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Should Poor Organizational Skills be Accommodated in an IEP?

by Pam Wright

What can be included in the IEP accommodations? Can we stipulate in my son’s IEP that he will not be required to keep an assignment notebook, but will have the assignments posted on the web or emailed each day? Would the school legally be required to adhere to it?

student assignment notebookMy son is 13 with PDD-NOS and is frequently missing assignments or turning them in late for 1/2 credit because he is not getting all of his assignments written in his assignment book for each class.

We would obviously love to see him be able to do the assignment book on his own, but he has extremely poor organizational skills and really struggles with the time constraints of changing classrooms. I believe he is being graded on his ability to organize rather than his ability to learn and reflect his knowledge.

What struck me about your question is that what you want – that your child’s teachers provide you, his parent, with information about his *homework* assignments – is simply good teaching.

Providing a daily assignment list is a reasonable accommodation.

Your request for assignments shows that you are involved with your child’s education. You know that you and the school share the responsibility for educating him. Since teachers often complain about “uninvolved parents,” they should be happy to talk with you and comply with your request.

These teachers need to recognize that children mature at very different rates. A child should not be judged harshly or penalized because he is a late bloomer.

Some children have good organizational skills when they enter school. Some learn modest organizational skills along the way to adulthood. Others will always need some coaching.

My husband Pete falls into the latter category – memory and organization have never been his strong suits. His brain is not wired that way.

Over Pete’s lifetime, he learned ways to compensate, at least partially. His tutor TAUGHT him ways to compensate. His “weaknesses” are balanced by strengths in other areas that enabled him to be a great trial lawyer.

I have met too many teachers who view memory and organizational problems as being under the child’s control.

If they make life painful enough, by punishing and blaming, the child will step up to the plate and these issues will no longer be problems. He will “choose” to be a well-organized person with a good working memory who is aware of deadlines. This is not going to happen.

His problems may improve if his teachers and parents spend time TEACHING him strategies to compensate, without being judgmental, harsh, or punitive.

Even with consistent teaching of strategies, your son’s areas of weakness will probably never be strengths. It’s time for the school to identify and focus on his strengths, and help him find ways to compensate with the problem areas.

I’m surprised that he is still diagnosed with PDD-NOS at age 13. Have you had a psycho-educational evaluation of your son by an expert in the private sector? If not, this is a good time to have an evaluation done.

A good evaluator can

  • describe his strengths and weaknesses,
  • what he needs in an educational program, including accommodations, and
  • what will happen if the school won’t provide the help he needs.

Be sure to find an evaluator who has a good reputation with this population.

Reasonable Accommodations

Providing a daily assignment list is a reasonable accommodation.

In fact, the school our grandchildren attend uses their website to post assignments for all students. This helps ensure that the school and parents are on the same page and enhances positive relationships. There is no reason NOT to provide information about assignments and may make it more likely that assignments are completed.

These articles should answer more questions about accommodations.

“Accommodations & Modifications” at

Some students with disabilities need accommodations or modifications to their educational program. This short article defines these terms and provides helpful suggestions for changes in textbooks and curriculum, the classroom environment, instruction and assignments, and behavior expectations. (4 pages, pdf)

“Accommodations Manual: How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of Students with Disabilities” at
Developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards Assessing Special Education Students.

For more information about accommodations, read articles on this page:

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49 Comments on "Should Poor Organizational Skills be Accommodated in an IEP?"


Unfortunately, too many uneducated individuals believe that good parental advocacy harms children. Research shows that the average student without disabilities are not prepared for the rigors and demands of college. Elementary, secondary, and high school are the times to learn these skills while the child with special needs still qualifies for an IEP and while their brain is still flexible, developing, and making connections. Turning a blind eye or minimizing the experience of the student or family is not only rude and judgemental, but irresponsible and hinders collaboration. A well educated parent is an IEP teams best friend. Why would parents pay thousands and waste time for more in depth assessments by qualified professionals and experts? Parents are often more of an expert on their child than other IEP team members believe and do a terrible disservice by ignoring them and the information they provide.


As a mother, I often struggled with my son’s learning opportunities, as I had my own learning to continue with, even as a young mother. Sometimes, parents can be the biggest obstacle for their children. Being uptight about every little thing puts pressure on children that they don’t need to be burdened with. Letting them BE children often allows them to progress, come out of their shell, and mitigate their conditions into temporary ones that actually do pass over time. Conversely, allowing children to acclimate to their school environment is the hardest thing a parent has to do. This can perpetuate an underlying condition in the parent, that may in turn exacerbate the conditions a student is coping with. Though not necessarily any genetic trait, often teachers are able to see how parents may be part of the problem, and not the solution.


It’s a huge mistake on the school districts part to think that parents don’t live it. I’m hugely invested in my child’s education and live it before school, after school, on the weekends and during the summer when school is not in session. I live it when I pay thousands of dollars taking my child for independent assessments and doctors appointments. I live it when I pay the pharmacy bills for my sons medications.
The law requires that education takes place in the LRE. Don’t blame the parents. Don’t blame the child. It is not their fault. I am an RN as well. My two sons have multiple challenges. Medications allow them to function. I regret none of my decisions.
Schools need to provide services (teaching, supports, accommodations or modifications) based on the individual child’s needs. FAPE is the goal.


I have 2 boys – My oldest son John will be 13 on June 4th and my youngest son Bryce will be 11 on May 2nd – they are 23 months apart. John has been diagnosed with ADD. Bryce has been diagnosed with ADHD/ODD. I as a single mother deal with alot of the issues my sons do and I am a Registered Nurse. I have to meet with my son John’s 504 Core Team tomorrow and I have been brain storming (as has the school, family, friends, social workers I work with and I have a sister and a good friend who are teachers) as to what it is that my sons “are not getting” – they don’t even like to take the meds for ADD/ADHD – they do not like the side effects – neither do I. My sons are very bright, intelligent, handsome, out going, atheletic, respectful boys – this article just answered my prayers!!!!


What do we do on our days off?? If you feel beat down and so labored with teaching find a new job. On my “days off” I spend at my desk being sure the teachers where I work get paid on time. Don’t be a martyr. We all make sacrifices for our kids some of which dont have great organizational skills. My dauhter made a zero on two test grades because she couldnt produce 3 weeks worth of fact of the day. Well dont ask me where I left something 3 weeks go because I DONT KNOW either! Jeeze… school is ridiculous. I would love to be able to homeschool my kids. In my state we teach off tests, when I went to private Catholic school we only took one standardized test. I was leaps and bounds above the taught off tests kids when I moved to public school in 7th grade. I am glad there are IEPs to protect the kids.