Local program helps students with ADHD and childhood trauma
By Cynthia Flash
Now that it’s well into the school year and students have started to settle in, parents and teachers are also starting to pull their hair out as certain students struggle. Some of these students forget to turn in assignments. Others start missing school. And those optimistic hopes for As and Bs meet the reality of lower grades.
No student wants to fail school. Yet many struggle with making decisions. Some are impulsive. Some are anxious. Some are high-achieving. Others struggle just to pass a class. Some have executive function challenges, often caused by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) linked to trauma. These are the students who:
• Make bad decisions
• Are bright, but underachieve
• Work hard, but forget to turn in their homework
• Try to fit in, but are impulsive and disruptive
• Want to do their best, but don’t possess the right executive function tools
• Are struggling at school, yet know that a diploma is critical to breaking the poverty cycle
• Are chronically absent or are at risk of dropping out of school and unlikely to go to college
October is ADHD Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 5.2 million children in the United States have formal diagnoses of ADHD, one of the best-known barriers to social and emotional Learning. A National Health Interview Survey published in August found that one in 10 school-age are now diagnosed with ADHD in the United States. These numbers do not include those who are undiagnosed.
One organization in the Seattle area – the Edge Foundation – is working with individual students and schools to provide individual coaches to help students with ADHD and ACEs. The foundation was started by former King County Metro Executive Director Neil Peterson to help kids with executive function challenges. Peterson has ADHD and started the foundation to serve kids all over the country with executive-style coaching, which he and his own two children who have ADHD found to be extremely effective. The Edge Foundation has brought the concept of an executive coach for executives to a new audience – students who struggle.
The foundation works with more than 30 schools in Washington, California, New York, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina where more than 2,000 students receive Edge in-school coaching. The Seattle, Tacoma and Highline school districts all use Edge coaches –teachers, para-professionals, counselors and administrators trained by the foundation to provide one-on-one, weekly, 20- to 25-minute coaching to individual students.
“Edge coaches help students develop the executive function skills that allow them to make good decisions in school and in life,” Peterson said.
West Seattle high schooler Wyatt Washburn started using an Edge coach after he was diagnosed with ADHD during the summer before ninth grade. His mom Reeve was frustrated when Wyatt was having trouble with school, not turning in homework, not speaking up in class and getting distracted. At the suggestion of his school, she called the Edge Foundation and signed up Wyatt for coaching.
“The coaching introduced a level of rigor that he didn’t have, and he became much more independent and took pride in the fact that he and his coach had a plan,” Reeve Washburn said. “I didn’t have to bug him. He and the coach worked together to get the work done. His grades were more consistent, which was terrific.”
Wyatt’s coach Sherry Yee also helped Reeve better understand her son. “It was extremely valuable to help me accept his reality and embrace it and work to be more compassionate on how he goes through life and processes information,” Reeve said.
Wyatt, now a sophomore at Northwest School who enjoys crew and basketball, appreciates his weekly coaching sessions. “I’ve learned a lot of things – how to manage my time, how to get things done efficiently, how to be more organized in a lot of aspects of my school life and my out-of-school life,” he said. “I don’t think I would have been able to get here without my coach.”
The Edge program has been proven to work. A study by Wayne State University looked at Edge Foundation coaching methods involving students from 10 universities and community colleges. The study was the largest and most comprehensive study of ADHD coaching conducted to date. The research team determined that the Edge coaching model was four times more effective than any other educational intervention in helping students improve executive functioning and related skills as measured by the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory.
The program is available to school districts, individual schools and individual students. “I think coaching is good for everyone,” Wyatt Washburn said.
[Cynthia Flash owns Flash Media Services, a media relations company. The Edge Foundation is a client.]