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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Handling ADD in Schools

08/13/2000

Question:

My 17-year-old daughter was diagnosed (via interview with a psychiatrist) with ADD at the age of 14, after she failed 7th grade, repeated that grade; and then failed the 8th grade. After summer school, she entered 9th grade and passed with low scores. She then failed 6 of 9 10th grade classes. Last fall, she was evaluated thoroughly; the evaluation confirmed ADD. My daughter does very well on tests in school, but her biggest difficulty is completing classwork and homework (worse with homework). She forgets assignments, forgets books, etc. Teachers for years have described her behavior as "zoning out." She is now in counseling for behavior and is on Adderall 20 mg each morning, as well as Celexa for depression. My question: Our public school is not very accommodating, but if I could suggest actual steps they could take to help my daughter while she`s in school, the suggestions may be considered. So far, the only thing I`ve been able to think of is getting her teachers to sign off on an assignment book daily and to email me when there`s a problem. I believe her attention needs to be ENGAGED during classtime. Teachers generally feel they don`t have the time to do this for one student. Any suggestions?

Answer:

Often, a thorough evaluation for learning disabilities (LDs) with an educational specialist is appropriate. The educational specialist could make detailed suggestions of fitting accommodations for the student based on the testing. Your Legal Aid Society might be able to give you information on any parent advocacy groups in your city---such organizations often understand the law and your daughter's rights. You might also get help contacting your local Children and Adults with ADD (CHADD) chapter, or national CHADD (see below). The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has a Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education with a lot of info about children's rights. Basically, two federal laws are relevant and both entitle children to a free appropriate public education. They are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. With a diagnosis of ADHD a child can qualify for services in any state under the 'Other Health Impaired' category of the IDEA or under Section 504. The amount of adverse impact determines what kind of services a child qualifies for. IT HAS TO BE SHOWN THAT THE ADHD HAS AN ADVERSE IMPACT ON EDUCATIONAL PERFORMANCE TO QUALIFY FOR SERVICES UNDER EITHER LAW. If a child requires special education services, they can get an Independent Educational Plan (IEP). Having an IEP means that special education teachers are directly involved with the student or help the regular education teacher with the student. There is also a Section 504 plan, named after the law it is described in. A 504 does not involve special education services and is simply accommodations within the classroom made by regular teachers without the help of special education staff, such as longer test times. A student with LDs automatically qualifies for IEP/special education services. It's hard to tell what kind of documentation exists for this student, but the level of impairment looks significant (with multiple failed grades). She has rights within any school system and you need to figure out how to negotiate the school system to get the help in place that's obviously needed. The teachers do not legally have the option of saying they're too busy to provide individual accommodations if the student is identified under either of these laws, although, unfortunately, that's not to say that everything written down in an IEP or 504 plan is always done. See the links below and best of luck to you!

Related Resources:

National Legal Aid Society and Defenders Association
Council for exceptional Children
CHADD

For more information:

Go to the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Susan Louisa Montauk, MD
Formerly Professor of Family Medicine
University of Cincinnati