Should Poor Organizational Skills be Accommodated in an IEP?

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

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i disagree on this, now while do do believe the parents should be informed of homework assignments I think using the disability as a crutch is wrong. I also have PDD now so I am not speaking from concepts and ideals from others who just read some information from someone else’s standpoint and decided to just go with it, but I am speaking from my own experience and self rehabilitation overcoming my PDD. First off for me it was very difficult to deal with changes in classroom situations as is for most with PDD we dislike change worse is receiving special exceptions to not do things required from every other student, it makes us feel as if were even more different than everyone else. People with PDD are already a target simply for having a disability, and giving the class another reason to pick on you is terrible. By over protecting you are unintentionally increasing the abuse the child suffers. There is only 1 way to improve ones ability its the same as its always been. Practice. By reducing the burden your also reducing the ability to overcome the situation. The best thing you can do is actually encourage the child to put forth more effort and try harder, at the same time reward the effort for every goal met as incentive. It will make the child proud and try even harder.. .

Valid research does not support your comments. Reasonable accommodaitons are meant to level the educational playing field for these kids, so they can truly show what they know. Additionally, your experience is unique to you. Pervasive developmental delays are on a spectrum like every other issue and not every person has the same severity or experience. To generalize your experience to others may cause more harm than good. IDEA is in place to meet the individualized unique needs of a student. Many of these kids are already trying as hard as they can. Working harder can backfire and cause them to loose other important aspects important to life or cause behavioral problems and low self esteem. Working smarter, not harder, by helping and teaching them compensatory strategies is key.

Can I put in his IEP he needs Homebound status. We fought to keep him in school for three years. He was put on Homebound status it’s been the best thing we have had happen I would like to keep him Homebound. Can I do that?

Teachers can easily post homework on line some how. I used to post mine on Twitter -no excuse to let a kid’s academic records suffer because of paperwork. Did the student master the standard should be the only question. And if they are a novice or approaching the standard what can be done to help them move further along? We need to let go of homework and binder points .

How and can online homework posts be modified to meet the unique needs of a special needs student? What if that online program doesn’t work for them or makes their functioning worse? Then what? Standards have to be developmentally and functionally appropriate. Setting the bar too low isn’t good, but setting it way to high or in a standardized fashion only leads to frustration, heartache and sorrow for may of these kids…and their teachers and parents.

Many successful people adhere to a simple strategy: Do the two or three things you do best and delegate everything else away. Unfortunately, students cannot do that in schools where success is judged by some people who could never succeed in the business world. Therefore, parents must help their children by seeing that the kids know what is necessary for organizational skills and teach them why it is necessary before finding ways to compensate in the IEP. When Jr. runs his own company he can hire an executive assistant who once made his/her teacher happy by keeping a multi-colored assignment sheet.

1. Just because a person chooses a certain career field does NOT mean that they would do poorly in the business world.
2. Everyone defines success differently.
3. Kids are in school for 8 hours a day minimum. These are soft skills critical to success in life, not just in business. Any issue that impacts learning is fair game for an IEP goal according to IDEA.
4. You missed the whole point-without the compensatory strategies, tools and supports which are based on unique need-they can’t do the task or have no chance of doing it well.
5. Color coding is a common accommodation and visual learning strategy which has proven to be very successful for certain groups of children and adults with neurocognitive challenges. Why do something that doesn’t work?

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.

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 good.
I would like to think we have more professionals out there that want to help rather than just complain about having to modify when ‘I have 30 other kids in my class’ ……….

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 teaching. Teaching “strategies to compensate” is part of teaching too. Maybe these accommodations are what you were researching on your day off – hats off to you.

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. It is hard to remain passionate when you are beat down as a professional by parents and the elected; neither of whom have teaching degrees. Don’t judge what you don’t live. I’m researching strategies for kids on a day off what do you do with your days off?

While I think it’s wonderful that you seem to be willing to be so incredibly generous with your spare time, I don’t believe the author of the original post asked you or any of her son’s teachers for that matter to spend hours researching strategies during work hours or otherwise. (s)he simply asked that his/her son’s homework be provided to the family either via email or posted on the class website so they can help support him in keeping up with his work. It’s the same basic cut and paste procedure that the majority of your colleagues do, and possibly even you yourself do, at the end of each workday nothing more, nothing less. The fact that a simple request like this is treated as if it’s a major inconvenience, is the real problem here, you may have your issues, but this is NOT that.

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 us??? If we draw a picture of what we would like done, he does it… but words and reading something is really out of the question without constant supervision…Anyone have any feedback?

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 through to them that when his blood sugars are not within normal range it is hard for him to focus and concentrate like he should be able to do.

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.

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

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 parents.

You are kidding, right?

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.

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 as possible when school starts in August? should I meet with the special ed director before school starts if possible? I am really worried about how he will transition back into a regular school setting, as he is easily frustrated. does anyone have any suggestions on preparing him for the change?

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.

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

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 assessment team says he should have several A’s with his scores. The school says it is not their job to have him live to his potential. Disruptions are labeled as behavioral issues not Spec. Ed. What criteria did the school use for their diagnosis? Please help with any clues you have!

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.

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 have to pay for since your son has graduated. Once the MFE is complete & you go over it with your physician to see if he qualifies for education services this may work in getting your son back. Then meet with your college.

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 to bite him now. He juts was dismissed due to his academic standing. He came home depressed and lacking any self esteem.. I wrote a letter to school, they will hear an appeal, however he can’t get himself to do this. He needs time and we need pro help.Advice?

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 incredibly unorganized, and he has dysgraphia. That’s why we had the 504 to begin with. The more I think about it the angrier I get. I just sent this article and comments to the counselor and assistant principle. My strength is renewed – thank you so much everyone for sharing.

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…” “If I do not hear from you, I will assume that I am correct….”

You will find just how to do this in Documentation, Paper trails, and Letter writing:

Would your son not qualify for an IEP under IDEA? Are you familiar with the key differences? Read these articles.

Don’t get “angry” – turn your emotions into advocacy. Game plans here: and From Emotions to Advocacy.

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?

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 figure out what her rights are and how to fight for her.

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 sit for so long during the day is difficult, and this year his PE class is 1st period. So he runs off energy before having to sit again to do his homework. One thing I did find out this year, via a clinical research in my area, is ADHD kids may not get a full night’s sleep which may exasperate behaviors. I found out that he woke many times

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.

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

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 listed in the planner. This way our son would be learning to use the planner but someone was there to check it every day. The intent is to help make him successful not to enable him. It worked because he is 20 now and can keep himself organized.

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 is being punished for a disability identified as a goal on his IEP. I have refused to allow him to serve the detentions. The teacher has pulled his grade down on report cards for missing hw that I feel was not effectively communicated to him. The school says I am overprotective and should let him “hit bottom” and then he will learn to write his hw. They actually give ORAL hw and punish my son if he misses the direction and this is a goal on IEP. Any insight will be so appreciated.

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 will shape up.

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?

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.

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

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 others that he does not even know. He is currently seeing a psychologist, neurologist and an autism specialist. We tried to get an IEP and was turned down because he tests well. We were told that he has a medical diagnosis, but not a educational one. He just recieved the 504 after it was taken away in 07.

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 and a point system that rewards my son for being organized and participating.

Thanks for all your feedback!! Entered the meeting with confidence!


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 had problems with organization, working memory, higher ordered thinking, etc. He is disorganized and needs accommodations (not crutches). He also needs skills in self-advocating for help. A good private tutor helped us in math.

Good luck.