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ADHD, middle school, and assistive technology

Well, I haven’t blogged about it much, but I have become a prisoner of Tyler’s homework.  He is having a really tough year.  In preparation for middle school, the 5th grade students have reading, writing, and math with their homeroom teacher, and have block scheduling for social studies and science, each with different fourth grade teachers.  On top of that transition, Tyler goes to the gifted teacher for reading and math.  So his day looks like this:

PE, Art, or Music
Social Studies/Science

So Tyler deals with three to four teachers on a daily basis, and has classroom changes almost every period.  That’s a lot of transition, and he has a really hard time getting back into a calm and focused state.  He gets very little done in school, and he spends most of every evening a) doing work he didn’t do in class or b) on punishment for not bringing home work he knows he didn’t do.

I’ve talked to him (endlessly), and I’ve talked to his teacher… I don’t think I’m any more successful in getting her to truly understand the nature of ADHD and that her expectations are off than I am at getting him to understand in concrete terms how badly he’s sabatoging himself. And sadly, I think that she truly believes that she has Tyler’s best interests at heart and is preparing him for middle school.  I reminded her very candidly at our parent teacher conferences, after she gave me the speil about how the middle school teachers aren’t going to tolerate late assignments and won’t help him with organization, etc that if Tyler were hearing impaired, no one would suggest he needed to learn to hear before middle school or that he would no longer be allowed to have a hearing aid or the use of sign language once he left elementary school… and that Tyler’s right to accomodations for ADHD are guaranteed by a federal law and are not up to teacher discretion. 

But I am very concerned that the teachers’ attidues will be worse in middle school.  I can’t count on always having a receptive or empathetic teacher, especially when he’s dealing with a different teacher in every classroom. And battling with staff and administration takes energy that would be better directed to *Tyler* rather than Tyler’s ADHD. Sometimes I am so drained from his ADHD that I just can’t deal with him on any level.

So I’m trying to figure out a way to help him deal with all this transition, something that will help keep him on track in the classroom like his watch does at home. Y’all have heard me rave about the Timex Ironman Data Link USB Watch that I bought for Tyler last September.  The *only* complaint I have about this watch is that there is no vibrate feature. Like most kids with inattentive or combined type ADHD, Tyler experiences involuntery shifts of focus or “blinks” during which his attention shifts to intense concentration on (often irrelevant) internal content and he completely tunes out what is going on externally… and he’s more likely to have blinks when there’s a lot of stimuli (ie, when he’s changing classrooms several times a day).  During a blink,  Tyler tunes out most auditory stimuli, and responds better to physical redirection (like a touch on the shoulder or vibration sensation) than auditory redirection (like calling his name or a watch beeping). The lack of a vibrate feature also renders this watch useless in the classroom setting – not only would repetitive beeping be disruptive to others, it would most likely create more distraction by inviting the attention of other students who would probably feel compelled to check and see if Tyler was indeed paying attention and possibly to remind him to pay attention themselves.  I’ve come across a couple other watches online that have a vibrating alarm, but either don’t have a countdown timer or they don’t have an auto reset feature on the countdown timer.  But last night around 2AM as I was doing research for the annual review of Tyler’s 504 Accomodations plan, I came across the Invisible Clock II.

Keep your fingers crossed for us – I’m hoping this will help!

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