July 26, 2023

Are Children with ADD or ADHD Eligible for Special Education?

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) presents in around 3-5% of school-aged children. While those with mild symptoms may learn to adapt to the regular classroom without a special education plan, those whose symptoms are more pronounced may run into difficulties.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

Because ADD and ADHD appear in children as young as 4, it is important to monitor the child’s progress in his or her early years in school. Impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity are the ADHD symptoms that can cause problems in the classroom, and as a student may have trouble following lessons, completing work, or sitting still. Without proper intervention early-on, these children with ADHD may develop poor study habits, have trouble socializing, or get into trouble. These can have lasting implications.

Guidelines for Receiving Special Education under IDEA

Currently the U.S. Department of Education’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not include ADD or ADHD as one of the 13 qualified learning disabilities that automatically qualify a child for special education. A child with an ADD or ADHD diagnosis may however, be eligible for special education should the disorder coexist with another learning disability or be shown to adversely affect his or her academic performance. IDEA stipulates that children with ADD or ADHD may qualify should they show one or more of the following:

  • Another health impairment: Another health issue, either physical or emotional, that causes your child to have limited alertness, vitality, or strength.
  • Specific learning disability: These disabilities include trouble with basic skills such as language, reading, speaking, or writing. One common example of a specific learning disability is dyslexia.
  • Emotional disturbance: Oftentimes, ADD and ADHD present in tandem with a mental or mood disorder, either of which can affect academic performance and the ability to connect with peers and teachers.
  • Developmental delay: This non-categorical option includes physical, cognitive, or social delays.

Children who display any of the above are eligible for special education services, however the disability needs to be medically documented and must correlate to having an educational impact. Schools will have varying methods for tracking a child’s abilities and educational performance.

add adhd children

How to Get Started on a Special Education Plan in ADD and ADHD?

Parents of a child with ADD or ADHD should be proactive early-on by immediately requesting a collaborative meeting with the school’s principal, teachers, and other school personnel. From here, a special education evaluation will be performed and an Independent Education Plan (IEP) drawn up. IEPs are unique to each student, taking his or her difficulties into consideration and finding unique solutions to address that child’s needs. Academic accommodations may include:

  • Allowing extra time during tests
  • Allowing the student to take tests or complete in-class assignments separately from other students
  • Simpler instructions on assignments and tests
  • Extra guidance in developing organizational skills
  • Allowing a child to audio-record lessons

Teachers, parents, and other professionals work together to monitor the student’s progress and reach specific goals. The routine and structure of an IEP often improves performance, reduces behavioral issues, and fosters long-lasting tools that aid in the academic and social arenas.





This article is examined by Clinical Child Psychologist and Ph. D. Researcher Kevser Çakmak, and produced by Otsimo Editorial Team.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.