Accommodations for ADHD lateness?

Dear Edge Coach,

My 17 year old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD last fall. One of her challenges is getting to school on time. When she is late, she is late between 1 and 5 minutes. Do I have legal rights to have her 504 altered at accommodate is challenge?


Helpful Dad

Dear Dad, 

There are several things that you can do to address the situation that your daughter has in the mornings.  Some of them can be addressed through her 504 plan at school, and others will have to be addressed at home.  The first step in addressing the problem is to get to the bottom of its origin.   Depending on the reasons why your daughter has a particular problem in the morning will go a long way to addressing them both at home and through her 504 plan at school.

If your daughter struggles so hard getting to school in the morning has to do with what is awaiting her at school, there you can seek to have the situation addressed in her 504 plan.  If her first period is one that she finds particularly challenging or dreads, that may be a reason for her consciously or subconsciously delaying getting there.

  • You may seek to have her schedule arranged differently to a class she finds less challenging or intimidating.
  • If you believe that your daughter needs physical activity before moving to more cognitive instruction, you could ask that she get gym class as her first period of the day.
  • Another thing that is possible is to have some type of a resource room as her first period where she can ready herself for the rest of the day, finish outstanding assignments that are due before classes actually begin.  That may give her the breathing room she needs to work into the day.
  • You should also figure out if she is getting enough sleep due to the complex nature of her homework assignments.  If that is the case, you may wish to address that with her 504 team to see if she can get extended time or a teacher or aide to help her work through her assignments on a more relaxed schedule.
  • It is also important to know whether or not she is a morning person, if her most productive time of day is later in the day, a restructuring of her schedule can also help to address that situation.

Just not a morning person?

Some children, however, are just not morning people.  They have difficulty waking up or motivating in the morning.  In many cases, their medication plan can help, or make things worse.  There are doctors, for instance, who recommend waking up children ½ hour to an hour earlier in the morning just to have them take their medication and then encourage letting them go back to sleep as the stimulants filter into their blood stream.  If you wake your daughter before she is ready and give her medication, it may not take effect until after she is out the door.  Work with your daughter’s doctor to adjust the meds and/or their timing and that may also make a huge difference in their morning.

Sidetracked, disorganized and snoozing

You could also have her work with a coach to determine if getting up on time, getting sidetracked or being disorganized is getting in her way.  Some of the strategies a coach might suggest include:

  • Putting her alarm clock across the room so she has to get up to turn it off.
  • Using two alarm clocks, so she won’t be tempted by the snooze alarm.
  • Setting her alarm for 15 minutes earlier than she thinks she needs.  It may be that she is just underestimating how much time she needs to get out of the house.
  • Keeping a checklist of everything she needs to do before leaving the house.  And don’t turn on the TV, phone or internet until she gets these things accomplished.
  • Setting reminder alarms to keep her on track.  Figure out how much time she needs to dress, eat and get organized.  Then set alarms to remind her that she need to have that task completed.
  • Adding in 5 or 10 minutes to her commute time so she has room for the unexpected.
  • Setting up a special place near the door to collect all of the things she’ll need in the morning the night before.  If there are things like lunch that she’ll need to make in the morning, leave herself a note at the launch pad, so she remember it in the morning.  Then at night, put everything there — keys, sunglasses, phone, purse, briefcase etc.  So they’ll be ready for her to grab as she run out the door.

She may have already tried all of these things, but is still late.  That’s where time with a coach can come in handy.  A coach can give her outside perspective about what’s not working and how to fine tune her routine to make it work for her.  ADHD and lateness often go hand-in-hand, but they don’t have to.  With a few tweaks to her routine, she can become a punctual person.

Editor’s Note: answer provided by Robert Tudisco, practicing attorney specializing in disability law.

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