Government Reminds Schools: Evaluate Kids With ADHD for the Services They Need

Many kids with ADHD have academic and behavioral challenges at school. And in many cases, it’s because they’re not getting the services they need to help them learn.

That’s a problem, according to a recent Dear Colleague letter from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education. “The failure to provide needed services,” the letter states, “can result in serious social, emotional, and educational harm to the students involved.”

Over the last five years, the OCR has received about 2,000 complaints of discrimination against students with ADHD. That’s one of out of every nine disability complaints it receives. The OCR has looked into these complaints. And it has found that many students with ADHD aren’t being evaluated and aren’t getting services.

The letter reminds schools that they must evaluate students who need services because of their ADHD. Schools must provide services based on need, not cost. And they can’t rely on “stereotypes or generalized misunderstanding” of ADHD.

Along with the letter, the OCR has provided an extensive resource guide. It covers ADHD and Section 504, the federal law that prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities. The guide lays out how to identify and evaluate kids with ADHD, and how to serve them. And it’s full of practical examples.

Here’s why the guide is so helpful:

The guide also takes on a major misconception. It makes clear that even if a student with ADHD is doing well academically, he may still need—and be entitled to—help. For instance, kids with ADHD may need specialized instruction on organization. This includes learning skills like note-taking and starting multi-step projects.

Advocates are applauding the letter. “We’re very pleased,” says Lindsay Jones, vice president and chief policy and advocacy officer of Understood founding partner the National Center for Learning Disabilities. “This guidance letter and the real-world examples it gives will help parents and educators better understand the rights children with ADHD have under Section 504.”

About the author

About the author

The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.