1) How do I set up an IEP for my child with ADHD?
All parents should start in the school's front office. Ask to speak with an administrator and bring any type of documentation and work samples you may have. In order for an individual to receive any type of accommodations, the individual must provide documentation of a specific disability. For a valid and accurate diagnosis, an individual needs a full psycho-educational evaluation through a licensed or otherwise qualified professional. Ask the school for this type of screening/evaluation.
2) If my child is diagnosed as ADHD, will this affect him later in life (i.e., obtaining security clearances, getting into Yale or West Point, joining NASA, etc)?
The Americans with Disabilities Act states that it is illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. However, some institutions, like the military, have specific qualifying criteria based on the nature of the job that may not accommodate people with ADHD.
If your child has the desire and qualifications to pursue Ivy League universities and top level government positions, having a learning disability may make these goals more difficult to achieve, but will not necessarily preclude her from achieving them. In fact, your child has a better chance of achieving her goals if she receives early and effective intervention.
3) Can a five year old be evaluated for ADHD? Where could I get this evaluation done?
It is good to consider early intervention. As a parent, it is within your rights to request a 504 evaluation for your child. This evaluation is free and will be conducted at your public school. Ask to meet with the principal to find out how to proceed. If your child is in preschool, contact your local school division for a phone number of an early intervention service.
4) My son was diagnosed with ADHD. The school told me he does not qualify for an IEP, but he continues to fall behind. How can I help him?
ADHD is not a form of learning disability in special education terms, although many students with ADHD also have learning disabilities. Students with ADHD whose disability restricts one or more major life activities can receive a program of instructional services to meet their needs using something called a 504 Plan. This means that you can meet with his teachers and the school psychologist to discuss what types of accommodations would help your son learn in the classroom.
Here are questions and answers about ADHD and special services from lawyer Matt Cohen.
And here is information about ADHD and the law from special education lawyer Peter Wright's website, Wrightslaw.
Since this information often gets complicated, it's a good idea to look it over with someone else so that you can approach the school with a clear sense of your rights under the law and have an informed discussion about getting your child the right accommodations so that he can learn in school.
You can also seek support from your local CHADD chapter, which specializes in ADHD issues. Here is a link to the chapter locator. The CHADD site also contains information about support groups and managing ADHD at school and at home.
5) Would a handheld organizer, like a Palm Pilot, be helpful in keeping a student with ADHD organized?
If you do choose a technology device, test out a variety of products in order to find a good match. Many companies offer free demos or 30-day-trials; if you ask, they can even cover shipping and handling costs. Take advantage of these options as much as possible and you'll have a better sense of what works for you and your child.
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