Just as the entire charter of Special Education is to make the curriculum accessible to all students, i.e., those with learning differences, one of the goals of AD/HD Coaching is to make each client’s goals accessible to them, whatever it takes. Working together, coaches and clients accomplish this in many different, fun and interesting ways. And, until one’s environment is created in such a way as to make these things accessible, we –whether as teachers or coaches—have not accomplished our jobs.
I had the pleasure of working intensively with a seventeen year old student during this summer between his junior and senior years in high school. He is a student who struggles with all of the classic difficulties with which students diagnosed with AD/HD struggle. Time management, organization, prioritization, procrastination, motivation and follow-through are constant challenges for David. And, as a student attending a comprehensive, public high school like most kids, he is required again and again to take five separate academic classes simultaneously. Year after year David begins the school year strong, and quickly loses motivation as he increasingly falls behind in completing assignments. As more and more assignments slip through David’s fingertips, we try more and more strategies to help him keep up. We create structure, write everything down, break each task into small, concrete, achievable steps, employ time management strategies, play particular music, take breaks, change meds, add exercise, check things off, remediate places of real academic deficits and deal with the various obstacles he faces. At best, our accommodations and modifications help David do an adequate job. This is great and a far cry from his previously failing grades. Ultimately, however, the process is demoralizing, because David is an exceptionally bright student and a very gifted person who, through considerable effort, barely “gets by” academically, earning mostly Cs.
This summer, in response to David having earned a “D” in the second semester of U.S. History, we have had the opportunity to make up the course via an accredited online, distant learning program. We set out to accomplish one semester’s worth of academic work in the only four weeks that David would be in town this summer. I felt this was a tall order as it translated into David having to complete one week’s worth of work in each four-hour day that he planned to work. David has been able to access his intelligence and demonstrate his ability to attend to detail and be tenacious in his completion of all assigned course work this summer. The thing that has most amazed me is the brilliance with which David responds to each assigned question. Every question requires a short essay answer; there are no true/false, multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank questions. All of David’s answers are thoughtful and well written. He takes time and care with every response and communicates his understanding of the meaning of the events and eras he is studying. David synthesizes information from this summer’s assigned text as well as previous school learning and makes relevant analogies to current political events and life, in general, thus going beyond what is being asked. This has been something to witness!
David and I have engaged in several conversations about his outstanding success this summer in order to determine what most set the stage for his earning 98, 99 and 100% scores on every single lesson. We have determined that what has set the stage for David’s amazing academic success in this rigorous course is that he is only taking this course. He is, therefore, able to concentrate on this class without having to attend to four other courses and their requirements simultaneously. Something about this really works for David and the way his brain is wired. Though it may sound extreme to take one course at a time, seeing how this has allowed David to access the curriculum and demonstrate his intelligence creates a case for thinking of new and creative ways to educate students with AD/HD. I think we all need to put some energy and effort towards this. Being able to learn readily while enjoying the process has had a profound impact on David’s sense of himself as a learner. I am hoping that he can retain this sense of success as he embarks on his senior year next week. David is scheduled to take four academic courses.