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Expert Q&A

What obligation does the school system have to evaluate a child who was diagnosed privately with ADD?

My son is 12 years old. He was first diagnosed with ADD in the 3rd Grade. He is now in the 6th grade and will most likely fail. Modifications were never put in place for him regardless of how many times we asked. Finally we were told by his Vice Principal, on her own, that they would begin the 504 process for him. We waited patiently. This week when we asked for status, she said we must have misunderstood her. She said she doesn’t have the authority, and that the school is already making all the necessary modifications for him.

This is completely false. Nothing is being modified; homework assignments, testing, nothing. He doesn’t have an IEP or any written plan of modifications. They have however sent him to “Academic Tutorial” and In-School Suspension, for failure to turn in homework, so many times this year I can’t even count them all.

He has no behavioral problems. He is well liked by teachers and friends; he is kind, considerate, polite, caring, an amazing artist, very athletic, respectful; and until recently, has maintained high self confidence. But unfortunately, I have noticed that his confidence is faltering and he is beginning to seriously doubt himself. The staff at his school blames us! They say we should be doing more for him. I spend hours upon hours working with him. I don’t know how I could possibly do more. I am so angry and bewildered.

Why do they continue to refuse to initiate 504? What could possibly be motivating them to be responding this way? Do we have the right to insist on 504 and/or an IEP if our son has a diagnosis of ADD? He was diagnosed three times; University of North Texas, his Pediatrician, and his Neurologist. My son is being treated as if he has a behavior problem instead of a medical condition.

I love him so much and I am so broken-hearted to see him go through this. I feel powerless. I feel stupid for trusting the “system”. We’re pretty sure we need an attorney and we are looking for one. It makes me angry that we have to spend money we don’t have to make them do their job. We also have secured a private tutoring agency, Sylvan, to help him get caught up on his skill gaps. An SAT conducted last year showed he was at a 9th grade level in Reading and a 2nd grade level in Math. He has a High Average IQ.

I wish no family had to ever suffer the pain and anguish we have suffered. I wish there were some way to standardize the process and treatment of children with ADD/ADHD in the public school system. We will find the money. But so very many families can’t.

Thank you very much,

Dear Terry:
It sounds like you and your child have been mistreated by the school system. Under both the special education system and section 504, the school district has an obligation to identify and evaluate children who are suspected of having a disability who reside within the school district. Under the special education system, this legal obligation is called Child Find. This puts an affirmative obligation on the school district to identify children who may have a disability and to evaluate them to determine if in fact they have a disability (of course after having obtained parental consent).

When a child has been privately evaluated and diagnosed with a disability, it is especially important that the school follow through with conducting an evaluation to determine if the child has a disability for purposes of special education or section 504 services. Even if a child is determined not to meet the criteria for disability under the special education system, they should be evaluated to determine if they meet the criteria for protection under Section 504, which has broader eligibility criteria.

When a school district has failed to conduct appropriate child find efforts, the parent may be forced to request a due process hearing to force the school district to identify your child as having a disability. If the child has been deprived of appropriate services for a period of time, the child may be entitled to receive compensatory educational services to make up for the lost time.

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