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What Special Education Services Are Available to My Child at School?

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Updated April 03, 2009

Question: What Special Education Services Are Available to My Child at School?
Answer:

It is important for parents to be aware and knowledgeable about the types of support, accommodations and special services that may be available to help their ADHD child succeed in school.

IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that public education provide appropriate services to children whose disabilities limit or impede ability to function in an educational setting. Under IDEA, your child may qualify for special services if he has ADHD and the ADHD significantly impairs academic performance.

The school system is responsible for identifying and evaluating children who are suspected of having disabilities. As a parent, you may request an evaluation for your child at any time. It is often helpful to put the request in writing in addition to talking to your child’s teacher and school principal.

IDEA lists many different categories of disability under which a child can be eligible for special education. ADHD children often qualify under the Other Health Impaired category. Your child’s ADHD does not automatically make him eligible for services under IDEA, but he may qualify if the ADHD symptoms severely inhibit learning and behavior at school.

If the outcome of the school evaluation indicates that your child meets the criteria for special education services, you and school personnel will meet to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) specifically tailored to your child. The IEP is a written document that outlines goals for your child, as well as the educational, developmental and behavioral support and services your child will receive in order to help him reach these goals.

Section 504

The definition of a disability is much broader under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, than it is under IDEA. If your child does not qualify for services under IDEA, he still may be able to qualify for services under Section 504. Section 504 requires that the needs of students with disabilities be met as adequately as the needs of those students without disabilities. A student with a disability is defined as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Since learning is considered a major life activity, many students with ADHD qualify as a “person with a disability” under Section 504.

The school system will determine if your child qualifies for specialized services and accommodations under section 504. You may make a request for services by submitting the request in writing to your child’s school. Be sure to ask for a copy of your school district’s policies and procedures on Section 504, so you can better understand your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of the school.

Special education services and support should be provided in the least restrictive environment, so often ADHD children continue in the regular classroom with appropriate modifications and accommodations rather than being placed in a separate special needs classroom. Removal from the regular mainstream classroom would only occur if the student continues to struggle significantly in the regular classroom despite accommodations and interventions. Below is a list of accommodations that are often granted to children with ADHD.

Classroom Accommodations Helpful for Students with ADHD

  • Seating the student close to the teaching area and away from the distractions of doors and windows

  • Reducing the length of the student’s work load (both classroom assignments, as well as homework) to accommodate his or her attention span

  • Giving assignments one at a time rather than all at once, and breaking longer assignments into smaller parts, so it isn’t so overwhelming for the student.

  • Allowing the student extra time to take tests and complete assignments (this is especially helpful for those children with the predominately inattentive type ADHD who tend to process information at a slower speed and so often take longer with tasks)

  • Allowing the student to take tests or work on assignments in a quiet area free from distractions

  • Providing the student copies of class notes or assigning a “study buddy” to help in note taking

  • Allowing the student to tape record teacher’s directions regarding assignments, as well as class lectures to help in recall and learning

  • Giving the student frequent physical breaks for movement and exercise during the day in order to help recharge, maintain focus, and burn off any excess energy or feelings of restlessness

  • Setting up a system of communication (such as a notebook or daily emails or phone calls) between parent and teacher so that they may keep each other informed about the student's progress or difficulties

For additional school strategies click on:
School Tips for ADHD Kids
Teaching Strategies

For more information on special education services and procedures, contact your local school district or your State Department of Education. You will also find information and support at your state Parent Training and Information Center and at the Office of Civil Rights.

Sources:

Mary Durheim. A Parent’s Guide to Section 504. The New CHADD Information and Resource Guide to AD/HD. 2007.

Mary Fowler. ADHD Briefing Paper, Third Edition. National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. April 2002.

National Resource Center on ADHD. Educational Right for Children with AD/HD in Public School. What We Know series. CHADD 2007.

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