5 Reasons a 504 Plan Can Be a Game Changer (For a Child with ADHD)

IEP      Hyperfocus     504 Plan     Melatonin     SPD

Confused, yet?

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you begin to hear unfamiliar, confusing terms and wonder if you missed an important memo somewhere along the way. What does all of it mean?  If you’re like me, my previous knowledge of ADHD was ZERO. At best, I thought it was a combo of hyperactivity and lack of focus, but that’s just scratching the surface. So, when our oldest child was diagnosed as a 6-year-old, this mom was in denial despite several warning signs that we didn’t know were ADHD symptoms. (Read about the red flags we missed when we first started his journey HERE.) You can imagine my hopeless feeling when our usually well-behaved son was being reprimanded in school because he was struggling in a structured atmosphere. The rigid routines and inability to keep moving was similar to being in a crowded elevator where you desperately wait for the doors to open because you need to move NOW.

My son didn’t want to cause problems in class, (definitely a people-pleaser) but found it difficult to transition from the bus, to morning work, to lunch, to class instruction, to recess, and then circle time as quickly as other kids. When I learned his desk had been moved to the chalkboard, away from his peers, ‘until he can behave,’ I intervened. My son needed an advocate, someone in his corner, to help him navigate this ship. After all, he was 6. Like most six-year-olds, he wanted to know when he could meet his favorite WWE star and why he couldn’t have two grape popsicles. He didn’t want to solve the mystery as to why he rolled around on the cold gymnasium floor during baseball evaluations. Heck, I’m not sure he even NOTICED that he was the only one not waiting in line for a turn.

But, I did.

Back then, I thought it was a choice. I said things like ‘You need to behave, or we aren’t getting a treat later.’ His father would ask why he interrupted during family dinners (impulsive!), when he had just been warned to wait his turn, and all our son could do was shrug his shoulders. As he should, because he didn’t know why he did what he did. It’s how his brain worked. It changed channels, often, without surveying the room and consideration of others talking.

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By 3rd grade, I realized our son wanted to do well, and knew what was expected, but did not know HOW TO GET THERE. He knew he had an assignment, but forgot to bring home the special lined paper to write out his essay. Or he would somehow remember to bring home his math worksheet, and with tears we got through it ever so slowly, only for him to forget to turn in his work the following morning. We made several trips back and forth between our home and school, after-hours, praying the janitor would let us in to get the necessary materials, including the time a teacher-friend of mine used her keys to gain access to the building so my son could avoid one more zero. It wore all of us out. Worse, my son felt inadequate. There were days when classmates turned in assignments and he thought to himself, ‘I didn’t even know we HAD homework.’ He was always 3 steps behind.

Eventually, someone suggested we get a 504 plan or possibly an IEP for our child, and at the time, I knew nothing about either. The IEP, otherwise known as an Individualized Education Program, benefits children who are academically affected due to their diagnosis. This plan gives students access to special education services if they are deemed to have intellectual disabilities, due to ADHD or another diagnosis. Students are often tested by a school psychologist, as was our son, (or you can choose to have them tested privately). Our son was not a candidate for services under the IEP. His grades weren’t suffering, however his self-esteem was certainly taking a hit.

A 504 plan allows a student to have special accommodations created to help them succeed in the classroom. Toward the end of 3rd grade, we attended a meeting with the necessary school officials, and agreed that our son needed these accommodations for support. Looking back, it’s one of the best decisions we have made as parents. The 504 plan offered my son a safety net, just when he was drowning a bit. Every 504 is different, (a student who has a peanut allergy may have a 504), and it is customized to each student’s needs. Of course, the plan can be adjusted as each child ages.

Here are 5 reasons why your child needs a 504 Plan. (Like yesterday.)


Remember those back-and-forth trips to the school when my child forgot a book or an assignment? I could nearly do the drive in my sleep. (And made several trips in my pj’s!) Those drives ended after we began ‘Check in, check out’ with his teacher as part of his 504 Plan. Meaning, she made sure he turned in homework each morning with a friendly reminder, and that afternoon, she would confirm that our son had the following day’s homework written in his assignment notebook. The visual reminder in his notebook when it was time to pack up was helpful as he grabbed his work from his desk.

