DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER
Part V of
VII Educational Options
What Are the Educational Options?
Children with ADHD have a variety of needs. Some
children are too hyperactive or inattentive to function in a regular classroom, even with
medication and a behavior management plan. Such children may be placed in a special
education class for all or part of the day. In some schools, the special education teacher
teams with the classroom teacher to meet each child's unique needs. However, most children
are able to stay in the regular classroom. Whenever possible, educators prefer to not to
segregate children, but to let them learn along with their peers.
Children with ADHD often need some special
accommodations to help them learn. For example, the teacher may seat the child in an area
with few distractions, provide an area where the child can move around and release excess
energy, or establish a clearly posted system of rules and reward appropriate behavior.
Sometimes just keeping a card or a picture on the desk can serve as a visual reminder to
use the right school behavior, like raising a hand instead of shouting out, or staying in
a seat instead of wandering around the room. Giving a child like Lisa extra time on tests
can make the difference between passing and failing, and gives her a fairer chance to show
what she's learned. Reviewing instructions or writing assignments on the board, and even
listing the books and materials they will need for the task, may make it possible for
disorganized, inattentive children to complete the work.
Many of the strategies of special education are simply
good teaching methods. Telling students in advance what they will learn, providing visual
aids, and giving written as well as oral instructions are all ways to help students focus
and remember the key parts of the lesson.
Students with ADHD often need to learn techniques for
monitoring and controlling their own attention and behavior. For example, Mark's teacher
taught him several alternatives for when he loses track of what he's supposed to do. He
can look for instructions on the blackboard, raise his hand, wait to see if he remembers,
or quietly ask another child. The process of finding alternatives to interrupting the
teacher has made him more self-sufficient and cooperative. And because he now interrupts
less, he is beginning to get more praise than reprimands.
In Lisa's class, the teacher frequently stops to ask
students to notice whether they are paying attention to the lesson or if they are thinking
about something else. The students record their answer on a chart. As students become more
consciously aware of their attention, they begin to see progress and feel good about
staying better focused. The process helped make Lisa aware of when she was drifting off,
so she could return her attention to the lesson faster. As a result, she became more
productive and the quality of her work improved.
Because schools demand that children sit still, wait for
a turn, pay attention, and stick with a task, it's no surprise that many children with
ADHD have problems in class. Their minds are fully capable of learning, but their
hyperactivity and inattention make learning difficult. As a result, many students with
ADHD repeat a grade or drop out of school early. Fortunately, with the right combination
of appropriate educational practices, medication, and counseling, these outcomes can be
Right to a Free Public Education
Although parents have the option of taking their child
to a private practitioner for evaluation and educational services, most children with ADHD
qualify for free services within the public schools. Steps are taken to ensure that each
child with ADHD receives an education that meets his or her unique needs. For example, the
special education teacher, working with parents, the school psychologist, school
administrators, and the classroom teacher, must assess the child's strengths and
weaknesses and design an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). The IEP outlines the
specific skills the child needs to develop as well as appropriate learning activities that
build on the child's strengths. Parents play an important role in the process. They must
be included in meetings and given an opportunity to review and approve their child's IEP.
Many children with ADHD or other disabilities are able
to receive such special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA). The Act guarantees appropriate services and a public education to
children with disabilities from ages 3 to 21. Children who do not qualify for services
under IDEA can receive help under an earlier law, the National Rehabilitation Act, Section
504, which defines disabilities more broadly. Qualifying for services under the National
Rehabilitation Act is often called "504 eligibility."
Because ADHD is a disability that affects children's
ability to learn and interact with others, it can certainly be a disabling condition.
Under one law or another, most children can receive the services they need.
NIH Publication No. 94-3572