Are kids with attention issues like covered under IDEA?
Yes, a child with attention issues might be eligible to receive help in school under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). But — and this is a big “but” — only if the student’s attention issues meet that law’s standards for a qualifying disability. This includes determining that the disability adversely impacts the child’s educational performance.
This means that to qualify for an Individualized Education Program (), the school evaluation team would need to agree that your child’s attention issues impact their ability to learn and to demonstrate what they know in school.
It’s important to note that IDEA includes 13 categories of disabilities. One of these categories is called “specific learning disabilities.” ADHD is covered under a different category, called “other health impairment.”
There are several steps you can take to find out if your child is eligible for special education services and supports under IDEA. First, it’s a good idea to speak with your child’s teachers and let them know about your concerns. Ask them if your child has trouble staying focused in the classroom.
You may also want to mention your concerns and gather feedback from people who interact with your child outside of the classroom. This might include people like a soccer coach or a guitar teacher. It’s also a good idea to mention your concerns to your child’s doctor.
Keep an observation log about how your child behaves at home. For example, how long does it take your child each day to do their homework? How often does your child get distracted? How much prompting does your child need from you to stay on task?
Gathering information about your child’s behavior at home, at school, and in other settings can be very helpful. It can help you understand whether your child’s issues with attention happen only at home or if they happen in many places. Your notes can help you notice behavior patterns and look for strategies that can help.
If the information you gather leads you to believe that your child’s attention issues occur frequently and are impacting their performance in school, then you might be ready to request an evaluation.
There are a few things you can do to help during the evaluation. You may want to give the school information about your child’s attention issues that you gathered from a doctor, a therapist, or other medical provider. You may also want to share your notes about what you’ve been observing at home.
After the evaluation, you’ll get to meet with the person who conducted the testing as well as your child’s teachers and other school staff. This is when the team will discuss whether your child meets IDEA’s standard for “other health impairment.” If your child qualifies for services, then you’ll work with the school to develop your child’s IEP.
You may also want to look into 504 plans. These can be a great way to help kids with attention issues who don’t qualify for an IEP.
About the author
About the author
Lindsay Jones, JD is chief executive officer of the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).