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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

  1. My son was diagnosed with autism and adhd in feb. He has an iep but the school district that he belongs to diagnosed him with emotionally destirbed at my last iep I expressed that I was uncomfortable with this diagnosis as it is not a diagnosis I feel they were qualified to make. My little guy is in 1st grade.

    I don’t want this to fallow him he has been seen by Stanford and diagnosed with autism and when I requested at his last iep that they reevaluate to change the diagnosis I was told it would take 60 days the head of special ed from the school district he belongs to disagreed with me and when I would budge he shut off his camera ? What can I do I don’t want my child depicted as something he is not

  2. What do I do if my son has been diagnosed with ADHD and ASD and has been performing well in school enough to get A’s and B’s, but this is due to my help as much as it is differentiation and the school following the IEP. During fall evaluation meeting the Case Worker mentioned declassifying at the end of the year meeting (in a week and a half). The basis for declassifying was that he has mastered the basic skills. How is this an assumption a district can make during a pandemic? What can I do as I can’t afford a lawyer? Can I get them to switch to a 504 as my concerns are just extra copies and parent notifications for organizational purposes and the ADHD makes him fly through tests and quizzes and get unnaturally low grades at times (retakes on outlier scores).

    • Shifting to a 504 plan is certainly possible & seems like a good option, if appropriate accommodations are put into the plan. I suggest starting a discussion with the Case worker now. Every district is to have a district 504 coordinator. You may want or need to approach this person at some point.

    • They must re-evaluate your child in order to dismiss. While sometimes schools try to make this an informal evaluation of data such as work samples, you have the right to request new formal testing (ie: speech eval, psych, etc) in all areas of suspected disability. I would request this before you agree to dismissing him. However, if your child is in high school, you may want to go ahead and consider a 504 plan since that is what he will need when he enters college.

  3. My son has Autism as well as ADHD. At the beginning of the pandemic (March) schools shut down and I got a call from one of his administrators who knew my son very well and suggested he go to the school that was the “home base” for the Behavioral Support Program. So of course I made the change and I have been told “there isn’t enough data” to put him in the program or get him in the self-contained class so he could be in school 4 days a week. He has been doing virtual learning and is struggling and cries out of frustration everyday. What do I need to do to get my son the education he needs.

  4. I have a student whose primary disability is Speech Language Impairment, but previous school provided 3-4 hours per day of special ed. instruction due to high academic needs (cognitive level measured in the DCD range but school didn’t qualify due to lack of parent rating on adaptive/functional scales). :Now at our school parents and student are refusing speech/language services, verbally requested that speech/language be “revoked”, but they still want the 3-4 hours a day of sped. academic support. How should this be handled?

    • If they are only eligibile for speech and the parent revokes consent for that eligiblity then the child cannot receive any special education services.

    • This is a question for the district special ed director, & school attorney. Hopefully, someone is already reaching out to them.

  5. 2020 We are going thru the same thing! Have been with our youngest for 13 years! They refuse to put disability categories and even told us lately that you can ONLY have two and that I could take of the Autism if I wanted to get SLD! I was floored! They denied her vision, deny there is a “multiple” category, and now they say if we want the health needs that we can NOT have SLD. They refuse to evaluate her and they are sitting on it all and refuse to do PWN at all. If they fill out any form like that they NEVER put why, or their reasoning or even a NO. They just go on and do whatever they want. IL is horrible, we plan to move both kids! 🙁
    We home school on top of public and last 3 years they have used my $$ and growth for her as their own! I am licensed teacher and para too!

    • Federal rules make it clear that the IEP team is to focus on the child’s needs not on the disability category. In working with the district or state education agency, this is the violation that parents can focus on. Lack of progress & goals that are not “appropriately challenging” are signs that needs are not being identified or addressed. Your state parent training & information project can assist you.

    • No, if you enroll them in another public school or reenroll them before the end date of the IEP. After that they would probably want to reevaluate them. Not sure about charter schools.

  6. What if the school has listed the impairments as a group under “other health impairments” but do not name them when the prior iep from previous school did name them each?

    • Legally, the important issue is that the IEP identify and address all of the child’s educational needs. This includes social, functional, behavioral needs.

  7. My child was diagnosed at 2 by a Developmental Pediatrician. He got help with the early intervention he required. He has I.E.P’s on him for Autism. The school has been pressuring me to move to a 504 but I said no, he is to remain on the I.E.P. As Autism has 3 tiers to the diagnosis ( the primary one which is Autism, the second is usually a behavior, and the third which will be an emotional one as of yet undetermined as he has yet to reach teen years).They lost his diagnosis paperwork. I found it all from when he was 2, to the many others in-between to his newest Doctor. They had someone come in from the District to test. 15 mins worth of a test that is said to be 30-60 mins. They want to change his diagnosis. But he has doctor notes – not just from one doctor. Can they do that?

  8. Please need help with this, my son school is treating him with specific learning disability, when he have autism and ADHD. They always put in the IEP that they call me and I’m never available when is not true. Because I only work 3 day per week. They send me the IEP by mail. I don’t know what to do and what is my rights. My son is struggling in school as never. I think the problem was that his IEP was from PR. Please help.

    • First what you do is request for an IEP meeting pronto. At the meeting say it again that you are able to talk but you work three days a week. Go over the IEP and look at your sons goals, along with accommodations and modification. I would ask to even see the data they have collected. Something tells me they have not implemented his IEP. It does not matter where the IEP is from the school has to implement it and follow it. If meeting with them gets you no where you can always request mediation or use your states office for dispute resolution. I hope this helps and I wish you and your son the best of luck!!! Remember you are his advocate so fight and fight hard for him!!!!!!!

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

    • My grandson as well. Him and his diabetic twin brother went to a small school in Wisconsin. I noticed that Oliver had some Autism traits. He went all thru this school repeating I.E.Ps, that concluded he did not have Autism. They moved to a different School district, where he was diagnosed at 11 years of age. It would break your heart to see how he cant fit in and is made fun of. If your able, don’t rely on a I.E.P, get a Doctors assessment.
      They had a rotating nurse that came to the school twice a month. My diabetic grandsons mom would have to drive there to give him shots.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Please help us defeat spam. Thank you. *