Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder. Children with ADHD often have difficulty learning in traditional educational settings. Therefore, schools and other programs that receive federal funding are required to evaluate students and provide accommodations that will provide an appropriate learning environment.
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, several benefits may be available.
The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder, as a protected disability.
Parents have the right to request a formal learning evaluation through their child's school. Evaluation results may lead to the formation of an Individualized Education Plan or other accommodations.
Most children with ADHD can succeed in school through a combination of medical, therapeutic, and educational interventions.
In addition, if your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, financial benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income, may be available.
ADHD symptoms and treatment
ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood. Children with ADHD may show any combination of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Frequent movement.
- Makes careless mistakes.
- Difficulty taking turns or sharing.
- Interrupting others.
- Overly talkative.
This list is not complete by any means. However, children must display behaviors both at school and at home to support the diagnosis.
Once diagnosed, ADHD treatment often includes medication and age-appropriate behavior therapy. Accommodations at school can also be part of your child's overall treatment plan. However, with appropriate support and treatment, most children with ADHD can manage their symptoms and succeed at home and in the classroom.
Is ADHD a disability?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder protected by several federal laws, including the following:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes ADHD as a protected disability. It requires schools and workplaces to provide reasonable accommodations and prohibits discrimination.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to identify and evaluate students for learning disabilities, including ADHD. Special education services fall under this law.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits disability discrimination in programs that receive federal funds. Under this law, children with disabilities are entitled to free appropriate public education (FAPE), meaning that public schools must provide reasonable accommodations to educate based on the child's abilities.
Educational benefits and accommodations
School teachers are often the first people to suspect ADHD in children entering the school system. As a result, public schools are required to identify, evaluate, and provide special education to children with identified needs.
An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is one-way schools meet IDEA requirements. Individualized Education Plans identify resources and accommodations to help children be successful in the classroom. Some children with ADHD do not have severe enough symptoms to qualify for an IEP, but they may be entitled to other accommodations under Section 504.
Some examples of accommodations include:
- Untimed tests, or the option to take tests without other students in the room.
- Seats located at the front of the class to minimize distractions.
- Homework modifications.
ADHD evaluation at school
If you are concerned about your child's behavior or school performance, the first step is to request a formal written evaluation. Each school district has processes based on local, state, and federal laws. Parents may also seek evaluations outside of the school district. An evaluation may include:
- Psychological and educational testing.
- Behavior analysis.
- Other services, such as occupational therapy.
After the evaluation is complete, your school will share the results. The school will work with you to create an IEP if the assessment identifies a learning disability. However, even if the evaluation does not determine a formal learning disability, your child may still qualify for reasonable accommodations under Section 504. Your child is protected if their ADHD symptoms cause an impairment that "substantially limits a major life activity." Examples of major life activities that may affect children with ADHD include learning and social development, concentrating, and reading.
Financial benefits for kids with ADHD
Financial disability benefits may be available for some children with ADHD, but your child's symptoms must meet several requirements.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers all federal financial disability claims. For people under 18, the program is called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Parents apply for this benefit on the SSI website. You will be required to submit medical documentation showing that your child's symptoms cause severe limitations on their ability to learn, concentrate, interact with others, and manage behaviors.
Many children with ADHD respond well to medical and therapeutic treatment, so it may be challenging to qualify for SSI benefits. Speak with your child's school and medical team for help before applying for financial benefits. They can help with the required documentation.
Tips for parents
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you may have questions about ways to access treatment and support that best benefits your child. Here are just a few tips to remember:
- Initiate open, honest conversations with your child's school, medical providers, and therapeutic team.
- Request formal evaluations in writing.
- Keep thorough records of all communication, evaluation results, and other medical information.
- You have the right to request appeals if you disagree with evaluation results.
- Join a support group.
Several federal laws prohibit discrimination against children diagnosed with ADHD. Therefore, schools and employers must provide reasonable accommodations to help facilitate a child's success. As a parent, you are your child's best advocate. Work with your child's education team and medical providers to implement accommodations that are best suited for your child. With the right treatment plan in place, your child can lead a happy, successful life.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is ADHD?
- U.S. Department of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- Social Security Administration. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Children.
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. School Services for Children with Special Needs: Know Your Rights.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Your Rights Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
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- U.S. Department of Labor. Employers and the ADA: Myths and Facts.