Is a Child with ADD/ADHD Eligible for Special Education?
son has ADD. Our doctor told us to request special education services
from the school. When we made this request, the school said he is passing
so he is not eligible for special ed. I am confused!"
Many readers write to ask if children with disabilities, including children
with ADD/ADHD, are eligible for special education services. For
many, the answer is a clear "Yes!" For others, the answer is a clear "No!"
This is why we tell parents and educators that "YOU
need to read the law for yourself – you may need to read it several times
– until YOU understand what the law says and does not say. Do not rely
on someone else’s interpretation of the law – you will often be misinformed
If you have our book, Wrightslaw:
Special Education Law, you can read the statute and regulations
and Pete’s commentary and analysis of these issues. Most of this information
is also available in the IDEA
2004 section of Wrightslaw.
A Disability Does Not Automatically Qualify a Child for Special Education Services
A child with a disability is not automatically eligible for special education and related services under IDEA. The key phrase is "who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services."
Does the child's disability adversely affect educational performance? To be eligible for a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA, the child must have a disability and must need special education and related services. (see pages 20-21 in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law)
For the legal definition of a "Child with a Disability," see pages 20-21, 49-50, 193-194 in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law or go to the Law & Regulations section of IDEA 2004 and read the definitions in Section 1401.
If the child
has a disability but does not need special education services, 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. To learn more about Section 504, read Chapter 7 in Wrightslaw:
Special Education Law.
Children with Other Health Impairment & Learning Disabilities
Most children who have ADD/ADHD are found eligible under the "Other Health Impairment" or "Specific Learning Disabilities" categories.
The legal definition of "Other Health Impairment means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that ... is due to chronic or acute health problems such as ... attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ..." (See regulation 300.8(c)(9), Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, page 194)
The legal definition of "Specific Learning Disability" did not change under IDEA 2004. (See regulation 300.8(c)(10), Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, page 194)
What About Dyslexia?
Schools often tell parents that they are not required to provide special education services to children who have dyslexia. Is this true?
Open Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition and turn to page 55. Scroll down to (30) Specific Learning Disability.
Under (30) Specific Learning Disability is (B) Disorders Included.
Do you see "dyslexia" listed? Yep! It's right after minimal brain dysfunction, the term used in the 1970's term for what we now refer to as "Attention Deficit Disorder." In fact, "dyslexia" has always been listed as a specific learning disability in the law.
Do you see why we tell parents and teachers that they must learn how to find answers to their question in the law - and not rely on what others tell them?
Eligibility of Children who May Have Specific Learning Disabilites
Congress changed the requirements for eligibility and evaluations of children who may have specific learning disabilities. Schools "shall not be required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability ..." to find a child eligible for special education services. (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, page 21, page 95-98, 240-245).
Discrepancy v. Response to Intervention Models
In IDEA 2004: Specific Learning Disabilities: Discrepancy v. Response to Intervention Models, we look at response to intervention or response to instruction (RTI) models, discrepancy models, and how the changes in IDEA 2004 may affect millions of children who have been identified with specific learning disabilities.
the IDEA 2004 statute about "Evaluations, Eligibility, IEPs, and Placements"
(Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, pages 92-107), including Pete’s extensive commentary.
the IDEA Regulations about "Evaluations and Reevaluations" and "Additional Procedures for Evaluating Children with
Specific Learning Disabilities." (Wrightslaw:
Special Education Law, pages 240-245)
Read the Commentary to the IDEA regulations. Here is a link to the Commentary about parental consent, eligibility, IEPs and Placements. Topics in the Commentary
the U. S. Department of Education published a Joint
Memorandum about Services to Children with ADD/ADHD. This Memorandum
answers questions about eligibility under the existing categories of IDEA,
and the school's responsibility to provide services under IDEA or Section
504 of the Rehabilitation Act. You may find answers to your questions
in this Memorandum.
1992, the Office of Civil Rights published a Memorandum:
Evaluation of Children Who May Have ADD/ADHD, clarifying that schools
must evaluate children who are suspected of having ADD based
on parental request:
Section 504, if parents believe their child has a disability, whether
by ADD or any other impairment, and the LEA has reason to believe the
child needs special education or related services, the LEA must evaluate
the child to determine whether he or she is disabled as defined by
Section 504 . . ." Read OCR
Memorandum: Evaluation of Children Who May Have ADD/ADHD.
Spend Time on Wrightslaw
find dozens of articles, cases, references and other info about ADD/ADHD,
legal disabilities, discipline, and parent advocacy on the Wrightslaw
site. How can you find this information?
1. The ADD/ADHD page has dozens of useful articles and resources.
Every page on the Wrightslaw site has a search box. To
find information about eligibility of a child with ADD/ADHD,
you could search using the terms "Eligibility" and "Attention Deficit
Disorder." A recent search came up with these articles:
Emotions to Advocacy: The Parent’s Journey
Tests and Measurements for the Parent and Advocate
To search the regulations page, go to the toolbar at the top of the IDEA
click "Edit," then "Find in Page" or "Find Next," and type "ADD."
You will find information about eligibility and the ADD child under the
"other health impairment" category.
Pete & Pam Wright