ADHD and School

IDEA's Definition of ADHD

Many students with ADHD now may qualify for special education services under the "Other Health Impairment" category within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA defines "other health impairment" as...
 
"...having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia; and adversely affects a child's educational performance."
 
34 Code of Federal Regulations §300.7(c)(9)
 

Suggestions for Parents

Below are some suggestions for parents to help their child with ADHD and school:
 
  • Learn about ADHD. The more you know, the more you can help yourself and your child.
     
  • If your child has shown symptoms of ADHD from an early age and has been evaluated, diagnosed, and treated with either behavior modification or medication (or a combination of both) when your child enters the school system, let his or her teachers know. They will be better prepared to help your child come into this new world away from home.
     
  • If your child enters school and experiences difficulties that lead you to suspect that he or she has ADHD, you can either seek the services of an outside professional or you can ask the local school district to conduct an evaluation. Some parents prefer to go to a professional of their own choice.

However, it is the school's obligation to evaluate children whom they suspect have ADHD or some other disability that is affecting not only their academic work but their interactions with classmates and teachers as well.

  • If you feel that your child has ADHD and isn't learning in school as he or she should, you should find out who in the school system you should contact. Your child's teacher should be able to help you with this information. Then you can request -- in writing -- that the school system evaluate your child.

The letter should include the date, your and your child's names, and the reason for requesting an evaluation. Keep a copy of the letter in your own files.

  • Until the last few years, many school systems were reluctant to evaluate a child with ADHD. However, recent laws have made clear the school's obligation to the child suspected of having ADHD that is adversely affecting his or her performance in school.

If the school persists in refusing to evaluate your child, you can either get a private evaluation or enlist some help in negotiating with the school. Help is often as close as a local parent group. Each state has a Parent Training and Information (PTI) center as well as a Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency.

  • Once your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and qualifies for special education services, the school, working with you, must assess the child's strengths and weaknesses and design an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). You should be able to periodically review and approve your child's IEP.

Each school year brings a new teacher and new schoolwork, a transition that can be quite difficult for children with ADHD. Your child needs lots of support and encouragement at this time.

  • Praise your child when he or she does well. Build your child's abilities. Talk about and encourage his or her strengths and talents.
     
  • Be clear, be consistent, and be positive. Set clear rules for your child. Tell your child what he or she should do, not just what they shouldn't do. Be clear about what will happen if your child does not follow the rules. Have a reward program for good behavior; praise your child when correct behaviors are shown.
     
  • Learn about strategies for managing your child's behavior. These include valuable techniques such as: charting, having a reward program, ignoring behaviors, natural consequences, logical consequences, and time-out. Using these strategies will lead to more positive behaviors and cut down on problem behaviors.
     
  • Talk with your doctor about whether ADHD medication will help your child.
     
  • Pay attention to your child's mental health (and your own!). Be open to counseling; it can help you deal with the challenges of raising a child with ADHD. It can help your child deal with frustration, feel better about himself or herself, and learn more about social skills.
     
  • Talk to other parents whose children have ADHD. Parents can share practical advice and emotional support.
     
  • Meet with the school and develop an educational plan to address your child's needs. Both you and your child's teachers should get a written copy of this plan.
     
  • Keep in touch with your child's teacher. Tell the teacher how your child is doing at home. Ask how your child is doing in school and offer support.
     
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ADHD Information

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