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Does My Child Qualify for Special Education and Related Services if They Have Been Diagnosed with ADHD? What if They Have Dyslexia?

Does My Child Qualify for Special Education and Related Services if They Have Been Diagnosed with ADHD? What if They Have Dyslexia?

If your child has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he or she may be eligible for an individualized education program (IEP). However, it does depend on your child's circumstances and how the symptoms of the ADHD playout with respect to their education.

Usually, when a child qualifies for an IEP due to symptoms of ADHD, they legally qualify under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) eligibility category of Other Health Impairment (OHI). This is one of thirteen different categories listed in the IDEA under which a student may qualify for an IEP.

Under the Code of Federal Regulations, OHI is defined 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:

(i) 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

(ii) Adversely affects a child's educational performance. 34 CFR 300.8

Every case is going to be different regarding whether or not a child with ADHD will qualify for an IEP. Often times we see situations where parents and school districts disagree. In that case, parents are afforded significant protections related their child's educational rights. Parents may disagree with a school district's denial of an IEP and request that an administrative law judge review the circumstances relative to the letter of the law.

What About Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental disorder which tends to impede one's ability to learn or use specific academic skills which are the foundation for other academic learning. There has been much controversy surrounding dyslexia as it relates to the IDEA and IEPs.

Typically, when a child receives a clinical diagnosis of dyslexia by DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th) standards, they will qualify for an IEP under the IDEA eligibility category of Specific Learning Disability (SLD).

The DSM-5 defines dyslexia as "...an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities." (p.67, DSM-5)

However, there are many other definitions utilized by different agencies and institutes, which may lead to some of the confusion and controversy surrounding dyslexia and the IDEA. For example, below are some additional definitions.

"Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge." [Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002. This Definition is also used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)]

"Dyslexic children and adults struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence. In fact, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often, paradoxically, are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities." -The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity

Under the IDEA eligibility category of SLD, Pursuant to 34 CFR 300.309 (a), an eligibility group may determine that a child is eligible for special education under the SLD category, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8 (c)(10), if:

1. The child does not achieve adequately for the child's age or to meet state-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the following areas, when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the child's age or state-approved grade-level standards:

Oral expression. Listening comprehension. Written expression. Basic reading skill. Reading fluency skills. Reading comprehension. Mathematics calculation. Mathematics problem-solving.

2. The child does not make sufficient progress to meet age or state-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the areas identified in 34 CFR 300.309 (a)(1) when using a process based on the child's response to scientific, research-based intervention; or

The child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, state-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined by the group to be relevant to the identification of an < SLD >, using appropriate assessments, consistent with 34 CFR 300.304 and 34 CFR 300.305 ; and

3. The group determines that its findings under 34 CFR 300.309 (a)(1) and 34 CFR 300.309 (a)(2) of this section are not primarily the result of:

A visual, hearing, or motor disability; An intellectual disability; Emotional disturbance; Cultural factors; Environmental or economic disadvantage; or Limited English proficiency.

In addition to the general evaluation requirements districts are obligated to adhere to, the IDEA establishes special evaluation procedures in order for a child to meet the eligibility criteria for SLD. 34 CFR 300.309 (a).

The bottom line is that every child is unique and presents with unique educational strengths and weaknesses. We hear many times from clients that they feel their child is very smart and capable, however, they are simply not making progress with their academics in the general education environment. Such a scenario can be very difficult on a family and can cause long term self-esteem problems and even mental health issues if the child's disabilities are not identified and remediated. If that is the case with your child, please know you are not alone and there are many resources and laws protecting your child's right to a free and appropriate public education.

Happy Valentine's Day 2018!

-Elizabeth Curtis, February 14, 2018

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