Phantom Helper Trips

Remember the need to get out of the ‘elevator?’ Our son’s teacher recommended sending him on phony errands (taking a ‘note’ to the principal’s office; filling up her water bottle) when she sensed he may need a break to move around and recharge his focus. Not only did it work, he felt important, like her assistant. This goes a long way in a child’s confidence, instead of being labeled the outcast, or the kid who constantly gets corrected and disciplined throughout the day.

Longer Time on Tests

If most students received 45 minutes to complete an exam, my son was given additional minutes. This allowed him to take his time and not worry about the clock running out. He was able to think about his answers and not rush, and his test scores improved as a result. Kids who receive additional time on exams usually take tests or quizzes in a separate classroom.

Reduced Homework

Look, we’ve all been there: Sitting at the kitchen table each night, trying to get through difficult assignments with frustrated kids who can’t stay focused. It is exhausting. One of my son’s teachers told us when we reach that point, pack up the homework and call it a day. This spared us from meltdowns and power struggles between parent and child, and it was the answer we needed. The pressure to finish can be enormous and my son didn’t suffer from turning in 7 incomplete math problems on occasion.

Mandatory Recess

I’m a huge advocate for ensuring that kids who have ADHD do not have recess removed as a form of discipline. Many teachers take away recess if students misbehave or didn’t finish an assignment. As your child’s advocate, you have every right to ask that your child not lose their recess. I did, and it was included in my son’s 504 Plan. Exercise INCREASES focus and mood. It’s the very break kids need to reset their brains, ADHD or not. An elementary school in Colorado recognizes the benefit of motion for kids, and has launched a new program that I think is genius. Read about it HERE on my blog.

I also recommend registering your child for a social skills group that is often offered by elementary schools for free. The group teaches kids with ADHD how to form and maintain friendships, how to listen without interrupting, and encouraging one-on-one hangouts rather than getting overlooked (or overwhelmed) in a group setting. Be sure to take advantage of other resources offered at your child’s school. Our son benefited from working with the school’s speech therapist, and he now has great inflection and loves to give presentations in high school. (Exactly how are we related?)

I’ve said it before, and will say it again. Your child WILL be okay.

That first-grader I described at the beginning of this post is about to go on his first college campus visit. He’s well-liked, funny, and respectful. He has a girlfriend, is involved in team sports, (where the coach has recognized him for leadership awards!) and I’ve had more than one teacher email me to say he is a joy to have in class.

This is the kid who rolled around on the gym floor, folks.

Your child may be doing the same. So, if you’re wondering if it gets better, my answer is YES. (Picture me screaming it with pom poms!) With a Mom and Dad’s support and understanding, it gets wayyyyyy better. Kids with ADHD need you to be an advocate in their corner. Need proof that things will improve? Read about the message I received from his teacher last year HERE. Full disclosure: I cried. 

I created this site to give families just like you hope. You can do this!

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4 Things Parents of Kids with ADHD Do Like a Boss

Hi parents,

I’m writing this while sitting at my son’s basketball practice, dodging the occasional stray ball that lands in the bleachers just inches from my head. Before climbing to the top row and feeling the burn in my legs, I passed a fellow Mom on the way in who told me ‘you look tired.’ No argument there. I AM tired, though I could probably have gone without the reminder that the bags under my eyes are, in fact, visible.

We’re all tired.

Some would even say exhausted. And for good reason. Parents of kids with ADHD don’t just pack lunches, do loads of laundry, and sit in the carpool lane, wondering if we actually plugged in the crock pot that morning only to be interrupted when Suzy-in-a-Hurry honks for you to pull forward.

Slow your roll, Suzy.

All of that is a job in itself, but we do much more. Parents of children affected by ADHD can easily add a variety of other roles to their parental business card…

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We also become self-appointed mini-doctors, minus the important and required certification, digesting various medical terms, processing all of the possible medications, journaling side effects or progress and googling remedies to help our children fall asleep when nothing else we’ve tried has worked. Then for the love of all things necessary, we pray they stay asleep long enough to give us the stamina to face a new day. We’ve also become so knowledgeable of ADHD symptoms that we can spot a child who may have the same struggles in a crowd and feel an instant, yet invisible, connection to that child’s parents. Sort of a like a secret club where you’re an instant member but you didn’t want to join.

