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ADHD Parents Together
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Best 504 accommodations for a 15yr old

Hi everyone! I am mom to three daughters, 2 with ADHD (oldest with depression as well), and one with DMDD/ODD and anxiety. Life is crazy! I am here looking for support and advice. I have 504 plans for all, thankfully, but I am still struggling. My oldest, who is 15/10th grade is just royally screwing up her grades, no motivation, lack of interest, etc. Her overall GPA was 2.2 last year, with a 1.6 4th quarter. And you wouldn't guess it, but she's extremely intelligent! AHHHHHH, so frustrating. So I am scheduled to go to a 504 plan review meeting to figure how we can make her successful. I hate that she feels like she is a failure, and she carries such guilt for not completing her work.

I need suggestions from all of you parental experts out there ;-) on what accommodations work the best for teenagers. I am out of ideas. I'm not afraid to suggest some crazy stuff to the school at this point, so bring it on!

Thanks for your input!

13 Replies


In my experience, the accommodations that work best are the ones that address the child's specific issues, (in other words, before you can come up with a list of accommodations, you have to know what she needs. Every kid is different.) So, the answer to you question is really, "it depends"! Does she have issues with understanding verbal directions? Taking notes? Completing tests on time? etc. etc.

Once you have a good idea of what kind of specific help she needs, you will be much better able to come up with a list. The best way to find this out is to have a conversation with her and her teacher(s) to find out exactly what is getting in the way of her doing her best.

Once you know what areas to target and are ready to make a list, I have a bunch of ideas listed in the free resource section of my website (address below) that can give you some ideas.

PS I highly recommend you involve your daughter in every step of the process--from figuring out where the needs are to brainstorming ways to address them. Her buy-in is very important. In order for her to want to do better in school, she has to see it as a problem that she's not doing well (sometimes that means having to experience natural consequences) and she has to want to have things be better (and be willing to do what it takes).

Hope this helps!

Joyce Mabe, Parenting Coach, website: parentcoachjoyce.com


Hi there, I am an entrepreneur specializing in ADHD cognitive enhancement training. I was myself diagnosed at a young age and struggled with many of the issues you are describing. I work with a number of teenagers in my practice and have encountered problems of motivation often.

As Joyce mentioned, one of the early objectives of building a successful mitigation strategy should always be to establish a measurement of what needs to be accomplished. ADHD can be incredibly varied across individuals in terms of which cognitive subsets require the most attention. This includes not only such areas as working memory, but also emotional areas, such as self-awareness and empathy.

One way you can do this is to get some cognitive testing done. This is fairly standard practice for specialized medical doctors working with ADHD. A less common approach is to test for emotional acuity - and this is important because there is considerable cross-sectional interlocking of emotion and intelligence with regards to self-motivation.

I have found with teenagers that a key element of their progress will stem from anchoring them to a system of goals and corresponding rewards. Teens are often divested from an ability to place a high value on academic rewards, especially for students stuck in "negative reinforcement feedback loops" as I call them. This can happen when the student begins to believe they are stupid, often times because they've been told so. Depression can be a common side-effect of ADHD.

I personally had several teachers explain my stupidity to me in no uncertain terms, or deny me opportunities, not realizing I had a genius level IQ. Many ADHD sufferers are highly intelligent, but unfocused. The metaphor I find most apt is that of the lighthouse. The student possesses a tremendous amount of light, or mental energy, but it is unfixed and diffuse - it points in every direction. And so ships will crash on the rocks. But with a focusing mirror, that energy becomes incredibly intense and they can accomplish amazing things.

One strategy for motivation is to anchor them to several "levels" of goals and rewards. For instance, increasing GPA by 25% is a huge goal, and correspondingly, the reward should also be large. But it isn't enough to simply say, "go increase your grades by 25%." That high-order goal must be systematically broken down into constituent goals, such as completing homework, attending class, or asking for help - and each micro-goal should be connected to small-scale rewards.

It's especially important for the teen to *choose their own goals and rewards* if at all possible. This increases the intrinsic value of the reward considerably - and here we can target the dopaminergic reward system in the brain - key to both ADHD and depression.

