What to Do When You Think Your Child with ADHD Needs Special Accommodations

Health Writer

Children with ADHD might be eligible to receive special accommodations and services in the classroom, based on the severity of the ADD and how much it interferes with their learning.  Although procedures may differ based on where you live, there are general guidelines that should help you through the process.  For additional information on receiving services, you should contact your local school district and request information on their procedures.

If you feel your child may qualify for special services, the first step is to write a letter to the school, outlining your reasons and requesting an evaluation.  If you already have a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD or any related conditions, attach a copy of a letter from your physician.  If possible, outline what behaviors are causing problems and why you feel your child should be evaluated.  Make sure your letter is dated and keep a copy for yourself.  This request must be in writing.

Your child’s teacher or other school personnel  can also initiate an evaluation.  If a teacher does request an evaluation, you should receive information on the evaluation, as well as a consent form to be completed.  The evaluation cannot be completed until you sign the consent.

School evaluations will often include vision and hearing screenings, IQ tests, academic screening and classroom observation.  In addition, both the parent and the teacher could be asked to complete detailed questionnaires regarding behavior, education, and developmental milestones. It is important to keep in mind, these evaluations are not meant to diagnose your child, it measures whether or not ADHD, another medical condition or learning disability is interfering with your child’s ability to learn.

Depending on the outcome of the evaluation, students might be eligible for services under Section 504 or under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  If your child is eligible under IDEA, an IEP will be created outlining goals for your child and steps the teachers and school will take toward those goals. Children with ADHD are more often provided services under Section 504 than through IDEA. If your child is found to not be eligible for services, the school is required to notify you of the Due Process Procedure to request a hearing where you will be able to voice why you feel your child should receive special services.

Section 504

Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.  All institutions and organizations that receive federal funding must comply with Section 504, this means that all public schools must comply with this law.  The law defines qualified individuals as anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as learning.  According to this definition, even if your child does not require special education services, they could still be eligible for classroom accommodations.

Although IDEA and Section 504 are similar, the difference is in the severity of the disability.  For children that are not severely disabled, Section 504 provides a more flexible and, usually, a quicker way to obtain services.  IDEA specifically requires children to be disabled to the degree they would require special education services.

If found eligible for services under Section 504, the school district is required to make adaptations for your child in instructional methods. A few examples of services under Section 504:

If you feel your child is eligible for services under Section 504, you will need to write a letter to the school requesting an evaluation.  (Make sure your request is dated.) If your child has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD or a related condition, you can attach a letter from your physician.  However, a medical diagnosis is not necessary.  If the school district believes your child requires a medical diagnosis, the school district would be required to pay for a medical evaluation.

Once the school completes the evaluation, they are required to notify you of the results. If your child is found eligible, there should be a meeting to determine what services may benefit your child.  Some of those included in the meeting might be: teachers, school psychologist, school administrators, and guidance counselors.  You should be invited to the meeting.

During this meeting, come prepared with a list of modifications or accommodations you feel would benefit your child.  Together, you and the teachers should be able to work out a plan to help your child succeed.

If your child is found ineligible, you should be notified of the Due Process Procedures that would allow you to file a request for a review.

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Suggestions for IEPs or Section 504s