Frequently Asked Questions
- Is there a simple test to diagnose ADHD?
- I'm an adult. Doesn't ADHD only affect children?
- How is adult ADHD different from childhood ADHD?
- How common is adult ADHD?
- What is Section 504?
- My child has been diagnosed with ADHD. Is he automatically qualified for Section 504 services?
- What is FAPE under IDEA?
- The school says my child needs medication. Where do I get it?
- If I request an evaluation, does the school have to do it?
- The school says my child has ADHD. Now what?
- My child gets good grades in school. Can she still get accommodations?
- If my child has an IEP or gets special education, does she have to be in a different classroom?
- What is the difference between Section 504 and IDEA?
- What is LRE?
- My child has ADHD but doesn't qualify for an IEP. Can he still qualify under Section 504?
- What is FAPE under 504?
- Does my child need to be physically disabled to get services?
- Are Charter Schools required to follow IDEA?
Is there a simple test to diagnose ADHD?
Unfortunately, there is no simple test (like a blood test or a short written test) to determine whether someone has ADHD. This is true of many medical conditions (for example, there is no "test" for a simple headache, yet anyone who has had a headache knows that it is real).
Accurate diagnosis is made only by a trained clinician after an extensive evaluation. This evaluation should include ruling out other possible causes for the symptoms involved, a thorough physical examination, and a series of interviews with the individual (child or adult) and other key persons in the individual's life (for example, parents, spouse, teachers, and others).
I'm an adult. Doesn't ADHD only affect children?
No. Although it is most often diagnosed in children, ADHD is a lifespan disorder that affects individuals at all ages. Although there are limited data on the prevalence of ADHD in adults, it is currently believed that the condition is found in 2-4% of the adult population.
How is adult ADHD different from childhood ADHD?
Adults with ADHD may still have trouble seeing what they do that irritates others, but with age they may learn to monitor others' reactions and adjust their own behavior accordingly. They may learn to minimize the impact by creating an ADHD-friendly environment and by developing coping strategies. For example, a child who feels restless and frustrated sitting in the classroom all day may feel much better as an adult in his job. In these circumstances, behaviors that are problematic in the classroom may be adaptive on the job. An adult with ADHD can often modify his activities to suit his temperament, whereas children are forced to deal with the ADHD-challenging environment of school. Also, in adult ADHD the person who seeks treatment is most likely the person who receives it. This difference has several important implications. It means that children are more likely to be referred for problems that bother other people, such as being disruptive or defiant. Adults are more likely to come in for problems that bother them.
Adults with ADHD also may have more difficulty than children in getting objective feedback about their response to treatment. Healthcare professionals contact teachers routinely, but getting objective reports from employers can be more problematic. Often adults use their spouse or roommates for this purpose, but this only provides feedback on evening behaviors rather than daytime behaviors. Adult ADHD is almost equally divided between men and women, whereas ADHD in children is more commonly diagnosed in males. Since there is no evidence that men grow out of ADHD faster, this suggests different diagnostic patterns in the two age groups. ADHD is highly genetic, so that about one quarter of the parents of children with ADHD will have ADHD.
How common is adult ADHD?
ADHD affects about 3-7% of children, and about 4% of adults have ADHD. This means that there is likely to be about one child with ADHD in every classroom. Certain occupations draw ADHD individuals, and therefore they may be over-represented in certain professions. About 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD continue to exhibit symptoms as adults.
What is Section 504?
"Section 504" refers to the section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which guarantees certain rights to individuals with disabilities, including ADHD. This federal law states that no person "... shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance" (Sec. 504.(a)).
My child has been diagnosed with ADHD. Isn't he automatically qualified for Section 504 services?
No. Although a formal diagnosis is a good first step, it does not automatically mean your child will qualify for accommodations under Section 504. Eligibility for Section 504 is based on the existence of an identified physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. The diagnosis of ADHD is not enough; his ADHD must significantly impact his learning or behavior.
What is FAPE under IDEA?
FAPE or Free Appropriate Public Education is the provision of special education and services at public expense in accordance with an IEP designed to help the child receive educational benefit.
The school says my child needs medication. Where do I get it?
