Our grandson is a visual learner and at seven years old has already had more than enough challenges in the classroom. We have seen tremendous benefit to the extras we do at home and while there’s been improvement, there are still some struggles.
This year his second grade teacher suggested his mom have him tested for ADD. Neither mom nor I was especially excited about that possibility. Not because of any stigma but because diagnosing ADD and ADHD is very subjective and we weren’t interested in medicating him. But we listened to the teacher long enough to find out there might be other reasons to consider it.
It turns out there is no language in the school system for visual learners. If your child is struggling with focus, testing and some academic work, there is no understanding, no work around, no assistance for them as visual learners. But if your child is unfocused, distracted, struggling academically, and diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, help is available in the form of a 504 learning plan.
What’s a 504 Plan?
The 504 Plan is a plan developed by the school to ensure that a child with a disability receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success.
It falls under Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and is designed to help parents of students with physical or mental impairments in public schools, or publicly funded private schools, work with educators to design customized educational plans. 504 plans are monitored by classroom teachers and designed to modify a students educational program in their regular classroom setting. These 504 plans legally ensure that students will be treated fairly at school.
Being treated fairly is always good news. The not so good part is thinking of your visual learner as having a disability, or putting that label on them. Being a visual thinker is not a deficit or a disorder. But when visual kids enter school there is often a major disconnect between the way they think and how schools teach and test. And with increased emphasis on testing and test scores as metrics for learning; teaching styles have changed, leaving our visual learners to struggle even more.
How would it help?
If you want some extra help for your visual learner in the classroom, consider having them evaluated for ADD. But know it is a subjective diagnosis and you do not need to put them on medication, just the opposite. Having conversations about ADD and what’s needed in the classroom, can help you see where the problem areas are. It can help you put language to their areas of need, but don’t forget to see these are the same areas that visual learners struggle – and it’s not a deficit or disorder. Being a visual kid is awesome. We just need to make adjustments to the classroom experience so they will be more successful. There are so many ways to help kids develop the focus they need, while school helps adjust the way they are taught and tested. It can be a win-win, as long as you think of it as a means to a better classroom experience, not a label or definition in and of itself.
I will share more about the ADD evaluation process in another post, but for now, these are some things that are possible in the classroom if your visual child does get a 504 plan in place.
They can have:
- preferential seating
- extended time on tests and assignments
- reduced homework or classwork
- verbal, visual, or technology aids
- modified textbooks or audio-video materials
- behavior management support
- adjusted class schedules or grading
- verbal testing
- excused lateness, absence, or missed classwork
None of these are guaranteed and needed for every visual learner, but most of them would be helpful. Visual kids struggle with attention, testing and some kinds of classwork. Extra time and consideration in these areas might be just what they need.
Stay tuned as I share my daughter’s journey through the ADD, 504 plan maze for her visual learner!