for the 'buzzwords' you might see in progress notes or in emails from your child's teacher. They are code for 'your child is lazy' or 'you don't do enough as a parent'. Do not accept this language!

Okay, here we go:

ADHD and ASD compromise Metacognition – the congruency of awareness of time, place, and self: “I am here, in this place, feeling this way, needing to do this thing now, and that thing next.”

People with severe ADHD continually ‘lose the thread’ of what they are doing or should be doing, and struggle to get back on track as they lack the ‘traffic cop’ of metacognition to remind them. This is not laziness and is the root cause of most of ADHD’s impact.

-        Challenges this presents:
o   Meltdowns – unaware of key indicators of hunger, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and thus does not remediate until too late, and ‘blows’ or breaks down into tears (‘overly emotional’ or ‘aggressive’).
o   Stuckness’ – unaware of ‘drift’ or being stuck (‘does not ask for help’).
o   Delays in activation is distracted and does not start tasks (‘procrastination’).
o   Forgets sequence – completes first task, forgets that there is a second or third (‘lack of follow through’).
o   Missed social/informational cues – misses important information in classroom or forgets to write it down. Can miss irony, subtle digs, other social cues (‘poor social awareness’ or ‘fails to pay attention in class’).
o   Distractibility – inability to shift focus back to work after sensory/thought interruption such as people talking, door closing, phone ringing, thoughts of hunger, remembering a joke (‘cannot focus,’ ‘highly distractible,’ ‘goofing off’)
-        Remediation and Accommodations:
o   External prompting/cueing to remind person to ‘check in’ on here and now status: alarms/reminders on cell phone or computer, gentle reminders by teacher (“how are you doing and what are you doing – what do you need to do next?”).
o   Preferential seating to increase focus on teacher and ‘main action’ in classroom.
o   Visible timers to help remind student that ‘time is passing’ and to refocus on tasks.
o   Flow charts in field of vision demonstrating flow of tasks.
o   Written instructions detailing tasks.
o   Consistency in tasks so that there is a defined pattern or structure – “Always do this first, this second, and that last” or “Quizzes are always on Wednesdays, and notebooks are always due Fridays”.
o   Minimization of busywork so there is less overall to remember, execute, and turn in.
o   Verbal reminders to turn in homework so that students stop, get their homework out, and turn it in.
-        Lifeskills to Master (skills that should be taught by all schools -- buy my book!):
o   Use calendar (electronic or written)
o   Use reminders (alarms, post-its, flow charts)
o   Use list-making software
o   Learn/use taxonomy schemas to break down complex tasks (rubrics, worksheets)
o   Learn/use prioritization schemas
o   Learn/use decision-making schemas

There you have it -- use this year after year. Remember to NOT let schools 'get by' with language that is damaging, with failure to provide adequate accommodations, or to make YOU responsible for your CHILD'S difficulties. IDEA and Title IV are clear about what schools must provide to make your child successful now -- and in the future!

©2017 EvoLibri Consulting/Jan Johnston-Tyler