Frequently Asked Questions: ADHD and Education

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Is ADHD considered a disability in a school setting?


    Although ADHD can be included in the list of disabilities that are eligible for Special Education under IDEA under "other health impairments", having a diagnosis of ADHD does not necessarily mean that your child is eligible for services.   ADHD must cause impairment in learning in order to qualify for Special Education Services.  This means that the ADHD must adversely affect a child's educational performance.


    If a child with ADHD does not qualify for services under IDEA, they may still be eligible to receive accommodations under Section 504, a non-discrimination law that provides that for all children to receive a free and appropriate education.

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    What is an IEP?


    An IEP, or Individualized Educational Plan, is a written document stating the child's individual needs, goals and objectives.  It contains information on what services shall be provided by the school district to accommodate the student's needs. 


    The document is a legal binding contract.


    What is Section 504?


    Section 504 is a law that is governed by the Office Of Civil Rights.  It is enforceable in any institution that receives federal funds and states that the institution cannot discriminate against any student.


    What is the difference between an IEP and Section 504?


    An IEP is normally implemented for children with disabilities and schools are provided federal funds to implement IEPs for children.  The Office of Civil Rights governs section 504 and schools are obligated to carry out sanctions under this statute at their own expense.  


    The general difference between the IEP and Section 504 is that the objective to Section 504 is to remove barriers that could stop a student from success, whereas, the IEP is to set up special accommodations for students in need.


    The eligibility requirements for an IEP are much more stringent than those of Section 504.  If a child is found ineligible for special services and accommodations under IDEA, they may still qualify for services under Section 504.



    What should I do to have accommodations set up for my child?


    In order to determine if your child is eligible for services under either IDEA or Section 504, you must send a written request to your school requesting to have a meeting set up to determine eligibility. 


    Once the school receives your request, you should be included in a meeting with the school psychologist, the guidance counselor or other members of the school district that are deemed qualified to determine eligibility.  If your child does not meet the requirements for an IEP, they still may be considered to services under Section 504. 


    If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, Learning Disabilities or any other medical condition, documentation of such should be brought to this meeting.  Along with this documentation, you should be able to show why you feel your child's academic performance is hindered by their condition. 


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    If your child has not been diagnosed, you may request an evaluation of your child's academic needs be completed by the school district.




    What should I do if the school doesn't want to follow the accommodation plan?


    If you have an IEP and the school district or teachers are not following the guidelines set forth in the IEP, you can request a Due Process Hearing.  You would file a complaint with your local school district.


    If your child has accommodations under Section 504, you would file a complaint with the Office Of Civil Liberties.  Your local office can be found in your local phone book under Federal Offices.


    Additional Information:


    How IDEA Applies to Children with ADHD


    Section 504 for Children with ADHD


    Suggestions for IEPs and Section 504s


    The Difference Between Accommodations and Modifications

Published On: April 06, 2009