School Removes “Primary Diagnosis” from IEP – What Happens Now?

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My child entered special ed with autism / ADHD classifications.  Now the school wants to remove the primary diagnosis of autism from the IEP – to focus on the ADHD.  Why?

If there is documentation from your doctors that your child has autism along with the ADHD, it should not be ignored.

  • What documentation or data does the school have to justify this decision?
  • Is your child’s autism no longer impacting his ability to learn?
  • Are there no behaviors that are impeding learning?

I understand that once a child is found eligible, services must be designed to meet their unique needs, and that the designation is not supposed to matter.

IDEA requires that the school assess your child in all areas of suspected disability so the IEP Team can develop a program and services designed to meet his unique needs. (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 20 U.S.C. 1414(b) p. 96 and 34 CFR 300.304, p. 241)

If the school will not acknowledge a learning disability, they will not provide services for the learning disability.

Individualizing Your Child’s Program

There is NO justification for limiting eligibility categories.

This limitation flies in the face of the requirement to individualize your child’s educational program so it meets ALL of your child’s needs.

The school appears to be misrepresenting the eligibility options under the IDEA.

If there is evidence for a qualifying category, your school district must consider eligibility for this category.

More than likely, the school wants to remove autism from the IEP because ADHD is a less severe diagnosis. The district may hope that it will be less expensive for them to provide services for just ADHD, rather than autism.


If your child is currently struggling more with ADHD concerns right now, the district may claim an IEP is adequate for the present.

However, he may still have needs uniquely related to his autism. Reducing services now will mean you have little protection for the future.

What will you do in the future if one disability is no longer found to be an eligibility category? When all disabilities are listed, they are less likely to be overlooked in future.

Put Your Concerns in Writing

Restate what the school told you.  Have them confirm why, in writing.

You may want to consider a DOE complaint.

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4 Comments on "School Removes “Primary Diagnosis” from IEP – What Happens Now?"

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One possible reason the district may be considering changing your child’s primary disability is because of the similarities between autism and ADHD. Depending on how early the diagnoses were made, it may have been difficult to provide a differential diagnosis between the two, and an incorrect diagnosis may have been made. As time goes on, language becomes more developed and social interaction becomes more demanding, and a clearer diagnosis often becomes possible. It may be that the district staff are not seeing signs of autism, and are instead seeing signs and symptoms of ADHD. If their observations are correct, this may actually be good news because it may mean that the initial diagnosis of autism was incorrect. This can be confirmed by thorough autism assessments, like the ADOS.

No one person can make a decision about a child’s IEP. This must be a team decision and YOU are apart of that team!

This happened to us with all of our children, all concerning their autism diagnoses. Ohio has an autism scholarship and our school district refused to consider that disability category. It took everything leading up to due process for our district to relent and give our children the help they needed! Yes we prevailed, but it was time consuming and very expensive, but so worth it! Just keep on fighting!

Happened to my son. School chose the easier diagnosis, and exited him from special ed. Nothing could persuade them to provide services. We eventually placed privately at our expense when it became clear that the delay was damaging our son. My District clearly had prior experience in doing this and they called in the folks that they use for difficult cases, and dragged things out for 4 years.