Like any other child with a learning disability, children with ADHD are vulnerable to academic difficulties in school. In the United States, there are two federal laws in place to guarantee children with disabilities the rights to services and accommodations in public schools: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
If a parent or teacher suspects that a child has ADHD, there are processes in place for evaluation, treatment, and accommodation. However, occasionally an educator is misinformed about learning disabilities, in particular ADHD, which makes following the process that much more difficult. Below we have outlined what your child’s educational rights are and how to secure them.
Section 504 is a civil rights law that, quite simply, makes it illegal for a school to discriminate against children with disabilities. A child is considered to have an impairment or disability if the mental or physical issue negatively affects the child’s ability to participate in a major life activity. Education falls under this framework. As per Section 504, these children are eligible for special education accommodations, which must extend to all academic and non-academic activities at school.
IDEA stipulates that children with disabilities be automatically eligible for special education. The disability must be proven to adversely affect academic performance, and the process for determining this requires more effort than it does for Section 504. Obtaining services under IDEA provides your child with a broader range of options than those offered under Section 504 (parental participation is one example); however, the process is generally slower.
How to Proceed after an ADHD Diagnosis?
While federal guidelines are a step in the right direction, some schools or teachers may be uninformed about the rights of a child with ADHD. If you suspect that your child has ADHD, you can either request that the school do an evaluation or you can have one done by your doctor. After determining that your child does have ADHD, it is essential to schedule a collaborative meeting with your child’s teachers, principal, and any other professionals to determine the severity of the disorder. Children with ADHD are at risk for poor academic performance, so there must be a strong correlation that illustrates ADHD’s negative impact on your child’s ability to learn in order to guarantee special education accommodations.
Furthermore, not every student with ADHD will need the same accommodations; some may even find that they can adapt to a typical classroom. Because each child is different, educators, parents, and health professionals will work together to develop an Independent Education Plan (IEP), which is tailored to match the needs and abilities of the child. Examples of what an IEP might provide for someone with ADHD include additional time while taking tests, fewer written materials, allowing your child to use assistive technology and learning aids in class, providing simple instructions, and reducing the length of worksheets and assignments.
- U.S. Department of Education: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-know-rights-201607-504.pdf
- chadd.org: http://www.chadd.org/Portals/0/Content/CHADD/NRC/Factsheets/Education%20Rights.pdf