If you're interested in a comprehensive program or some consulting, please feel free to contact me. The tools used in my programs were developed at major academic and research institutions, leveraging cutting edge neuroscience. Everything I do is highly precise and data-driven from the cognitive enhancement side. That means scientific assessments and customized programs per the individual.

I also instruct on specialized "metacognitive" strategies. This is essentially a fancy word for study habits and thinking systems. These techniques are based on those used by memory champions and high achieving students.

Wishing you much luck and success,


Ben Switzer


True Focus Neuro



I recommend asking for no homework. I realize this does sound crazy, but homework was what caused the most problems in our house. My son was tired, his meds had worn off, and we were all cranky by dinner time. The biggest fights we had were over homework - his refusal to do it or the fact that he usually forgot to turn it in, which was even worse! Perhaps you could ask for study period in a resource room or maybe a tutor is available during the day? It's been my very unfortunate experience that most 504's are not followed at all and anything complicated will most certainly not be followed.

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No homework is a great accommodation. Or a limited amount of homework. 10 minutes per grade level. 9th grade=90 min. I do not have the research however there is not alot to support homework.


That is exactly what is going on with my son. He has zero motivation to do homework. Then he has anxiety about going to school without it completed because the teachers will yell at him and embarrass him in front of his peers.


The study skills class is a great class for kids with ADHD. My son get the majority of his homework done in that class and has very. Little at home


I'm not sure I could get the school to go for that! Although it would really help.


If you took her for testing the psychologist could include that in suggestions for accommodations.


I would not ask - I would just inform them that your son will study for tests, but the nightly grind of mostly unnecessary work will not be done. And 90 minutes of homework a night for a kid with ADHD is too much. Speak with his teachers individually and see what can be done....sometimes this works better than trying to get everyone on the same page in a meeting.


Two things that really helped my child (age 16) accompanied switching to a team-based charter school that uses technology. Team-based work lets the students play to their strengths and engage in active learning. They learn so much more because it's interesting and engaging.

Technology speeds up assignments that are tedious, and allows him (us) to track assignments. We will look at his online gradebook and see he's lost a lot of points for assignments that he didn't turn in. We got on a regular weekly schedule to check those assignments, and he writes to his teachers to let them know he was checking his grades and found that he hadn't turned it in. We built this in to the 504 plan. After a couple of years he's begun to have more accountability because he sees exactly where he can make impactful changes.

With math, because the team & technology weren't options, I would tell his teachers "give him less and make it harder." ADD kids need to be challenged. Doing 10 math problems when they already understand it on the 3rd or 4th is counterproductive.

I feel like we were really fortunate to find a school with this forward-thinking approach. In elementary school the only accommodation was extra time, which was 100% the opposite of what was needed, and no matter how many times I explained it to them they just didn't get it. It was awful for him.


Thanks! Unfortunately we do not have charter schools in our county and if interested in a special school, we would have to pay out of pocket. Not sure that would work for us right now. Anyways, we are in one of the best school systems in the country (Howard county, MD) and I just need to figure out how to get them to work for my daughter.


No matter how great their 504 plan is, it could be that it's time to put your child on meds. Mine went thru the exact same thing, except I felt she wasn't using her entire brain. We tried the rewards, motivations, 504 accomodations, etc,etc, etc. So exhausting and devastating to her self esteem. After years of consideration (5yrs!), we reluctantly put her on Vivanse. She made honor roll and has since gotten As and Bs. She is now 12yo and really doesn't use the 504 plan but it's there as a safety net. It was the meds that did the trick. Only you know what's best for her and I wish you the best in figuring this out. Hang in there!!


ldrapeau- I would look into front row seating, the ability to have extra time on assignments, if she needs it test outside the classroom that could be allowed. I am assuming she does not have any additional educational needs ( teacher her academics). Instead of an elective class she could have a study skills class, if the school offers it. If the study skills is the last class of the day then she could get assistance with writing down her assignments and organizing her things (blinder, folders, etc..). What really helps us is allowing for extra times to turn things in.


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