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Should You Have an IEP for ADHD?

May 18, 2022


As parents, you’re often concerned about your children’s education, and ADHD plays a big role in their learning experience. Luckily, there are ways you can advocate for your child while they’re at school!

"Because ADHD is not a visible medical disorder people don’t understand that it is just as disabling as those that are very visible. It requires understanding and acceptance that people with ADHD need some accommodations at times to perform to their potential."1 - Anonymous

While many parents get concerned that seeking assistance at school will be detrimental by labeling their child with ADHD as disabled, it can be beneficial for them in the long run to have that specialized attention from their teachers. Depending on the magnitude of your child’s ADHD symptoms and the school, they may qualify for and IEP (individual education program). Now not every child with ADHD needs the level of assistance offered by an IEP, but if you’ve already spoken with their teachers and they are still struggling, it may be beneficial to discuss putting an IEP in place.

What exactly is an IEP? It’s a contract that “lays out the special education instruction, supports, and services a student needs to thrive in school.”2 It is created by both the parents and the school, so you have a big say in what’s included! An IEP is more closely monitored and adhered to by the school, more so than a 504, which provides additional help but better serves a student who can function in a general school environment with some accommodations.3 An IEP only applies in grades K-12 and can follow them from school to school, but what most don’t know is that it does not follow your child to college or beyond. The school can help with the transition process to college, but if you want further accommodations, they will need to be made with the university. Potential employers also cannot access school records, so having an IEP should not exclude your child from getting a job.

Many parents see the value that an IEP or 504 can bring but worry about the impact of the “disabled label” associated with such accommodation. While these are valid concerns, let’s discuss the pros and cons, so you can decide what’s the best fit for your child’s needs.

The main benefit of having an IEP is the individual attention they receive from their teachers. It can be extremely helpful for your child to receive a specialized approach to learning. They can even receive additional resources from the school if deemed necessary for their learning. If a special classroom setting would be beneficial, the class size is often smaller so the teachers can focus in more on assisting. On the other hand, it can feel isolating if a separate classroom is needed, and students can experience stigma or social ramifications. As mental health is discussed more openly in society, we do hope that these stigmas will fade with time. The more courageous we are now, the more understanding we’ll find in the future.

In the end, you know what’s best for your child, and the most important thing you can do is be an advocate for their rights and education. Speak with your school to discuss available options for your child. You’re doing a great job already!

For more information on parenting kids with ADHD, check out our series of parenting tips for various age groups.

Read Part 1

References:

[1] Zhang, J. (2021, January 10). 65 ADHD Quotes to Help You Understand It Better. Emoovio. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.emoovio.com/adhd-quotes/

[2] What Is an IEP. (n.d.). Understood. Retrieved May 18, 2022, from https://www.understood.org/en/articles/what-is-an-iep

[3] Which is better, a 504 Plan or an IEP? (2019, October 7). School Psychologist Files. Retrieved May 18, 2022, from https://schoolpsychologistfiles.com/which-is-better-a-504-plan-or-an-iep/

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