Yesterday, I had a conversation with a student and their special education teacher. We were revising the student’s behavior support plan, and I wanted to know more about which area of wellness they wanted to prioritize.
The student named “Environmental Wellness,” and told me how they wanted to organize their backpack and assignments better. The teacher said “But we’ve already tried having you write your assignments in a planner, and you never seem to get them down.”
Telling a student with ADHD that the solution to their organization problems is attending to detail in a planner is, well, off base. Instead try this.
However, in the moment, this is what I observed:
Student: I want to organize my stuff better and stop missing assignments because I forgot to write them down.
Teacher: I want you to use the planner and the time at the beginning of each class that we give to all students, including you, to write down your assignments.
I asked the student, “Be honest with me. Will you ever, for the rest of your life, care even a little bit about the planner we gave you?” The student replied, “Honestly, no, I won’t. It doesn’t work for me.”
We expect that school wide supports (like ordering planners for every student and creating time to write down assignments) will work for 80 to 85% of students. We also expect that they won’t be enough for 15% to 20% of students. Clearly, this was one of those students.
We’re not done developing the Behavior Support Plan, but I know what the data will look like if “Student will write assignments down in a planner they already say they don’t like and won’t use” if part of the strategy. As an adult who runs a business built on serving others, I know that my clients have a variety of methods or organizing tasks…..and few of them use paper planners.
In this case, the youth has committed to a shared goal of increasing organization. As school adults, we have the power to support them in achieving their goal, or to prevent them from growing by insisting on strategies we have already tried and the student rejects. Instead, I hope that our team listens to what the youth has said, and that we show up for them in the way they have asked us to.
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