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Are all Children with ADHD Eligible for Special Education?


 “If life is a race, you have to run. Staying still is not progress.  It does not matter if others get distracted and do not focus on the race.”

Students who suffer ADHD as if literally live their everyday lives according to that saying.  We know that the typical features of ADHD are “inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.”  But ADHD has various severity.  For some students, it is completely debilitating, requiring extensive accommodations and other interventions. Other students are more successful at managing their ADHD and have little trouble in the regular classroom.

The American Psychiatric Association states in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, 2013) that 5% of children have ADHD. Among children (age 2-5) with ADHD, parents reported that just under 9 out of 10 children received school support at some point in their lives, which includes school accommodations and help in the classroom.

(Read ADHD Complete Data and Statistics here)

ADDitude highlighted that “IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education in March, 1999, make it clear that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is included in the list of conditions that could render a child eligible for special education services. However, according to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), ALL CHILDREN WITH ADHD CLEARLY ARE NOT ELIGIBLE under Part B to receive special education and related services — just as all children who have one or more of the other conditions listed under the “other health impairment” category are not necessarily eligible.”


When would an ADHD student qualify for special services under IDEA?


A 1991 memorandum from the U. S. Department of Education to chief state school officers describes when a student might qualify for special education services under IDEA. According to the memo, children with ADHD may be eligible for services under the following categories, depending on their unique characteristics and identified educational needs:

  • Other health impairment

Children with ADHD may meet eligibility criteria for the “other health impairment”; category when their “heightened alertness to environmental stimuli… results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment,” impairing school performance.

  • Specific learning disability

IDEA defines learning disability as a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding and using language that impairs the ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. Children with ADHD may be eligible for special education in this category if they have coexisting learning disabilities.

  • Emotional disturbance

Children with ADHD sometimes have coexisting emotional and mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, behavior disorders, anxiety disorders, or depression, that can adversely affect educational performance and make them eligible for special education services.

  • Developmental delay

Children with ADHD often seem immature for their age – lagging behind peers up to 30 percent – and have been found to score below average on tests used to identify developmental delays. These results are consistent with neurological findings that are leading researchers to view ADHD as neurodevelopmental disorder.

Children with disabilities — including ADHD — who are determined not to be eligible for special education services under IDEA may still be protected and served under two other federal laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The Office for Civil Rights in the U. S. Department of Education enforces the provisions of Section 504 and Title II of the ADA with respect to school districts, while the Department of Education administers IDEA.

(View full article of the source here)


Teaching Students with ADHD

(As published in helpguide.org)

Sit still. Listen quietly. Pay attention. Follow instructions. Concentrate. These are the very things kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) have a hard time doing—not because they aren’t willing, but because their brains won’t let them. That doesn’t make teaching them any easier, of course.


Common challenges created by students with ADHD:

  • They demand attention by talking out of turn or moving around the room
  • They have trouble following instructions, especially when they’re presented in a list, and with operations that require ordered steps, such as long division or solving equations.
  • They often forget to write down homework assignments, do them, or bring completed work to school.
  • They often lack fine motor control, which makes note-taking difficult and handwriting a trial to read.
  • They usually have problems with long-term projects where there is no direct supervision.
  • They don’t pull their weight during group work and may even keep a group from accomplishing its task.


What can teachers do to help children with ADHD?

Successful programs for children with ADHD integrate the following three components:

  1. Accommodation
  2. Instruction
  3. Intervention

Classroom accommodations for students with ADHD

  • Seat the student with ADHD away from windows and away from the door.
  • Put the student with ADHD right in front of your desk unless that would be a distraction for the student.
  • Seats in rows, with focus on the teacher, usually work better than having students seated around tables or facing one another in other arrangements.
  • Create a quiet area free of distractions for test-taking and quiet study.
Information delivery
  • Give instructions one at a time and repeat as necessary.
  • If possible, work on the most difficult material early in the day.
  • Use visuals: charts, pictures, color coding.
  • Create outlines for note-taking that organize the information as you deliver it.
Student work
  • Create worksheets and tests with fewer items, give frequent short quizzes rather than long tests, and reduce the number of timed tests.
  • Test students with ADHD in the way they do best, such as orally or filling in blanks.
  • Divide long-term projects into segments and assign a completion goal for each segment.
  • Accept late work and give partial credit for partial work.
  • Have the student keep a master binder with a separate section for each subject, and make sure everything that goes into the notebook is put in the correct section. Color-code materials for each subject.
  • Provide a three-pocket notebook insert for homework assignments, completed homework, and “mail” to parents (permission slips, PTA flyers).
  • Make sure the student has a system for writing down assignments and important dates and uses it.
  • Allow time for the student to organize materials and assignments for home. Post steps for getting ready to go home.


Teaching techniques for students with ADHD

Starting a lesson
  • Signal the start of a lesson with an aural cue, such as an egg timer, a cowbell or a horn. (You can use subsequent cues to show how much time remains in a lesson.)
  • Establish eye contact with any student who has ADHD.
  • List the activities of the lesson on the board.
  • In opening the lesson, tell students what they’re going to learn and what your expectations are. Tell students exactly what materials they’ll need.
Conducting the lesson
  • Keep instructions simple and structured. Use props, charts, and other visual aids.
  • Vary the pace and include different kinds of activities. Many students with ADHD do well with competitive games or other activities that are rapid and intense. Many students with ADHD do well with competitive games or other activities that are rapid and intense.
  • Have an unobtrusive cue set up with the student who has ADHD, such as a touch on the shoulder or placing a sticky note on the student’s desk, to remind the student to stay on task.
  • Allow a student with ADHD frequent breaks and let him or her squeeze a rubber ball or tap something that doesn’t make noise as a physical outlet.
  • Try not to ask a student with ADHD perform a task or answer a question publicly that might be too difficult.
Ending the lesson
  • Summarize key points.
  • If you give an assignment, have three different students repeat it, then have the class say it in unison, and put it on the board.
  • Be specific about what to take home.


(For more of this helpful guide please visit full article here)





It is challenging to teach students with ADHD, and we know for sure that the students who suffer without proper guidance have the same level of difficulty overcoming  ADHD.  It’s like being in the race without a goal, or a guide and winning is questionable.  But do you know that there are successful and famous people who win the battle of ADHD?


Like Michael Phelps, he can claim the title of greatest swimmer ever.  Phelps is the most decorated Olympian, with 28 Olympic medals, including a record 23 golds. In total — as of fall 2017 — Phelps has won 82 medals in international competition (including the Olympics), 65 gold, 14 silver, and 3 bronze. His career medals record may never be broken.


As a child and teen, Phelps was plagued with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). His mother, Debbie Phelps, played a crucial role in helping her son with his ADHD challenges during his childhood.


(Discover the other 9 Famous Personalities with ADHD here?)


We are not affiliated with any organizations mentioned in this article.  But we admire their advocacies in guiding educators succeed in helping and teaching students with ADHD.  We believe that with your guidance as an educator, someday, one day students with ADHD will run with a focus on defined goals, conquering each struggle and distraction, and will ACE the RACE! Who knows? Your student might be the next Michael Phelps of their generation.