IDEA 1999 - Final Regulations and Children with ADHD

By: Soleil Gregg

Editor's note: This article was published before the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA. While much of the law remains the same, some changes have been made to the language and procedures. We continue to offer this article because it provides valuable information that is still relevant to the current law. For more information on the recent changes, visit our 2004 IDEA Update page.

IDEA 1997, if fully implemented through the 1999 regulations, can do much to improve educational outcomes for children with AD/HD. The following provisions in the law and regulations implementing the law hold special interest for families of children with AD/HD:

ADD and AD/HD added to the definition of a child with a disability

ADD and AD/HD have been included as disabling conditions that can make children eligible for special education and related services. Children with AD/HD can qualify for services as “Other Health Impaired” when the disorder both limits their alertness to the educational environment (often because of heightened alertness to other environmental stimuli) and adversely affects educational performance so that special education services are needed.

Developmental delay

States can elect to use this non-category to serve children ages three through nine who exhibit delays in physical, cognitive, communicative, emotional, social, or adaptive development. Because children with AD/HD often seem immature compared to classmates, such services could be more appropriate than grade retention as a way to help children catch up to peers.

Participation in general curriculum and extracurricular activities

Special education and related services are meant to enable children with disabilities to participate and progress in the general curriculum, as well as to participate with all other children in nonacademic and extracurricular activities.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

The IEP is a tool to enhance a child’s progress and participation in the general curriculum. It should include:

  1. a statement of the child’s current level of performance and how the disability affects his or her progress and participation;
  2. a statement of measurable annual goals and benchmarks designed to meet the child’s comprehensive needs resulting from the disability, and to enable the child to progress and be involved in the general curriculum;
  3. a statement of the services that will be provided to enable the child to participate and progress in the general curriculum, and participate in school activities. Such provisions can include special education and related services; supplementary aids, services and interventions; accommodations and program modifications (including behavioral interventions). They may also include program modifications and supports that will be provided to school personnel to enable the child to attain annual goals;
  4. an explanation of the extent to which, if any, a child will not participate with non-disabled children in regular classrooms and activities;
  5. a statement of modifications required for the child to participate in district and statewide assessments, or a statement of why the assessment is not appropriate and how the child will be assessed instead;
  6. the date of initiation, frequency, duration and location of services and modifications; and
  7. a statement of how the child’s progress toward annual goals will be measured, how parents will be regularly informed of the progress, and beginning at age 14 the transition services a child will need to prepare for work, post-secondary education, or independent living.

Participation in assessments

Most children receiving special education services will be expected to participate in all district and statewide assessments. Appropriate testing modifications should be addressed in the IEP. States must develop a system of alternate assessments
for the small percentage of students not involved in regular assessments.

Parent roles

Parents must be provided an opportunity to examine their child’s records and participate in meetings related to identification, evaluation, educational placement, and the provision of a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE). As members of the IEP team, parents have the right to be notified of and participate in all IEP meetings and to be given a copy of all IEP meeting reports at NO cost. They can also contribute information and invite others who have special knowledge or information about the child to attend meetings.

Support for parents and teachers

The information, skills, and assistance that parents and school personnel need to help a child reach education goals can now be addressed in the IEP (e.g., information about how to develop effective behavior management plans). If a child will be in regular education classrooms, at least one regular educator must participate on the IEP team.

Comprehensive evaluation and services:

Schools are obligated to identify and evaluate children suspected of having a disability – even if they are progressing from grade to grade. Evaluations to determine eligibility must be sufficiently comprehensive – including cognitive and behavioral factors – to identify all areas of need. Likewise, special education and related services must address all areas of need, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category.

Proactive behavioral interventions

Appropriate behavior is often an issue for children with AD/HD. IDEA instructs the IEP team, including the regular education teacher, to deal proactively with anticipated behavior problems by developing behavioral intervention plans – including appropriate and positive strategies, interventions, and supports – based on an assessment and analysis of a child’s problem behaviors.

Suspension and expulsion

Children with disabilities cannot be suspended or expelled for more than 10 consecutive days for behavior that is related to their disability.

To find that no relationship between the disability and the behavior exists, the IEP team – which includes the child’s parents – must determine that:

  1. the IEP and placement were appropriate in relation to the behavior;
  2. that special education services, supplementary aids and services, and behavior intervention strategies were provided consistent with the IEP and placement;
  3. that the child was able to understand the effects and consequences of the behavior, and
  4. that the child was able to control the behavior.

Educational services must continue during suspensions and expulsions, except during the first 10 days of suspension or expulsion in a school year.

Alternative educational settings

Schools can unilaterally transfer students to alternative educational settings for up to 45 days for possessing or using illegal drugs or weapons or if students are proven to be substantially likely to cause harm to themselves or others.


Mediation provides an alternative to a due process hearing as a way to settle disputes between parents and schools. In mediation, a neutral, trained third party listens to both sides of the issue and makes a decision. Mediation does not waive parents’ rights to a later due process hearing.

Additional resources

For more information on IDEA, the regulations, and issues of special interest to parents, see the following resources:

Soleil Gregg (1999)