Children with ADD/ADHD are 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, you should 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.
Teachers are also able to 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.
School evaluations will often include vision and hearing screenings, IQ tests, academic screening and classroom observation. In addition, both the parent and the teacher may be asked to complete detailed questionnaires regarding behavior, education, and developmental milestones.
Depending on the outcome of the evaluation, students may be eligible for services under Section 504 or under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). 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 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 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, 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 Section 504, the school district would be required to make adaptations for your child in instructional methods. A few examples of services under Section 504:
- Reducing the amount of homework or class work
- Allowing children to have an extra set of books at home
- Behavior management techniques used by teachers in the classroom
- Daily or weekly reports home to parents from teachers
- Assistance in organizational skills
- Assistance in planning assignments
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 also be invited to the meeting.
During this meeting, you should be 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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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.