Parents of children with ADHD also learn the ropes in the field of education without earning our degree, tossing around words like IEP’s and 504 plans, and offering up suggestions to schools on the environment our kids will best thrive in, all the while knowing that taking away recess for bad behavior is the worst possible outcome. Sometimes it’s taken away anyway. We know when homework is important and when it’s worth it to close the books and step outside for some fresh air because one more math problem might be the difference between a good night and one that ends in tempers flaring and pillows thrown.

And if parents of children with ADHD were paid to worry, we would be swimming in Beyonce-money. That’s code for ridiculously rich, folks, because we worry about our kids more than the average parent. We worry that they will never make a connection with a true lifelong friend who accepts them for their differences, that they won’t notice other kids posting about sleepovers and birthday parties on social media (they do), and we worry whether our parenting is helping or hindering our children. And if we are doing enough. And we worry if that time (or times!) we completely lost it means we are failing or human. We worry when the phone doesn’t ring because no one is inviting our kids over, and we worry when it does, because it’s likely the school calling with yet another complaint.We worry whether our kids feel like a part of something bigger, or like an outcast, and we hide the pain in our eyes when they tell us they wish they were ‘normal.’

We are doctors, educators, worriers, and most importantly, advocates. We may not understand the job we were given and some days it seems all too taxing, yet we do the job and we do it well. Others wouldn’t come close if they tried because they don’t tuck your kids in to bed each night. You do. We can’t take away ADHD, but we can love our kids unconditionally. So we help them find their way and we look for the good. We praise when possible and serve as their guide on an often lonely and confusing journey. Kids with ADHD need someone in their corner, and that’s us. You don’t have to be perfect at the job, but we owe them the effort to try. To get them to their destination in life, though the trip may not come with a map or easy directions.

Parents, keep on keeping on. I’m telling you, you will get there one day. At our worst, I didn’t think we would make it. But, nearly 10 years later, my kids are thriving and I know it’s possible. It may not be tomorrow, or next month, but it will happen.

Yes, we’re tired. But, for good reason.




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2-Part Series: A Blueprint for Raising Kids with ADHD

Part Two

A child with ADHD receives two negative interactions per minute. 

Mind-boggling, right? As parents, we get so focused on wanting our kids to behave and correcting their daily wrong-doings that we don’t always think about the effect it has on our children. The negativity surrounding ADHD can be overwhelming. You try to do your best to be a good parent. But, parenting ADHD almost requires more than good, we have to be great. (No pressure, right?) Hey, I get it, Mom and Dad. You juggle a lot.

Like, a lot…a lot.

Then you collapse at the end of the day from the heavy emotions. Why does ADHD parenting require so much more? Because it isn’t just a focus thing, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Our job as parents is more than just scheduling doctor’s appointments and meeting with teachers. You have fires to put out as you try to make sense of it all. Are you ready for the challenge? It’s not easy. This blueprint will give you an idea of what ADHD parenting involves. Some of you will be nodding your head in agreement because you live this on the daily, others just strapping on their seat belts for this journey will likely be thinking…WHAT?!? Hang in there, I promise, it gets easier.

In no specific order, Moms and Dads of kids with ADHD juggle:

Distraction  Kids with ADHD are like a television. They are easily distracted, often changing channels.

Sensory overload Meltdowns are often the result of things being too loud, too bright, too hot, etc.

Emotional immaturity Kids with ADHD are often 2-3 years emotionally behind their peers.

Homework struggles Sitting for long periods of time can be difficult during homework due to distraction.

Sleep Issues Settling an ADHD brain isn’t easy, often keeping the child awake for hours at bedtime.

Friendships Establishing & maintaining friendships is difficult for kids who stand out due to high energy.

Power struggles Kids tend to argue as a result of their brain seeking activity.

Anxiety Kids with ADHD can also suffer from anxiety and or OCD.

High energy Self-explanatory, but ADHD means lots of energy to burn off & not enough time in the day.

Medication (if you choose) Meds can be a successful form of treatment, though some bring side effects.

Appetite Medications often suppress a child’s appetite, causing concern for parents and weight loss for the child.

