Over the last week my work has been with students who are warned of impending failing grades. Teachers report that they are missing a lot of assignments for the semester, and the student explains that the assignments were omitted in order to keep up the pace required of them across all their courses. Kids with EDF will often need more time and support with the planning, enacting the steps, and checking their work than is allowed for the completion of it. Overwhelmed by the pace and volume of the work they are to do, they drop assignments which are not due the next day, especially demanding of their executive functions, or either boring or difficult. Many times the problem is interpreted as laziness, or a discipline issue by the time it comes to light. Teachers do not routinely let parents know of their child’s missing work until prompted to do so either at interim time or because the parent asks for it. The kid hides the missing assignments even from herself, at a loss about what to do, and pressed to get on with the rest of the pile of assignments befoer her. So, what to do?
First, see the issue coming. Kids with EDF need extra time and executive function support on all assignments, including tests.
Schools find it relatively easy to give them extra time on the tests, but have greater resistance to allowing it for classroom work, homework, and projects, etc. At the same time, the EDF student is likely to need more iterations of practice with concepts in order to learn them than do their neurotypical peers. At some point or other this tension will cause a jam.
Second, set up reasonable accommodations like a predictable space and time for taking tests using extra time so that there doesn’t need to be a scramble about it every time there is an assessment. A place in the library, for example, set aside for test takers with an adult handy before and after school, and throughout the day. Reduce the student’s schedule wherever possible so that a free period opens up in the day to be used (supervised) for getting assignments done. Reduce the number of inessential assignments for EDF students at least.
Third, each teacher communicate what is missing at the end of each week so that weekend time can be devoted to catching up. The student should also develop the habit of planning weekend time for this purpose and assign work to that period as they go through the week and encounter something that will need more time than they have that evening. Having a place to put the work they don’t have time to complete is a whole lot better than simply dropping it, and it allows the parent or other supervisory adult to lend positive rather than punitive support e.g. “is there anything that you need to move into the catch-up time on Saturday from tonight’s list?” or “lets make a note of what you need to move this assignment forward: to understand the process better? to have time to reread the text?”
The idea is to take the problem out of shame and misunderstanding and bring it into the light where planning and support can take the place of friction and punishment.