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

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05/14/2015 3:49 pm

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… Read more »

10/26/2014 2:13 am

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… Read more »

09/24/2014 5:49 pm

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… Read more »

03/26/2014 8:02 pm

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… Read more »

03/15/2014 12:10 pm

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… Read more »

02/23/2014 2:48 pm

I chuckled slightly at the thought of how the ‘teacher’ feels beat down when criticized…now imagine a child. These kids with difficulties are beat down everyday by adults who think they are intentionally doing these things. How many times has a child received that long sigh, or the ‘why is it always you who loses things’ comment in front of the entire class. Or better yet, the failing grade crushing his/her self-esteem because it was more important to fit into the ‘box’ like everyone else, rather than accommodating or finding way to teach strategies which would do so much more… Read more »

01/31/2014 11:40 am

I would want a teacher to TEACH. I mean, I would much rather a teacher teach my child to read so he can continue to learn, rather than doing something like just reading aloud to him. This won’t help him in the future. But I think teaching includes knowing and making reasonable accommodations for kids who need them. If my child was so unorganized he couldn’t find the material he needed to learn, I would want the teacher to teach him ways to organize the material and his assignments – so he could find and learn what she was… Read more »

teacher's view
01/29/2014 10:29 am

Hmmm? The title is about accommodating organizational skills, but then it states: “His problems may improve if his teachers and parents spend time TEACHING.” The article lists sites with accommodations – no teaching. Do you want me to teach or accommodate?!
As an intervention specialist & parent, I empathize with parents who have children who are struggling in school – identified or not. I can only speak for myself in saying that the state legislature, local districts, etc, have taken my time away from my students. I spend most of my time on mandated documentation, not students. … Read more »

11/30/2012 11:30 am

I have to Praise my son’s school!!! Seneca Valley in Cranberry Township, Pa. They have gone above and beyond with all modifications and adaptations included in the IEP… they have so much patience with children that have disabilities!!! My son is 10 yrs old with PDD, Asperger’s Dyslexia, Dysgraphia… disorganization is horrible.. he can not handle more than 1 command at a time… with one of us staying on him to get it done. He constantly forgets homework and seems so disoriented when we sit down to do homework… What is he trying to tell… Read more »

10/26/2012 5:54 pm

My son is 9 yrs old. And he has diabetes which results in low and high blood sugars. This affects his ability to focus and concentrate in school. And he is unorganized (like I was in school). I had a PTC this week and the teacher had the principal to sit in on it. And she instructed me that a 4th grader should be able to write there assignments down and pack there backpack without the teacher having to do it. The school insists he has ADD because of this. I cannot get… Read more »

10/03/2012 1:43 pm

Here’s a good strategy one of our regular ed teachers has: The school bought weekly planners for everyone in the grade. She verbally directs her students to write the assignment in their planner. Then they have to show at least two people in the class to double-check. Parent signature on the planner is required on a daily basis and worth points. This applies to all children, not just those with IEP’s.

10/02/2012 4:14 pm

My daughter is 21 yrs she completed her Associates degree and was able to get in a nursing program but as of last week she quit because of the lack of help. The teachers were not willing to make minor adjustments to help her with her specific learning dissability she found herself letting go of her dream. Is there any where we can get help for postsecondary school issues and making adjustments to her IEP which I feel needs to be up dated . This is in NJ

09/04/2015 1:59 am

And who is going to help your daughter’s patients if she makes it through nursing school? Where does it all end. When are you going to realize that there is a vast difference between an accomodation, enabling, and an entitlement. As I read these comments there seems to be a mindset among a large number of people that a FAPE means unlimited access to a disproportionate share of the resources made available by all tax paying citizens for public education for the sole benefit of ensuring the LRE fir their child with least amount of inconvenience for themselves as… Read more »

09/18/2012 2:57 pm

You are kidding, right?

09/18/2012 2:16 pm

The school my son attended last year was not very helpful at all. I was so disappointed in the way everything was handled – from the facilitator to some of the teachers. It’s sad when you can’t get the help you need for your child from these people, who I thought were there because they even cared to teach. Thank you for the info you posted. It gives a lot of important light to questions that I had. Again, thank you.

05/22/2012 11:10 am

We’ve been doing a virtual public school with our son for 2 years now after he was in regular public school till 3rd grade. We are putting him back in to regular school in the fall. The problem I am having right now is the virtual school never put his ADHD and Asperger’s dx in his IEP. (gave me the run around saying that his dr didn’t give them the right information and such… my questions are what do I need to request as far as testing goes to get these added as soon… Read more »

05/09/2012 5:35 pm

What happens when these students turn 17, 18 and still cannot self manage not even enough to do school projects, yet they do very well on standardized testing and other tests that do not require these skills. Is it reasonable to still ask for these accommodations so late in life? Or should we accept that this is something a child may never be able to learn so maybe he isn’t college material.

