School with a 504 plan


Ella Davies

Sarah Thaman can find it difficult to focus on tests.

A test packet lays on senior Sarah Thaman’s desk. So does a ZipGrade answer sheet. Rows and rows of circles. Pencil in hand, she slowly shades in a circle beside question one. Then question two. Question three.

Question five and she glances up to see a room full of desks and students; above them, the clock ticking; below it, a poster; and another poster; and another; the clock continues to tick … and her anxiety builds and builds with each tick.

“I can kind of feel my mind drifting away,” Thaman said. So she refocuses on the test.

Thaman’s third-grade teacher noticed her symptoms first. She couldn’t pay attention in class; she’d become more energetic as the day progressed, and then she’d have meltdowns, and she couldn’t focus and she’d lose control of herself. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Her teacher talked to her parents; her parents talked to a counselor and pediatrician, and they designed a plan.

Thaman and 6% of KHS students have a 504 plan, which according to Jessica Maltzman, special education teacher, provides them with educational accommodations. Maltzman said many students on the 504 plan are successful in their classes but struggle with conveying their knowledge on a test. Thus, Thaman and other students go to different rooms for high-pressure AP and standardized tests and receive extra time to complete them.

In the classroom, Thaman said her teachers do an excellent job supporting her, making allowances for the times she doesn’t talk in Socratic seminars, meeting with her and finding ways to test the knowledge she’s gained.

“She has really succeeded in her academic areas,” Doug Thaman, her father, said.

She balances a demanding schedule: studying for four AP classes, editing for Pioneer yearbook, hosting at Amigos Cantina, dancing at Dance Center of Kirkwood; and next year she plans on attending DePaul University to study Public Relations and Law.

Still, she said testing is a struggle.

She usually has to regain focus four times over the course of a test. But the testing rooms are better. No posters. No noise. Fewer people. Pencil in hand, Thaman fills in the circles.