Children with ADHD, Special Education and IEP

I have spent the last two posts addressing specific issues of identifying and determining eligibility for children ADHD.  In this post, I will address the evaluation process for determining eligibility for children with ADHD.  As you may remember, Section 504 does not require your child meet the more strident eligibility requirements of the IDEA.   In brief, Section 504 eligibility is based on whether your child has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.  The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights has recently issued a memorandum on the process for identifying and determining eligibility for a child suspected of having ADHD under Section 504. In other words, it is generally easier for the child to be determined eligible under Section 504 for reasonable accommodations than under the IDEA.  This Act requires ADHD have an adverse affect on the child’s education performance and a showing the child will benefit from special education and related services.

Some school systems will perform a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation of your child to determine his or her eligibility under Section 504.  Many will not. These school systems will simply accept a letter or report from a physician stating that your child is diagnosed with ADHD/ADD and that he or she needs accommodations at school to target his educational needs. This may sound like the more simple and easy process to secure Section 504 eligibility for your child. It is. But it has it short falls.   The biggest problem is when you merely provide the school system with a physician’s letter or report, it may not really address what are your child’s needs for reasonable accommodations. Most physicians are not well versed in special education. They do not fully understand what school systems are required to do for children with ADAD.  They do not fully understand behavior management techniques, for example, or what are behavior intervention plans.  They do not fully understand what educational methodologies and teaching strategies are appropriate for children with ADHD.  Without specific diagnostic and testing  information from a clinical psychologist or school psychologist, the school system may fail to provide what are appropriate accommodations for your child with ADHD. I have received many phone calls from distraught parents who complain the school system is not providing reasonable accommodations for their child with ADHD or that the accommodations are not addressing their child’s educational, academic and behavioral needs under the Section 504 plan.  These are just a few of the most glaring problems of not providing the school system with an independent  comprehensive  evaluation of your child or not requesting the school system to extensively assess your child to determine his need for special education under Section 504 or the IDEA.

Let me jump to what is the role of a clinical psychologist or school psychologist in assessing and testing your child for ADHD. Aside from intelligence tests, achievement tests, behavior tests and checklists, and adaptive behavior tests and checklist that should be parts of the battery of tests that administered to any child that is evaluated by the school system,  there is more to the assessment process for children suspected of having ADHD or ADD.   Let me outline how school systems might assess your child with ADHD.

  1. Psychologist’s Role in Assessment of ADD

 Use of Tests

 Intellectual functioning

1. Intellectual functioning

2. Academic achievement

3 Perceptual skills – visual motor ability, memory

4. Tests to measure self-esteem, depression, anxiety, family stress

5. Tests to measure executive functioning

Type of Tests for ADD

 Gordon Diagnostic System

  • Tests of Variables of Attention (T.O.V.A.)
  • Conners Continuous Performance Test

Psychologists  collect  information  from teachers   completing  behavior  rating   scales observation of child at school and at home.

Most rating scales used to assess ADD provide standardized scores related to attention span, self-control, learning ability, hyperactivity, aggression, social behavior, anxiety:

  • Connors Teacher Rating Scale (CTRS)
  • Connors Parent Rating Scale (CPRS)
  • ADD-H: Comprehensive Teacher Rating Scale
  • ADHD Rating Scale
  • Child Rating Scale
  • Child Behavior checklist
  • Home Situations Questionnaires
  • School Situations Questionnaires
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Evaluation Scale
  • Academic Performance Rating Scale (ARPS)

School’s Role in assessment should be school-based behavior rating scales, teacher interviews, review of a students cumulative records, analysis of test scores, and direct observation of the student in the class.

  1. Clinical Assessment
  • Continuous Performance Test (CPT)    measures the child’s ability to sustain attention and inhibit impulsive responding.
  • Matching Familiar Figures Test (MFFT) – standardized test of children’s cognitive processing  ADD children tend to exhibit a “fast-inaccurate tempo” by a high number of errors and shorter response latencies.
  • Delay Test (GDS) – test of child’s ability to delay responding under appropriate circumstances.

These suggestions for assessment of your child with ADHD are not exclusive. In other words, psychologists and school examiners may use other assessments and tests which are valid and reliable for the purpose of determining your child’s eligibility for ADHD. What I am suggesting is that you speak and meet with a clinical psychological or school examiner before your child is assessed to determine the scope of testing and what instruments may be used to determine your child’s eligibility under Section 504 or the IDEA.  Be prepared. Ask questions.  In this way, it is more likely the special education program and services developed for your child with ADHD will be successful and productive.