04/05/2012 12:36 am

Hi Pam, I was looking for some guidance w/ my 12 year old who was diagnosed w/ PDD-NOS at the age of 4. Something struck me in your above response and I am hoping you can clarify for me. You said something to the extent of ” I am surprised that at his age his is still diagnosed as PDD-NOS”. What did you mean by that? I must be missing something. Thanks! Zoe

02/24/2012 5:25 pm

Pam, my son who is 12.5 is also diagnosed with PDD-NOS and has organizational problems as your son! He will lose and re-do the same papers 4-5 times. Two weeks ago the school (despite classroom disruptions) turned him down as disabled because he doesn’t meet the autism diagnosis. He doesn’t meet the flapping arms, rocking, etc. criteria. Yesterday on a re-eval by a Dr he was diagnosed Asperger’s. How did you get an IEP? The school is saying because his grades are B’s & C’s, he is accessing main-stream education even though the… Read more »

02/02/2012 12:27 am

Sharon LeeG, I know of a similar situation. In that case, the child needed a break from college and time to find the right school and the right fit. That child fell apart but is back on track with help and support from the campus support services. Also, a community colleges present new beginning that is not so stressful as they have more support in place for kids with needs.

Sharon L.
10/09/2011 10:39 am

LeeG – The only possible way that you could get the public school to pay for any outside evaluation would be to prove that they did not do “child find” which is a law that states that the schools are obligated to find children with potential disabilities and test them. My understanding is that if you want to “go after” the public school for failing to identify your son for services you only have one year to do this after graduation. You can opt to get an outside multifactored evaluation from a psychologist or physician which you will… Read more »

Sharon LeeG
10/02/2011 12:36 pm

Can anyone help me with info on the college age student with ADD? My son, who is very bright, compensated for his ADD throughout HS by his innate intelligence. He was diagnosed with ADD through his pediatrician, we never discussed IEP plans or 504. I was not even made aware of them! He did pretty well and ended up getting into an honors program at his university!However, once there, he could not coast through these classes as he did high school. All his lack of organizational skills, not doing any homework assignments, procrastinating assignments till last possible moment came back… Read more »

02/18/2011 2:02 pm

I am blown away by how much this sounds like my son, who is 14 and is repeating 7th grade (he has ADHD, very mild Asperger’s, makes bad grades but tests very well). We finally have a 504 in place for him, and I thought the teachers were supposed to provide written assignments or email them to me, but the school tells me that’s not what we agreed to. I have requested another meeting. Honestly, most of the teachers seem to not want to be bothered with it. Do they think the child deliberately tries to fail? He is so… Read more »

02/18/2011 2:29 pm

Malena – Section 504 does not require the school to develop a written 504 Plan. No wonder the school can easily say “that’s not what we agreed to.” In this case, it is essential for you to create the documentation as a record. After your next meeting or any communication with the school, send a letter that describes exactly what you understood the agreement to be. Clearly set out all the conditions.

Include wording like “I understood that….” “If I have not understood the agreement correctly, please respond in writing with clarification…” … Read more »

Pete & Dwayne
12/22/2010 11:03 am

Our son is 17, in the 11th grade, and is frequently missing assignments due to missing classes because of illness due to his moderate to severe Asthma attacks.

His instructors, especially his RSP instructors mark our son’s grades down based upon late homework, when he is absent due to Asthma attacks, and they refuse to provide our son with an appropriate § 504 Plan, as recommended by his Pulmonary Pediatrician. How do we as parents solve this dilemma?

11/19/2010 2:03 am

My DD is 15 and she has ADHD and was just diagnosed with how to work with a teen with Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct as well as Anxiety and Depression – and a smidge of Separation Anxiety as well. She has done ok in school – she is not failing and currently has an Education plan since the school convinced us going into 8th grade to drop her 504. Now she is in HS and it seems ALL the onus is on her and nothing on the school or teachers. Help me… Read more »

10/13/2010 9:41 am

I am a special education teacher with 20+ years experience. I am also a parent with two boys ages 18 and 13, and both with different variations of ADHD. The one thing that worked for me was an open dialogue at the beginning of the year with their teachers. This was especially helpful with my younger. I keep him on a schedule. This makes for less ‘unstructured’ time which leads to stress for him. I also built in some outdoor play time into his schedule between school and homework. His having to… Read more »

05/01/2010 6:25 pm

One of our teachers sends a bulk e-mail to parents daily with the assignments. One thing that has helped one of my students is having an extra set of textbooks for home.

