Three Laws to Support ADHD Students

School can be tough for learners with ADHD. It can be challenging to keep track of assignments and follow through on projects. On top of that, it's tough to keep track of the various services available for students with ADHD. 

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Three Laws for Educational Support

There are many ways our schools can support students with ADHD, as defined by US law. These laws can be confusing, especially when we’re teaching our kids and ourselves to stand up for what they need. Here are three U.S. laws and how they can best support students of all ages with ADHD. 

Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)

IDEA is a federal law that supports children ages 3 – 21, so they can have a free and appropriate education. It ensures that those found eligible will Kids working together in classreceive special education or related services. IDEA supports students with ADHD, but only when the ADHD is so severe that a student needs an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). This can make it more difficult for children with ADHD to qualify.

To be eligible for special education services, ADHD is under IDEA’s disability category of "Other Health Impairment" (OHI). 

Quick Tips:

• Each state differs for deciding how children with ADHD are eligible for OHI services. Here in Illinois, a medical diagnosis is not required but can be helpful. ADHD can exist with other disabilities or conditions. Thus, a team needs to decide if a child is eligible under "other health impaired" or another category. 

•The IEP specifies:

• the services a student receives, according to how he or she is performing 

• annual education goals and how the school will track the student’s progress 

• special education and supplementary services 

• how the child will take standarized tests 

• how the child will take part in general education classes 

• accommodations to support how the student learns

• modifications to support what the student is taught or needs to learn

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 

If your student is having trouble in school and does not qualify for services under IDEA, he or she may be eligible under Section 504. Unlike IDEA, Section 504 is a civil rights law which covers all people with disabilities Students and Teacher smiling regardless of age, who experience limitations in their major life activities, one of which is learning. Its purpose is to stop discrimination against all people regardless of disability.  

A Section 504 Plan addresses specific accommodations and modifications to a student’s educational program (as can an IEP). It helps a student in the regular classroom setting receive a similar experience to his peers. 

Quick Tips: 

Accommodations (for both a 504 and IEP) can support a student’s learning. Examples are:

• Classroom instruction: audiotapes, calculators or computers 

• Standardized Testing: extra time to complete a test or take a test in a quiet setting 

• Other Supports: extra transition time between classes, study summaries or highlighted reading materials

Students can also receive modifications (for both a 504 and IEP). Examples are:

• Classroom instruction: shorter or less elaborate in-class assignments

• Standardized Testing: alternative methods or type of assessment

• Other Supports: tested on less material or less complex material

Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)

Like Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA) is a civil rights law, written into law in 1990, and College Students in Lecture Hall with Professor amended in 2008. It prohibits discrimination for all persons with disabilities that impacts major life activities in employment, accommodations and public services. Related to education, this means any educational facility that receives federal funding. 

Quick Tips: 

• Adult students (18+) can request supports like those listed under Section 504. These supports must not be a threat to the health or safety of others, change the curriculum, or cause undue hardship to the facility. 

Adult students are their own advocates. It's neither the parents' nor the school’s responsibility to ask for supports on behalf of the student. Students can request support from the school disabilities support center.


To sum up, three U.S. laws apllying to educational support for students with ADHD can be confusing. They are:

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which qualifies your child for an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), with annual goals, timely tracking of performance and special education and related services, accommodations and modifications 

• Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which qualifies your child for specified modifications and accommodations

Americans with Disabilities Act, Amended, for adults to request accommodations and services in a qualified educational facility 

It's useful to be aware of the differences in these laws, so you can assist your student and yourself to advocate for what you need.


If you need further assistance to see the possiblities available to you or your child, feel free to reach out to me.


 PS. Need more support to reduce overwhelm and stress and in your family?

Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about a plan you can put into place now!


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