A Parent’s Guide to School Accommodations and ADHD

Navigating school accommodations can be difficult if you are not prepared. Things like trying to learn and understand what a 504 or IEP are can feel like you are studying for the SAT’s 20 years after high school. One of our Pediatricians, Dr. Sheila Woods, has created this wonderful guide for parent’s. This is broken down into very basic and straightforward step that we ask you follow.

This can be a very emotional and trying time for a family and it is imperative that you remain level-headed and focused so that you can produce the best possible result and options for your child and your family.

  1. If you are worried about your child’s education being impaired by his/her attention problems please begin a conversation with your child’s teacher.  Always be respectful and seek their opinion.
  2. No matter how cordial your discussions are with school officials, it’s always a good idea to save and organize all papers.  Make copies of all correspondence and record the details of every meeting and phone conversation (dates, times, what was discussed, who was present, and so on). Put everything in a binder/folder, along with report cards, test scores, doctor’s evaluations, every note sent home by the teacher, and copies of your responses.
  3. Write a letter requesting a meeting to see if your ADHD child might benefit from academic accommodations.  Address the letter to the Director of Special Education Services.You want to ask for the director of special education at the school and the person in charge of psycho-educational testing at the school.

It can be a waste of time to send the letter to the child’s teachers, guidance counselor, or principal who then has to re-route the letter.  Send your letter by certified mail or hand-deliver it and keep a dated proof of receipt.

  1. The school-sponsored evaluation is conducted by a multidisciplinary team — including special-education teachers, the school psychologist, and other professionals. As part of the process, they’ll want to meet with you to learn more about how your child functions in school.  You will find having your own list of your child’s present level of functioning will be helpful.  Suggested categories are: Academic, Behavioral, Developmental, Motor, Speech/Language, Social, Self-help.
  2. Members of the team will review your child’s academic records, conduct a behavioral assessment, and observe him/her in the classroom. Following the assessment, you will discuss the results with the evaluation team and together you will decide whether your child needs special-education services to address how ADHD impacts his/her ability to learn.  This plan is called an Individualized Education Plan or IEP and there are legal requirements for what is included.
  3. Make sure the IEP spells out exactly how the school will help your child meet his goals, which should be specific, measurable, and achievable.

Include time limits: “By month three, James will reduce his interruptions from 10 per day to 2 per day.” The IEP should explain exactly how James will be taught to stop interrupting. Unless the strategies are specified, there’s no way for teachers to implement them.  Parents may need to be assertive.

  1. Section 504 covers ADHD kids who do not qualify for an IEP under IDEA*, but who need extra help in the classroom. The law prohibits schools from discriminating against students because of physical and mental impairments. Just as the school must provide ramps for kids in wheelchairs, it must make modifications such as preferential seating, extra time on tests, or help with note taking for kids with brain-based learning barriers.  The 504 Plan is a written list of accommodations that must be followed at all times.  There are no legal requirements about what should be included in a 504 Plan unlike the IEP.  Some examples of common accommodations include:
    1. Preferential seating-for example, in front of class
    2. Using a tape recorder/computer in the classroom
    3. Using another student’s notes
    4. Extended time on test
    5. Test administered in a separate quiet area
    6. Test read to student
    7. Test taken orally

*Two federal laws provide for free, public special education services: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act.

*IDEA covers kids with very specific conditions, including mental retardation, emotional disturbances, hearing impairments, and speech and language difficulties.  Kids may qualify for coverage if they frequently have one of these problems in addition to attention deficit. Some qualify under another IDEA category: Other Health Impairments.  IDEA defines “other health impairment” as “having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that a) is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome: and b) adversely affects a child’s education performance.” [34 Code of Federal Regulations §300.8© (10)


5 responses to “A Parent’s Guide to School Accommodations and ADHD

  1. I am just starting this journey with my recently diagnosed son. Chad is 12 and it seems that only his close family and friends know how clever he is. In school he suffers so much just trying to get a grasp on what is expected of him. He gets himself so wound up that he experiences debilitating stomach pains. Right now – I’m just trying to get his school counselor to call me back!!! Nice…. wish me luck!

    • Hi Glenna, Your son sounds like a wonderful boy! There was recently an article on Additude (see below) that talked about change and adapating that might help. Clever, funny, witty are all wonderful charecteristics that need to be fostered but also need to be in a time or place that is appropriate. I was speaking to a counselor yesterday who gave a great example; she had a very witty child about your sons age and he would make some pretty funny comments but in the middle of class. She encouraged him and his family to have him prepare a 5 minute routine every week that he had to put on, I thought this was such a clever idea.

      If he is having trouble grasping things he may also have an auditory or visual processing issue or working memory issue which can sometimes appear in conjunction with ADHD.There are evaluations that will test for this.

      Best of luck and try working through the teacher via email first about what your concerns are and some things that you may have tried at home that have worked also address where he is struggeling and how you can help the teacher reinforce things that are happening in the classroom at home. Working with the teacher and supporting them can help you get to the counselor.


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