04/30/2010 8:03 pm

My daughter is in process of a probable asberger’s diagnosis. Disorganization is a huge problem for her in school. she is in the fourth grade and is looking at failing because of not turning in assignments or turning them in for half credit. I needed to hear this thank you so much

Sharon L.
04/20/2010 9:52 am

Karen – We put a plan together in the IEP that my son would put the assignment the best he could in the planner. At the end of every day the intervention specialist or aid would check the planner to be sure he got any homework assignments correct before he went home. We as parents would read the planner and initial that we saw it so we could help our son stay organized. We also had it in the IEP that the teacher needed to be sure that any assignments that were given orally were also… Read more »

04/15/2010 8:11 pm

My sixth grade son has IEP for profound ADHD and is in co-taught classes in an emotional support program. One goal is to write homework in planner daily. He has had limited success. The teachers give him lunch & after school detentions if he does not have the hw. The special educator sometimes give oral hw assignments – not even written on board. If all back-up plans fail and my son has not recorded it in planner- he gets detentions and is publically humiliated in class for not having the hw. I have told school psych that I feel he… Read more »

03/15/2010 6:22 am

I know what you are going through. To the bureacrats who run the school, an IEP is nothing more than a CYA to comply with the law.
I have the same problem – my kid is a pain to teach and they don’t want the challenge. Unfortuantely, you must take a good lawyer and an education advocate with you to an IEP meeting.
My understanding of the law is that you can call a meeting any time you wish. Job one in a school is not getting sued. When there is a lawyer sitting next to you, they… Read more »

03/12/2010 12:43 pm

My 15 year-old son received an IEP in December after years of fighting with his schools. He has been diagnosed with Juvenile Onset Bipolar Disorder, ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. His IEP says “Remind student to submit completed homework assignments; if student does not have the assignment, create a timeline for it’s completion and submission.” Despite that, my son currently has over 30 missing assignments in four classes! I am at my wit’s end and feel like the school is trying to force him out. Suggestions?

01/26/2010 5:04 pm

I am forwarding this to my 14 year olds son assistant principal.
My son has this problem and 5 out of 6 teachers keep in contact with me. I have questioned the school about the use of teacher’s websites. They are set up for the teachers but are not required to use them… WHY ??? Only one of his tachers actually does.

08/24/2009 5:10 pm

What are some accommodations for children who are “visual” learners?

06/08/2009 8:38 pm

My son is 16yrs old and may be repeating the 9th grade for a third time. He was diagnosed with ADHD in 99, a processing isue in 07, and in 08 was diagnosed with aspergers. His biggest issue is turning in assignments. He tests well and because of this was turned down for an IEP. In october he had a confrontation with another student who pushed, punched and kicked him in the head. He responded by punching her. He was sent to the hospital with a concusion. There were charges pressed against both students, and he has been targeted by… Read more »

04/07/2009 3:10 pm

I met with the school last week and was successful in getting several things in place. Was pleased with the overall meeting until the end when a teacher took a hard stand on daily communication, that it was not feasible. When I told her that I spoke with an advocate and am using the Wrightslaw web site, the principal stopped her. I explained that it was well within my rights to request and would if I felt necessary. The principle did not seem interested in going down this path. In the end, we established daily communication with a planner/agenda… Read more »

03/25/2009 4:20 pm


Put your request for testing/IEP in writing. If he has an ADD diagnosis, he should qualify for an IEP. The teachers discourage you, sometimes, because districts need to save $$ and he may seem borderline to them. But classes just get harder as your son advances. With an IEP, your team could write a goal for organization, and the IEP will be in place should any other issues come up.

Some people/doctors think ADHD/ADD kids are on the autism “spectrum.” Some don’t.

Our psychologist did the test: Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF) for my son w/ADHD. It showed he… Read more »

03/24/2009 2:26 pm

My son has only been diagnosed with ADD he is functioning better since he has been on Focolin. I believe that if I had a private evaluation of him, he would be diagnosed with a mild form of Autism, on the Asbergers side. He has always functioned well with my help. He has no issues socially.Therefore we never felt the need to go the diagnosis route. This year is 6th grade. I have conceded to trying meds. Like the letter re: organizational skills. That is the problem we have. I have made the comment to the teachers “I would be… Read more »

03/21/2009 8:22 pm

My son has ADD & Aspergers and I hear what everyone is saying as I too have battled many years of the special ed dept and changing meds, therapists and also many an IEP meeting. My successes so far has been to seek out a great psychologist that works specifically either within the schools system or works with schools so that they can help be your advocate. Mine has done great things and pushed the boundaries of the whole IEP team. Ask for a coordinator and complain to the special ed board if you don’t like what… Read more »

03/20/2009 3:47 pm

I wasn’t sure where to ask this, here goes. My child has ADHD/OCD/Tourette in combo. Diagnosed by board-certified psychiatrist in 3rd grade; in 8th grade now. ADHD and Tourette are both “Other Health Impaired” qualifiers for special ed. Our CA district qualified him for services (years ago), but they are reluctant to give good accommodations in high school. They say it “compromises test security.” Advocate and l will ask for additional time on tests/assignments, ability to retake failed tests with averaging, recognition tests over essays, advance test study guides, etc). My question: Would the law say my son has… Read more »

03/17/2009 3:10 pm

Thanks for the feedback ! Should be meeting with the school in a couple of weeks and will let all know how it turns out.

I agree about not creating crutches and we hold Gregg accountable for everything we can. We pay for turtuing 2x’s a week and need school to communicate what we need him to work on during this time to get the most out of it ! His short term memory and focus are big issue and I need the school to help in that area.

We are willing to work with our son at home and… Read more »