School 504/IEP’s Children can struggle to keep up in the classroom or have behavioral needs that may qualify for assistance in school.

Public Ignorance Everyone has an opinion. And some speak uninformed opinions for all to hear.

Family seesaw effect Siblings get neglected by default, or arguing with a spouse/partner over parenting decisions.

Meltdowns Emotions can unravel and often don’t match the situation. Little things for adults can be big things for kids with ADHD. (See sensory.)

Interruptions ADHD means kids are impulsive & often interrupt conversations, not recognizing social cues in the moment.

Lying Kids who lie are often fibbing to cover up impulsive decisions/guilt.

Impulsive Kids with ADHD live in a ‘NOW’ world, not thinking of consequences. They live in the moment, and act impulsively.

That’s a lot, yes?

So, someone please tell me why parents aren’t nominated for some sort of an award? I can see it now…

‘I would like to thank the Academy, and all the parents who offered me unwanted advice in the grocery store.’

No? Okay, fine. The point is, parenting a child with ADHD is no easy feat, but it IS doable. For married couples, single parents, grandparents who are raising kids all over again, it can be done. If you’re drowning in all of it, hear me loud and clear:

YOU can do this.

One of the biggest mistakes parents make with kids who have ADHD is they rely on traditional discipline. Tactics that don’t bring results are repeated day in and day out and then parents wonder why it doesn’t work. Worse? They repeat the process all over again. I know, because we did the very same thing in my family. And we did this for 9 looooooooooong years. Want an example?

My son would touch everything in the store. Even after repeated warnings to stop, he touched anyway. I was convinced he was being disrespectful and ignoring me. (He clearly heard me, right?) We would ask why he chose not to listen? (In reality, he didn’t CHOOSE to not listen.) He would respond, ‘I don’t know.’ We would tell him to sit in his room until he could provide an answer. And he never had one. He never had an answer because he had NO IDEA why he did what he did. And his parents had NO IDEA what we were doing.

Parents of the Year.

But, we changed all that. You can, too! I couldn’t take just ‘getting through the day’ anymore. I wanted a better quality of life for my family. I wanted to understand my son and how to help him function at his best. I loved him, but there were times I didn’t like him and that made me feel empty inside. Then our second son was diagnosed and we were all over the place. I knew that no change=no progress.

Parents, change your mindset. Learn what makes your child tick, the strategies needed to reduce the chaos, the triggers to avoid, how to diffuse emotional meltdowns, all of this, and create the life you deserve.

Instead of putting out fires on repeat, prevent them. Manage them with ease when things get heated. My oldest knows we are a different family today. During a recent emotional moment for him, I remained calm. So calm that my son paused and said, ‘I appreciate you not blowing up. When you stay calm, it keeps me from getting all worked up like I used to.’ I love these moments because they are tiny victories for us both. Your family deserves this. Your child deserves this. Stop spinning your wheels and learn how to help your child in the comfort of your own home.

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‘Deborah, I want to thank you for your parenting tips. Every single one has relevant advice that actually works! Because the tips are given as small changes, I can change that little part of how I parent. You are awesome!’
~Carrie, an ADHD Superparent

I invite you to join me in taking a step toward reducing the chaos in your home!





2-Part Series: A Blueprint for Parenting Kids with ADHD

Part One

Two years ago, I fired off an email to Bethenny Frankel on the television reality series ‘Real Housewives’ after she spit out an uneducated comment about tourette syndrome during one of the series episodes. (My son has ADHD, yet he also juggles the stress of anxiety and tourette syndrome.) Obviously, Bethenny’s words left me, well, pissed. As in, off came the gloves and Mama Bear went on the defense. It’s been a couple of years since I angrily hit SEND on that email without hesitation, (zero response, by the way) and I’ve learned a couple of things that all parents of kids with ADHD can apply.

1)  Invoke the 24-hour rule before sending angry emails out into cyberville. (My husband has even taught me to write the damn thing as a form of therapy, then save it as a draft. 9 times out of 10, the email ends up in the recycle bin.) Unfortunately, I learned this AFTER blasting a couple of teachers with emails upon learning that they handled a situation improperly (and later told my son ‘Hey, tell your mother to calm down.’) GAHHHH

2) People don’t understand _______ (insert condition here), and that’s okay. Teach them.