School personnel do not have the medical training necessary to tell parents to place their child on medication. We believe that it is inappropriate for individual professionals to offer advice outside their field of training, expertise, or licensing. While teachers and other school personnel play a critical role in identifying potential education problems, they are not qualified either to diagnose a medical condition or suggest specific treatments for addressing that medical condition.
In general, only a physician (M.D. or D.O.) who is properly licensed may prescribe medications used to treat ADHD (prescribing privileges are regulated by state law for other professions, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and, in one state, Ph.D. psychologists). Because ADHD is a medical condition, it should be diagnosed by a pediatrician, neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or other properly licensed mental health provider who has experience evaluating and treating individuals with ADHD. Because some symptoms of ADHD may be symptoms of other conditions, it is essential that you consult a trained professional and obtain a thorough evaluation and formal diagnosis for your child before beginning any particular course of treatment.
If I request an evaluation does the school have to do it?
No. The school is only obligated to evaluate a child if they feel there is a substantial impact on the child's learning or behavior. If the school chooses not to evaluate, then they must supply a written response explaining why they refused to evaluate.
The school says my child has ADHD. Now what?
ADHD is a medical condition and the educational staff of a school are not qualified to diagnose ADHD. If you believe your child may have symptoms of ADHD, then you should consult with your family doctor, your child's pediatrician, or other licensed medical/mental health professional who is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.
Teachers and other school personnel can play an important role by evaluating your child's learning ability and determine educational deficits. This information should be part of the comprehensive evaluation done by the medical/mental health professional.
My child gets all A's and B's in school. Can she still get accommodations?
Yes. Academic performance in and of itself is not enough to determine eligibility for services one way or another. According to the U.S. Dept. of Education's Office of Civil Rights, if the protections of §504 are to have any meaning for a qualified handicapped person of superior intelligence, then the student must be entitled to implementation of a Section 504 Accommodation Plan which allows him to achieve educational success reasonably commensurate with his ability, (cf. 27 IDLER 858).
If my child has an IEP or gets special education, does she have to be in a different classroom?
No. If your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or is receiving special education services, it does NOT automatically mean she will be placed in a special education classroom. IDEA has a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) clause, which states that children should be educated in the least restrictive environment that is still sufficient to meet their academic needs. Therefore if your child can learn in a regular education classroom then that is where the law says she should be placed.
What is the difference between Section 504 and IDEA?
Section 504 and IDEA have many differences. Perhaps the most significant difference lies in that Section 504 is designed to level the playing field, primarily by eliminating barriers that exclude individuals with disabilities where as IDEA is an education benefit law, often offering additional services and protections for those with disabilities that are not offered to those without disabilities.
Another important distinction is eligibility requirements and educational benefit. The definition of a disability is much broader under Section 504 than it is under IDEA. All IDEA students are covered by Section 504, where as not all Section 504 students are protected under IDEA. Section 504 covers all IDEA students, but IDEA does NOT cover all Section 504 students. An IEP must be tailored to the child’s unique needs and result in educational benefit. Whereas Section 504 provides accommodations based on the child’s disability and resulting weaknesses, but does not guarantee academic improvement.
Additionally, fewer procedural safeguards are offered to children and parents under Section 504 than under IDEA.
What is LRE?
LRE, or Least Restrictive Environment, is a term used to mandate that students with disabilities are placed in special classes, separate schools or positions other than regular education classrooms only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that even with aids and services education can not be achieved. The placement must also allow the disabled student to be with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible.
My child has ADHD but doesn't qualify for an IEP. Can he still qualify under Section 504?
Maybe. A child who was denied coverage under IDEA may qualify for coverage under Section 504. The key is whether or not the student's ADHD substantially impacts a major life activity.
What is FAPE under 504?
FAPE, the acronym for Free Appropriate Public Education, is the provision of regular or special education or aids and services designed to meet the educational needs of individuals with disabilities to the same extent that needs of non-disabled individuals are met.
Does my child need to be physically disabled to get services?
No. Children with mental disabilities or impairments may be eligible for services under both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504.
Are Charter Schools required to follow IDEA?
Yes, federal law requires any school receiving public dollars to provide students with disabilities educational choices comparable to those offered to non-disabled students. Charter schools can not discriminate against students with disabilities.
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