Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often face academic and social challenges that affect their development and quality of life. The good news is there is government assistance available. The bad news is that parents must be proactive in obtaining it, as it is not easily found. “Many children with ADHD/ADD do not receive the services they are entitled to, and parents are often unaware of the assistance their child should be receiving,” says David Rabiner, Ph.D., an associate professor at Harvard University and author of “Attention Research Update.”
Individual Education Plan
Children with ADHD were not granted special rights in public schools until 1991, unless they also had another verifiable learning disability. However, today they may qualify for special education services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. To obtain an individualized education plan (IEP), students must have a physical health problem that causes challenges with learning. ADHD qualifies as “Other Health Impaired.”
Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. A 504 plan differs from an IEP because it does not require a physical disability. It also includes mental impairments that negatively affect learning. 504 plans require adjustments in education requirements that relate specifically to the child’s needs, such as allowing extra time to complete assignments and tests and other classroom modifications.
Social Security disability may be available for children with ADHD if the child also has a co-morbid physical impairment. According to ADDitude magazine, 50 percent of children with ADHD have a co-morbid disorder or disability. These include mood and anxiety disorders, which can qualify for Social Security. Parents will have to provide medical evidence that the impairments are severely affecting the child’s development.
No Child Left Behind
Children with ADHD often suffer a learning disability as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a 2004-2006 study that only 5 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD did not also have a learning disability. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires assessment standard in schools. If parents request in writing that their children be tested to determine if they qualify for assistance, the school must provide the testing at no cost to the parent.
Programs and laws vary from state to state. The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities provides state-specific information on its website (see References).