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What Parents Need to Know
You think your child has with Disabilities in Education Act ular classroom.
AD/HD or a learning disabili- (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Federal Section 504 covers AD/HD kids
Rehabilitation Act. who don’t qualify for special-ed
ty? Now what? The good
IDEA covers kids with very specif- services under IDEA, but who need
news is that federal law ic conditions, including mental retar- extra help in the classroom. The law
requires public schools to dation, emotional disturbances, hear- prohibits schools from discriminating
provide every student a ing impairments, and speech and lan- against students because of physical
“free and appropriate” edu- guage difficulties. Kids may qualify for and mental impairments. Just as the
cation in the “least restric- coverage if they frequently have one of school must provide ramps for kids in
these problems in addition to atten- wheelchairs, it must make modifica-
tive environment.” The bad
tion deficit. Some qualify under tions (such as preferential seating,
news is, it’s not always easy another IDEA category: “Other Health extra time on tests, or help with note
to get schools to do that. Impairments.” Their AD/HD is so taking) for kids with brain-based
Here’s a step-by-step severe, they’re unable to learn in a reg- learning barriers.
process to ensure that your
child gets what he needs.
Write an IEP That Works!
DIAGNOSIS. If your child is
struggling, the school may ask • Memorize the list of AD/HD symptoms psychiatrists use for diagno-
sis [see the box on page 4b]. Your child cannot be punished or dis-
for permission to perform an evalua-
criminated against for displaying the symptoms of his condition,
tion, but you shouldn’t wait for them
such as inattention, forgetfulness, or interrupting.
to do so. You can initiate an evalua-
tion by calling the school to request • Determine how these symptoms affect your child at school. Does
one. If the school refuses, or if you he forget to turn in his homework? Does he fail to follow direc-
disagree with the school’s findings, tions? Is he impulsively aggressive on the playground? List specific
you can obtain an independent evalu- problems, then read up on strategies that address them.
ation to document your child’s need • Prepare yourself. Come to the team meeting with the list of your
for special education services. child’s symptoms, as well as a list of interventions [suggested on
(Depending on the situation, the pages 5b through 12b] you want the school to provide.
school may have to pay for the inde-
pendent evaluation.)
• At the team meeting, work together to develop a list of specific,
measurable, and achievable goals for the school year. Set time lim-
its: Johnny will improve his ability to respond to the teacher from

MEET WITH THE one out of 10 times to eight out of 10 times by the semester break;
EVALUATION TEAM. A multi- Johnny will reduce his interruptions from 10 times a day to two a
disciplinary team consisting of day by month three; Julie will be able to decode words at the
the parent, a classroom teacher, spe- 50th percentile as measured by the “Evaluation of Basic Skills.”
cial-ed teachers, and others will meet
to determine your child’s eligibility
• Enunciate the ways in which the school will teach your child to
achieve these goals. “Every misbehavior signifies the need for
for special-ed services, and how those instruction,” says education advocate Dixie Jordan. Have the school
services will be provided. If the team write into the IEP exactly how they will teach Johnny to follow
decides your child does not need spe- directions or stop interrupting. Which services will help Julie attain
cial ed, the process stops. If you dis- higher reading scores? If these strategies aren’t written into the
agree, you can appeal your case in a IEP, you can’t enforce them.
“due process” hearing.
• Ask for the data. If the school insists on certain interventions, ask
for written evidence that what they’re suggesting is effective. “If

DECIDE WHICH LAWS ARE you have an inattentive child and the teacher says, ‘Johnny, pay
APPLICABLE. Two federal laws attention,’ you’re not going to get good results,” says Jordan.
provide for free, public special “Johnny doesn’t know how it feels to pay attention. Someone
education services: the Individuals needs to break down the steps and teach the child how to pay
attention and how to filter out distractions.”

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©2005 ADDitude magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.

DEVELOP A PLAN. Whether kids how to meet them. And that’s administrators refused to budge, the
your child qualifies under IDEA what’s wrong with most IEPs.” family got a lawyer and filed for a due
or Section 504, you should meet process hearing. The hearing officer

with the team to develop an STAND YOUR GROUND. Know ruled that the school had to pay for
Individualized Education Program the laws and how to use them. Paul’s private school and his parents’
(IEP). The IEP outlines your child’s Consider the case of 10-year-old legal fees.
unique educational goals and ways to Paul*, a suburban New York student

meet them in the “least restrictive who needed a “collaborative” educa- GET HELP. Ask for team meet-
environment.” tion program, according to his par- ings whenever you think they’re
Parents must be assertive. Make ents and independent evaluators. The necessary to monitor your
sure the IEP spells out exactly how the school didn’t have a collaborative child’s progress and make changes to
school will help your child meet his or program, so the team simply left it the plan. Take notes, keep copies of all
her specific goals. “Nothing in the law off Paul’s IEP. documents, and tape-record meetings
says that teaching strategies have to be However, tailoring a child’s IEP if you need to. Afterwards, send the
written into the IEP, so what we often around which programs are available, team a thank-you note, along with a
end up with is a mealy-mouthed docu- as opposed to which programs the synopsis of what went on at the meet-
ment with wishy-washy goals,” says child needs, is in violation of IDEA. ing, just to make sure you’re all on the
Dixie Jordan, an education advocate in “We had one last meeting and we told same page. If there’s any disagreement
Wyoming. “‘Johnny will pay atten- them what we had decided,” says or impasse, you don’t have to go it
tion,’ ‘Johnny will complete his work.’ Paul’s mother. “We were pulling him alone. Free or low-cost education advo-
We put behavioral expectations out out of the district, putting him in a cates and attorneys are available to
there and then punish kids for failing private school, and we fully expected attend team meetings with you
to meet them, rather than teaching them to pay for it.” When school throughout the year.


from DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Association
>> Persisting for at least six months to a degree it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be lim-
that is maladaptive and immature, the patient has ited to subjective feelings of restlessness).
either inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity (or • Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities
both) as shown by: quietly.
• Appears “on the go” or acts as if “driven by a motor.”
INATTENTION. At least six of the following often apply: • Talks excessively.
• Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless
mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities. IMPULSIVITY
• Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or • Blurts out the answers before the questions have been
play activities. completed.
• Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly. • Has difficulty awaiting turn.
• Does not follow through on instructions and fails to • Interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conver-
finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace sations or games).
(not due to oppositional behavior or failure to under- >> Some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive
stand instructions). symptoms that caused impairment were present
• Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities. before age 7.
• Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that
require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork >> Some impairment from the symptoms is present
or homework). in two or more settings (e.g., at school [or work] and
• Loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, at home).
school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
• Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
>> There must be clear evidence of clinically signifi-
• Forgetful in daily activities. cant impairment in social, academic, or occupational
At least six of the following signs of hyperactivity-
impulsivity often apply: >> The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the
HYPERACTIVITY course of a pervasive developmental disorder, schizo-
• Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat. phrenia, or other psychotic disorder, and are not bet-
• Leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which ter accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g.,
remaining seated is expected. mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder,
• Runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which or a personality disorder).

To subscribe, visit or call toll-free 888-762-8475.

©2005 ADDitude magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.