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The ADHD Child: At Risk in School

"Nowhere is your ADHD child at greater risk than in the classroom where
he or she may be viewed as simply irresponsible or lazy."

In my advocacy work, I've found that one of the biggest roadblocks to an ADHD child's education is lack of public awareness about the special needs of the child. The general public continues to find it difficult to believe that behaviors could result from an incompetency rather than from noncompliance. After all, so many of these children are so bright!

You as a parent must be alert to such vocal signals and be ready to intervene and sort out with school administrators whether symptoms are indeed a result of ADHD and/or other disabilities.

If your child's behavior continues to be seen as a "noncompliance problem", it can result in an inappropriate referral to the juvenile justice system. Once in the system, the child isn't afforded the rights that protect adults. However, safeguards can be installed that will protect a student from inappropriate, reactive responses.

Looking Out For Your Child

Advocating for your child with ADHD involves not only a good grasp of the disability, but also a basic understanding of effective advocacy tools and techniques. It's also essential to learn the basic protections afforded your ADHD child under the law.

While not all children with ADHD necessarily qualify for services, they're all protected under the 504 Rehabilitation Act. This law prevents discrimination against a person with a disability, when a disability impacts one of life's major activities, one of which is learning. This law basically says that any child with a disability shall have access to any activity in which nondisabled peers participate in.

If your child has a disability that requires special intervention with special education services then your child would also be covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA.

The internet is a wonderful resource to discover what the law really says and what it means for your child. In particular, Pete and Pam Wright at Wrightslaw have extensive help for parents in the areas of law and advocacy. You need to understand the protections for our children written into the reauthorized special education law, IDEA. Finally, the law is not ambiguous in regard to ADHD.

You should obtain a copy of your state's special education regulations, which, at the minimum, must meet federal regulations. There are plenty of websites that will give you a good grasp of special education law, as well as other pertinent information.

Advocacy Techniques

I'm not a lawyer and do not dispense legal advice. For legal advice, you'll need to shop for a lawyer who is well versed in special education law. No matter what path you take you will need to use the tools of documentation that we shall discuss.

I am happy to share the advocacy techniques I've assembled through trial and error, and which have proven successful.

Team Effort & Communication

It truly takes a real team effort to help a child struggling with ADHD. Effective communication is an absolute must. All team members must be on the same wavelength. Parents must make every effort to help build that team effort. They should also know what they must do if that effort is not forthcoming.

Always keep in mind that the spirit of the law is just as important as the letter of the law. Your child is entitled to a free, appropriate, public education.

Every child is special. Every child has unique gifts and talents. Every child is entitled to reach his or her potential. You, as the parent, are to be regarded as the expert on your child. You should be treated as a valued member of the education team.

Here are some terms you need to understand to be a better advocate for your child.

You must also keep excellent documentation of everything that transpires between you and the school.

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