The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that all citizens have equal protection under the law, including people with disabilities. That means that there are laws in place to protect children with ADHD.
There are two laws that specifically apply to a child’s education. It's important to know what these laws are and what they do.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504
This act was created to "level the playing field" for all people with disabilities. Students with ADHD may receive support through Section 504, and can be eligible for support even if they don’t require special education. Students will take a test to determine if their ADHD interferes with learning. If a child is eligible for support, he or she will receive an education accommodation. Accommodations may include:
- Preferential seating
- Untimed tests
- Help in taking medication (from a school nurse)
Parents should check with their child’s school system to see what services are available.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B
IDEA ensures that all children with special needs receive a "free and appropriate education". Through federal funding, the act provides extra help to children who need it. To qualify for such help, a child must have documented academic and/or behavioral challenges associated with his or her ADHD that negatively impact performance. This documentation is used to assess the need for special education or related services. An individualized education plan (IEP) will be developed as part of the special services available to that child. The IEP will:
- Include rules regarding a parent's right to participate in IEP development
- Contain detailed information about necessary services
- Outline regular reporting to parents
- Provide time periods for review and updates
The IDEA also requires that educational services:
- Include positive behavioral intervention strategies
- Limit school-wide disciplinary action if a child's behavior is due to his or her disability
- Set specific educational goals and objectives for children with disabilities
Parents can work with their child’s school to develop an IEP. It’s also recommended that parents and teachers have an open conversation about IDEA and Section 504 – a student’s success may depend on it.
Bateman, B. D., & Herr, C. M. (2006). Writing measurable IEP goals and objectives. Verona, WI: Attainment Co Inc.
Bateman, B. D., & Linden, M. A. (2006). Better IEPs: How to develop legally correct and educationally useful programs. Verona, WI: Attainment Co. Inc.
Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD). (2012). Educational rights for children with ADHD in public schools. Retrieved from http://www.help4adhd.org/en/education/rights/WWK4
Families and Advocates Partnership for Education (FAPE). (n.d.) The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Retrieved from http://www.fape.org/idea/index.htm
Reiff, H. B. (2007). Self-advocacy skills for students with learning disabilities: Making it happen in college and beyond. Port Chester, NY: Dude Publishing.