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Kids with ADHD, dyslexia and other learning or behavioral challenges battle a trinity of feelings: Stupid, Crazy and Lazy. By first helping students build self-confidence and learning skills, you can lay the foundation necessary for them to overcome their weaknesses. Please see below the concrete strategies to empower, remediate and make accommodations for students who face challenges.

Stupid, Crazy, and Lazy


  1. Different definitions of intelligence—handwriting & reading levels aren't metrics of intelligence.
    1. Don't segregate students into groups by ability.
    2. Don't tolerate kids saying "retarded".
    3. Get rid of the short bus!
  2. Individuals expect that they are their academic tracks.
    1. Kids in remedial groups live up to low expectations.
      1. Accept that some kids develop later—don't give up hope.
      2. Tell kids that labels have an effect on them.
      3. Role models in the community can help kids.
    2. Kids in advanced groups can fear risks if they are too comfortable in their environment.


  1. Don't tell a kid to "focus": create a dialog. Ask, "How can I help you focus?" Don't tell them to stop being themselves.
  2. Myth: sitting still = good.
    Truth: movement helps kids learn through physical motor memory—validate kids' movement.
  3. Myth: eye contact = paying attention.
    Truth: kids pay attention even if it doesn't 'look' like it—reframe hyper attention as gift, not a deficit.


  1. Public humiliation teaches kids to check out.
    1. If kids have to read out loud, give kids with dyslexia a chance to pre-read.
  2. Learned helplessness can lead to:
    1. Drug use
    2. Suicidal thoughts
    3. Withdrawl
      1. Kids ask for help in ways that you might not like or expect: understand that cursing or violent drawings mean they need help—keep them engaged.
    4. Tell kids who struggle that you respect them for showing up; create a safe environment that won't lead to kids to check out.

Remediation vs. Empowerment

When you can't fix whatís broken, stop trying so hard! Allow kids to develop minds, and find ways to work around disability—the kid is not broken, the approach or requirement is.

  1. Work on skills until you've maxed out the law of diminishing returns: if what you put in doesn't match what comes out, stop; move on to another topic that helps the kid not feel broken.

Teach kids to be self advocates

  1. Build to school—family partnerships.
    1. Ask the kid what works and what doesn't.
    2. Parents are experts on their kids. Listen to them. Ask what works at home?
    3. Bring parents into school, establish relationship before something bad happens.
    4. Understand parental anger is complicated; don't take it personally, and understand it often stems from parents' frustration.
  2. Communicate to parents/students a list of strengths, one weakness and ideas on how to work on the problem.
  3. Let kids go to meetings about them, so they feel empowered.

See kids for the kids they are. Ask how they are. Communicate respect.

  1. Be a role model, just one adult can change a kid's life.
  2. Allow kids to express their frustration.

Ask kid how his or her mind works.

  1. Helps student develop meta-cognition.
  2. Allows kids to work around weakness and into strength.
    1. Teachers must initiate kids' thinking about meta-cognition: observe, recommend ideas, experiment, evaluate.
    2. Use systems you already have for diagnosis—but from a positive perspective:
      1. What's right.
      2. Learning disabled kids do succeed.

Find out what the kid loves to do.

  1. Help find passion.
    1. Don't make kids be/act the same as others.
    2. Change 'but' to 'and': negate weakness by focusing on strength.

Accommodations / Modification in the Classroom

Lower barriers within the classroom environment.

  1. Medication does not preclude accommodations.
    1. It must be responsibly and professional prescribed.
    2. Child should have a say in the medication decision.
    3. Use accommodations too.
  2. Unruly kids in the classroom.
    1. Understand kids' behavior as kids trying to communicate.
    2. Donít take recess away. It is the one thing kids need most.
    3. Kids prefer to be the bad kid rather than the stupid kid, so help them feel smart.
    4. Some kids need explanations about how to behave, and they need to understand consequences of their actions.
      1. Consequences should be benign indifference (discipline served without anger: calmly explain a reprimand is simply the consequence of the kid's action).
      2. Understand core root of behavior.

Overcome the limitations of accommodations.

  1. Kids shouldn't feel discriminated against because of accommodations.
  2. Avoid language of discrimination.
  3. Help kids feel connected to a community of people with disabilities.
  4. Integrate disability into idea of diversity (allows institutions to stop fixing and discriminating).
  5. Frame accommodations as a way to beat the system, not to compensate for a kid's deficiency.
  6. Connect accommodations to a sense of purpose or vision.
  7. College is possible. If high school grades are terrible, transfer from a community college or 2 year college.
  8. Past doesn't determine future.

Concrete accommodations.

  1. Classroom.
    1. Facilitate movement.
      1. Ask kid to drum on leg or on a towel so as not to disturb other kids.
      2. 2 desks: let kid move from one desk to the other.
      3. Put tape box around desk—movement within boundaries.
      4. Sit on exercise ball.
      5. Give kid a fake "errand" (take an empty envelope to the office) so that he/she can get up, take a break, use some energy and not feel stigmatized.
      6. Let kid take notes on a clipboard while he paces.
    2. Give the kid a note book to write down or a tape recorder to record questions he/she might otherwise blurt out, then address questions later in a less disruptive moment.
  2. Homework.
    1. Don't let homework negate mastery of class content.
    2. 30 min. of homework limit.
    3. Allow kids to use technology.
      1. Books on tape—at interest and maturity level with phonetic reading remediation.
      2. Voice-activated software.
      3. Reading machine.
      4. CAST organization has resources.
  3. Public facilitation of success.
    1. Allow kids who struggle to showcase their strengths.
    2. Example: Allow the kid who gets picked to "show and tell" how s/he can rebuild a bike—then her/his peers will think s/he's cool.
  4. Accommodations to pedagogy.
    1. Project-based learning.
    2. Accommodations for testing.
      1. Portfolio-based assessment.
        1. Collect works throughout year.
        2. Don't put all the pressure on one test, one day.
      2. Oral exams
        1. Assess content, not reading and writing.
      3. Time extensions on exams.
        1. Time tests how fast, not how well the student knows something.
        2. Time extensions donít give unfair advantages.

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