Why the change of heart in #2? I have learned over the years that offensive comments usually come from a lack of knowledge, not a mean spirit. Heck, I didn’t understand ADHD, or anxiety, or Tourette Syndrome at first, either. I remember thinking our doctor was apparently not qualified when he first diagnosed my son, despite my child touching every canned good in the grocery aisle, never requiring sleep, and meltdowns that we, at the time, chalked up to disrespect and lack of discipline. The doctor spent 45 minutes with him, glancing at paperwork through squinted eyes and came to this life-changing conclusion. How could he know this in such a short visit? And why was his wallpaper brown and orange, and clearly in need of an upgrade?

Well, Doc was right. (And I was right about the wallpaper.)

Since then, I’ve severed ties with friends who made insensitive remarks and quickly learned that no one benefits, certainly not my kids or yours, by slamming doors. If there is a lack of knowledge in the community about these disorders, lets put out what we know. (Hence, this website.)

For the record, some of my favorite websites that are also putting it out there:



My Little Villagers

A Dose of Healthy Distraction


Others may not ‘get’ ADHD, and that’s okay. They don’t tuck your child in to bed each night. (Or watch him/her get up 9 more times for a drink, snack, bug bite itch, change of clothes, another blanket, one more hug, a night-light or monster check under their bed). Let’s shatter the sterotypes, the stigma of mental health, and THEN if friends or family still make uninformed comments, you have my permission to stick a boot in their a**.

Okay, not really. But, don’t spend much time debating their comments. I’ve learned that my energy is better spent with my kids. You are your child’s biggest advocate. No one else can be their voice when they are too young to speak for themselves.

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Uninformed people usually fall into 3 categories, from my experience:

The public figure (Bethenny from Real Housewives)

The Co-worker (Who told me my son with anxiety needs to ‘chill, and man up.’)

Friend or Relative (Who said ADHD is ‘just about focusing a little more.’)

For your sanity alone, find ONE person (I’m happy to step up to the plate, if you’re out of takers!) who accepts that your child has ADHD and doesn’t judge the chaos you are sorting through each day. Someone who says, ‘I’m here if you need to talk.’

For me, I have always appreciated a letter my father wrote me that stated ‘Your boys are the highlights of my days.’ He researched ADHD, as did my mother, and told me to find some patience. Despite my kids running circles around my dad with a never-ending fuel tank, he never considered my children a burden and encouraged me to look for the good. All parents need one, more if you have them, unconditional supporter to carry the load when it gets heavy.

YOU are that person to your child. They need parents to guide them through the chaos as it will be a factor in how they view themselves as they develop their self-esteem.

How so? Here’s an example…

Discussing ADHD in front of your child as a negative: ‘There he goes again, never stops talking. All day, every day.’ Believe me, your children hear you.


‘Here we go, throw your fit like you always do.’


What is your DEAL? Did you take your MEDS?’

All of the above phrases can be a true confidence-killer, and taunt the child instead of modeling the behavior you want them to adopt themselves. We wouldn’t tell a child with diabetes ‘There you go with low blood-sugar again,’ or a child with asthma ‘Could you stop with those breathing problems, already?’ so why do we address ADHD as though our children are PURPOSEFULLY causing problems?

One mom emailed me a couple of months back to say her son decided to ‘Pull his crap again today.’

Yet, he didn’t.

He didn’t CHOOSE to misbehave. Often, a child feels out of control during a meltdown, or other factors may be weighing heavily on the situation: Lack of sleep, hunger, overstimulated, anxiety, sensory, etc. Changing our attitudes as parents will begin to change the dynamics in our home. This mother won’t see improvements in her child until she changes her mindset that he isn’t trying to make her life miserable.

It begins with us.

Kids with ADHD need to understand how they are wired, and not be chastised for a brain difference (or anxiety, or tourette syndrome, or any other condition) that is beyond their control. We are on the same team. The scoreboard isn’t us against them (though it may feel that way on many days). Any progress is a step in the right direction, no matter how slow.

The Cubs didn’t win the World Series overnight, correct? 😉

Root for your child. And then share with others when they are misinformed. It’s all part of the job when parenting a child with ADHD.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of this series HERE.

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