ADHD Diagnosis Should Not Mean Academic Failure

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My 13 year old son, in private school, was diagnosed with ADD & ADHD. He is failing all subjects and the teachers claim he has difficulty concentrating and organizing.

We requested special ed services from the district. His test scores actually were pretty good so the head of the special ed department was not helpful. She said there are so many cases that were worse. There were others that ‘needed the services of the department more’ than my son.

The district has him travel to a resource room program where a district aide meets him at an appointed time daily to assist him to organize his homework, studies, etc. He is still failing every subject.

Children do not fail unless there is a reason for it.

You know him. Does it make sense to you that distractibility and organization are the only problems?

Is the trip to a separate school every day to have someone help him organize going to make any difference in his skills or knowledge?

It doesn’t sound like it.

Review the Evaluation

Read this article: Tests and Measurements

Look at your son’s evaluations again.

Make sure the evaluations say what you think they say.

  1. Was the evaluation complete?
  2. Do you have the percentile scores?
  3. Were there tests of reading, written expression, IQ, phonological awareness?
  4. Do you have the IQ subtest scores?
  5. Is there scatter between the subtest scores on the IQ test?

If you don’t understand these questions, you may want to get this training CD – it will walk you through the process of Understanding Your Child’s Test Scores.

Was the evaluation done by a private sector evaluator?

Make sure the evaluation has recommendations and that the recommendations have been followed. The evaluator or educational diagnostician should be able to determine exactly what your son needs and can advise the school about this.  If you rely on evaluations by school personnel, they are likely to support the school’s position.

If the evaluation talks about problems with executive function you should read this book. The checklists alone are worth the price of the book. Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents

Questions about Private School Placement

  • What is going on at the private school?
  • Why is he unable to learn there?
  • Why is he there if they cannot teach him?

My guess is that there is more going on than ADHD. Plenty of children with ADHD do not fail all their classes. Plenty of disorganized children do not fail all their classes.

It’s possible that your child has a learning disability, in addition to ADHD, or that the ADHD has a severe negative impact on his ability to learn in school.

I cannot imagine any degree of ADHD or disorganization that would explain the academic failure. Perhaps you have not told me everything, or you do not know everything yourself.

You still have more questions to investigate. Start now to do your research.


Articles and Information on ADD/ADHD


Understanding Your Child’s Test Scores

Special Education Advocacy

The Advocate’s Bookstore

  1. It sounds to me like maybe your son needs to be reevaluated. You don’t fail every subject by being disorganized. Yes that is a factor but I have sneaking suspicion there is more to the story. Call an IEP meeting ASAP to get to the bottom of whats going on. As far as organization try color coding for each subject. Each subject gets the same color binder/notebook/and folder.

    Example: Math=Red Binder/Red Notebook/Red folder

    Make sure each subject is a different color. Hopefully that can help with his organizational skills.

  2. My daughter is 10 and was recently diagnosed with ADHD INATTENTIVE.
    We are going to private diagnostician Bc of road blocks we have come to with in our school.
    We attend a private catholic school.
    I am trying all I can to educate myself as my child’s advocate.. Have a friend in the school district who is helping some with the law.
    Are private schools required to accommodate my child and the diagnostician report recommends once we have it back?

  3. Galen, first, read “Understanding Tests and Measurements” on Second, standardized, norm referenced testing (which is typically used in school assessments) are scored based on the student’s age, regardless of grade. NCLB does not require norm referenced tests and few districts are using them for NCLB testing. Third, look up the function of the “gatekeeper” on Wrightslaw. This is why the child is not getting help. There needs to be a demonstrable disabling condition to be eligible for special education services. Once you understand the district’s needs, and have diagnostic data, then you are in a position to make the case for services.

  4. I’m confused about the test vs. class grade. Does the district mean he’s doing well on standardized tests ala NCLB? If he’s demonstrating content and skill knowledge appropriately in this way how is he failing classes? If he is not adequately demonstrating knowledge and understanding of academic material why is he not getting help? The school seems to want it both ways…

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