by Tess Thompson
When a child has ADD ADHD, it is not uncommon for the first person to recognize the symptoms to be the child’s teacher. Many of the symptoms of ADHD can seem more pronounced in a structured classroom setting, when a child is forced to sit still and Focus on something specific. Of course, a teacher’s suspicion is not grounds for assumption that your child has the condition. A diagnosis of ADHD should come only after valid ADHD assessment tests and extensive professional evaluation that includes such factors as his or her behavior at school, at home and at play, and that eliminates the possibility that your child is suffering from other conditions, such as Depression or Anxiety, that can produce similar symptoms.
If you do determine that your child has ADHD and needs special child ADHD treatment, you should be aware of the legal rights your child has to an Education that accomodates his or her needs. ADHD children can have difficulty performing well in school and teachers can become frustrated with students who have behavioral problems or who require constant attention. Although you can weigh the benefits of private tutors, homeschooling or “ADHD schools” — special schools for children with learning disabilities (ADHD is not technically a learning disability, but some schools have programs that include instruction for ADHD children), there are laws which mandate that your child receive specialized Education within the confines of the public school system as well.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal statute that requires schools to identify children who have ADHD or other learning disorders and to provide special Education or provide other services to qualifying students. In order to qualify under IDEA, a child’s ADHD must be found to be severe enough to impair the child’s Education. Children who suffer from ADHD may also qualify under IDEA if they have simultaneously been diagnosed with a learning disablity or with emotional problems.
Chidren who don’t qualify for specialized Education under IDEA can still find help under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is an anti-discrimination provision designed to protect people with disabilities. It prohibits programs that are federally funded, such as public schools, from discriminating against people with disabilities, and requires schools to accomodate them. Accomodations can include things such as altering test-taking rules or providing help with note-taking.
The Americans with Disabilities Act also prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, but includes organizations which recieve no federal funding. Under this provision, children with ADHD qualify for special help at public and at private schools.
Although these statutes must be legally upheld by schools, some school systems do not accurately train teachers and administrators to recognize the symptoms of ADHD, and they are often unaware of their legal obligations to accomodate children who suffer from it. Your child does have a legal right to these provisions, and you have the right to request them. In rare cases, when a school has been found to lack in sufficient accomodation, the state has paid for children to attend specialized private schools. Many public schools, however, have excellent systems in place, and more and more frequently, teachers are being trained to teach all kinds of students, including those with ADHD.