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:

  1. If there were program modifications and accommodations in place on a IEP prior to the student moving to another state, will the new school have to honor or put in place similar modifications?

    My situation is the new school district in NY has done very little for instructional support. In her previous school district in CT, her 1:1 support was a para-educator. In NY school district, her 1:1 is a teacher’s aide who is not equipped to provide those academic supports.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!!!!

  10. 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.

  11. 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’ ……….

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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