Importance of Self-Advocacy

So once again, I see evidence of the not-so-user-friendly environment that the school provides for our kids with ADHD and co-occurring learning differences.  They struggle with so many issues:  focus, executive functioning, impulse control, working memory, and many times the need to move.  What is important is that they learn that they indeed do have strengths and that they use tools to overcome areas that are seen as weak. 


The importance of the areas of weakness not overcoming the awareness of strength is where a healthy self-esteem lies that ultimately leads to a happy and productive life.  Should a teen who discovers that his weakness can alter the outcome of an assignment be able to modify his assignment to produce success?


So a teen client is assigned by his history teacher to listen to the vice presidential debate. In addition, he is supposed to write down notes throughout the debate.  He decides that he can’t fully focus on the debate and multitask.  He can’t write notes.  This is someone who is highly passionate about the current political scenario and follows polls daily.  He has devised an electoral map online, showing his predictions on the chance of winning each state by each party.  So remember that the debate lasted an hour and a half; the end of the day without any medication on board for this client to ease his distractibility.  Also note that since this is a passion of his, he is truly able to hyper-focus on the issue, a real strength of our kids with ADHD.


During the class the next day, there is ongoing discussion and I have no doubt that he exhibited participation and passion throughout the course of the class.  At the end of the class period, his teacher told him that he got a zero for this assignment.  His response was one of shock and without any form of self-advocacy.  Why?  He told me that he didn’t want to go through the negativity.  He ultimately believed that he would lose the case.


Is this right?  Does this teacher, in a school for learning differences, show ability to understand his individual way of learning?  Does this teen have the right, as he understands himself and how he learns, to tweek the assignment to better participate in class?  As he moves into college and life in the future, is he expected to be told that there is only one way to do things?  Will this only serve to make our kids with ADHD feel bad about themselves;  reducing their self-esteem and success?


All good questions that need answers.  As his coach, I will continue to enhance his abilities to self-advocate, understand his strengths, and use his tool box to minimize weaknesses and achieve his many goals.  I would add that our kids with ADHD are individuals, that teachers need to be aware of this, there is NOT one way to do things, and that they are gifted individuals who struggle in the school environment but need to know they have so much to give.


Karen K Lowry, R.N., M.S.N.