There’s a young boy in our school who has been struggling this year. He likes coming to school and gets along with the other children, but he has a very tough time settling down, focusing, and he speaks inappropriately to the teacher, often demonstrating a great deal of disrespect.
Mom and I speak a lot. This is the younger of her two boys, and she has already gone through the process of having her older son diagnosed and supported in school. So this isn’t new for her and she is very open and willing to discuss the challenges. She is both sympathetic and supportive, recognizing that the teacher is doing her best to support her son.
It came as no surprise to either of us when he was finally diagnosed with both Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) & Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). We know that the ODD is more challenging in the classroom, but we are also aware that if we find ways to support the ADD, he is less likely to feel the frustration that leads to other types of acting out.
Mom and I discussed some of the various fidgets that might help him and many are already in use in the classroom. We also discussed introducing a seat cushion to help with focus. I let her know I have two being used in another classroom, so I let him try each out and share which he would prefer. He chose one with a nubby texture, but I bought both anyway. They were delivered within a week and I brought it to him at the start of his next session.
I didn't even think twice about it. This is what mom shared that he needed so we decided to give it a try. It wasn’t overly expensive, and it isn’t a difficult tool to manage in the classroom. The absolute worst thing that might happen is that it isn’t as successful as we hope it might be and we’ll work to find other tools and strategies. (Don’t worry, those seat cushions will not go to waste!)
Here’s the frustrating part. She has been asking for such an accommodation from her son’s secular school for two months. Two months! Let's put that in perspective: 40 days of classroom time. Roughly 6 hours a day. So basically they have been waiting for a simple, low-cost accommodation (a purchase of under $25 that took me 10 minutes to complete online) for nearly 240 hours. Why? Why is the school district failing to listen? Why aren’t they getting him the tools he needs to be successful?
This child is in our school and attends twice a week for two-hour sessions. From the time I let him try the seat cushions until they were delivered and I brought one to him, he was in class without it for 3 hours. And you know what; I wish it could have been less!
But to still be waiting after two months?
I know that there are other extenuating circumstances and I know that not everything is as simple as I am making it seem, but really, sometimes the accommodation really is this simple. If nothing else, here is what we accomplished by bringing this tool in quickly: mom knows that we care. She knows that her son matters and she knows that we listened to her. We are willing to work in partnership and figure out, together, how to help him find success. This isn’t about advanced degrees or specialists or expensive adaptations.
Sometimes inclusion is just about listening.
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