Join the Discussion! Should there be Accommodations for ADHD?

Merely Me Health Guide
  • In grade school my eldest son was having great difficulty with his handwriting.  He was referred by the school to see an occupational therapist to help him with his fine motor skills.  His hands would physically hurt and he would struggle to get in class assignments and tests finished within the time period allotted.  He was always one of the last students to finish his work.  I tried to get him some accommodations including giving him more time and/or the use of a laptop for such assignments.  My request was denied with the teacher telling me that I would be doing him a disservice by not allowing him to attempt to overcome his challenges.  So my son struggled but did manage to keep up somehow despite his problem with handwriting.  He just had to work all the more harder than some kids. 

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    Whether you have physical, mental, or learning challenges, the question often comes up as to whether or not to assimilate or accommodate.  Some people believe, as my son's teacher did, that special provisions are not always helpful to the child or adult who lags behind his or her peers even if the reason is a particular learning disability. 


    My youngest son has a diagnosis of autism and this issue of whether to assimilate or accommodate comes up quite often.  We are always trying to find a good balance of trying to allow him to fit in with the flow of everyone else but at the same time recognizing that he needs a lot of help to do so.  I am very grateful for some accommodations such as when we go to most amusement parks including Walt Disney World, that my son is granted a special pass which allows him to wait in the handicapped lines which are much shorter.  Some people get angry that there are special provisions such as this for my son who has a cognitive impairment as opposed to a physical one.  For the people who don't understand such an accommodation I would ask them to walk in my son's shoes for a day and see what they think then.  Am I defensive?  Sure, a little bit.  It is hard to fight for accommodations for a disability nobody can see.


    So where does one draw the line?  When should we accommodate and when should we allow the person to sink or swim despite their challenges?


    Our Eileen Bailey has written about work place accommodations for people who have ADHD.  Some of the accommodations she describes can include things like being allowed to move into a private office to cut down on distractions, the ability to use white noise, or the employer restructuring your work schedule or deadlines.  But how often does this really happen that people with ADHD are granted such accommodations?  And are they without cost?  In that, co-workers and bosses alike may frown upon what they feel to be preferential treatment. 


    In this question and answer feature on yahoo, a young man describes his difficulties with a sibling who is angry that his brother is asking for more time to take tests in college due to his ADHD.  But the younger brother is frustrated, knowing that if he doesn't ask for such help that he will most likely fail the tests.   Some people say he should advocate for himself to get the time he needs while others are not convinced.


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    Wellsphere writer and caregiver, "ADHD momma"  talks about adaptations for children who have ADHD in school such as providing a laptop for note taking, allowing for extra time on tests and assignments and special seating arrangements away from distractions.  Yet I know from experience that these accommodations are not always guaranteed.  If you are the parent of a child with any sort of disability, you always have to fight for any special provisions in the classroom.  They are definitely not automatically given.  And even if you do fight for them you won't always get them.


    M. Ward, who writes for Inside ADHD.Org  tells us that:  "People with ADHD are sometimes defined as having a disability."  The key word there is "sometimes."  Two laws which protect people with disabilities are The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 1990.  Yet courts have been unable to be consistent in their definition of ADHD as an impairment.  The suggestion given, if you wish to have an accommodation in school, college, or work place, is to provide as much documentation of your challenges as possible.  But again there are no guarantees of what accommodations you may receive if any.



    Now it is your turn.  Do you believe that people with ADHD should be granted accommodations?  Have you or has your child ever been given an accommodation?  If so what was it?  Was it difficult to get?  Tell us your story.  We want to hear from you.




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Published On: October 19, 2009