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Eligibility: Is child with ADHD and behavior problems eligible for special education?

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What do you think?

For many readers, the answer is a clear "Yes." For others, the answer is an equally clear "No!" The law is unclear. This is why we tell parents and educators, "YOU need to read the law for yourself – you may need to read it several times – until YOU understand what the law says and doesn't say. Do not rely on someone else’s interpretation of the law – you will often be misled."

Look it Up!

If you have Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, you can read the statute and regulations, and Pete’s commentary about eligibility in several places throughout the book. For example:

"Definition: IDEA Child" (Page 12)

"Disability Does Not Mean Eligibility for Special Education"– (Page 25) quoted below:

"Having a disability does not automatically qualify a child for services under IDEA. A child may have a disability but not be eligible for special education and related services. "The key phrase is "who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services." Read the definition of "special education" (below)."

"If the child has a disability but does not need special education services, the child will not qualify for special education and related services under IDEA. If the child has a disability but does not need special education and related services under IDEA, the child may be entitled to protections under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 is a civil rights statute that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination for reasons related to their disabilities." (page 25)

"Catch-all Section for Children with Delays" and "Eligibility Disputes" (Page 26)

"The Legal Definition of Specific Learning Disability" and "Public Law 94-142: No Reference to a Discrepancy Formula" (Page 29)

"Warning: The Mark Penalty" (Page 30)

"Perceptual Disabilities Are Included Under LD" and "Learning Disabilities: Often Defined by Exclusion" (Page 30)

Your Game Plan

Here is your game plan. First, read the statute about "Evaluations, Eligibility, IEPs, and Placements" (Pages 59-66) This includes more of Pete’s commentary.

Next, read the IDEA Regulations, including "Procedures for Evaluation and Determination of Eligibility" and "Additional Procedures for Evaluating Children with Specific Learning Disabilities." (Pages 189-191)

You should definitely read Appendix A of the regulations. Appendix A includes a comprehensive discussion of the parental role in decisions about their child’s individualized education program (Pages 209-224).

You will find the IDEA Regulations, including Appendix A, on the Wrightslaw site:


You will find an overview of the IDEA statute at -


Search Wrightslaw

If you are researching a legal issue, you can search Wrightslaw for articles, references and cases. We had a question about whether a child with ADD/ADHD was eligible for special education services. You could begin a search using the terms "Eligibility" and "Attention Deficit Disorder."

A search using the term "eligibility" brought up 28 items. A search using the term "Attention Deficit Disorder" brought up 41 items. A search using both terms netted 5 articles, including --

From Emotions to Advocacy: The Parent’s Journey

Understanding Tests and Measurements for the Parent and Advocate

Final IDEA Regulations

Final IDEA Regulations is very long. I went to the toolbar at the top of the page (using Netscape Navigator) and clicked "Edit," then "Find in Page." When I typed in "ADD," the program found a statement about eligibility of the ADD child under the "other health impairment" category.

You can start a "search" from a main page of the Wrightslaw site:


Or the Law Library

Or the Advocacy Library

Good luck!

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