Trying to figure out the best way to support your child with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be tricky. There are lots of choices to make, particularly as you think about to involve the school and what kind of formal plan would best help your child.

For most students in American schools with ADHD who need support, there are two pathways: an individualized education plan or a 504 plan (you can learn more about the differences here). The challenge is in figuring out which pathway makes the most sense for your child.

What Is My Kid Eligible for?

Having an IEP means that your child has met one of 13 categories of disabilities. For kids with ADHD, that’s usually Other Health Impairment (ADHD is the medical condition). Some children, however, are also found eligible either with an Emotional Disturbance or a Specific Learning Disability. Which category is used has a lot to do with how your child presents with ADHD and where the biggest concerns are.

504 plans, on the other hand, just require the presence of a documented disability that limits a major life activity. For kids, that major life activity is learning or going to school.

What Supports Can My Child Receive?

Having an IEP means that your child needs some form of specialized instruction or special education. This usually comes in the form of spending part of their day working with a special education teacher. This could be in the general education classroom, a resource room, or a smaller special education classroom. Beyond this, your child might have access to related services, like counseling or occupational therapy, and accommodations to help them be successful.

If your child has a 504 plan, they may receive some related services and accommodations. They could have the support of a special education teacher, but this doesn’t frequently occur.

Which One Should We Choose?

It really depends upon your child’s needs and whether they meet the criteria for special education versus a 504 plan. Either way, you need to formally request an evaluation from the school to start the process. It’s important to consider a few things in planning:

  • Make sure you can clearly explain why you think your child needs to be evaluated. Think about the supports that you provide your child at home to help them with school work as well as any informal supports provided by his teachers. If you have an outside evaluation that you had conducted, this will help.
  • Have samples of your child’s school work and academic progress. It can help you better express your concerns.
  • Communicate with your child’s teachers. Her teachers will be part of the school team that makes the decisions if your child is eligible. Making them aware, in advance, of your concerns can help facilitate the process.
  • Learn more about the process and your rights. You can start by reading this explanation (https://www.ariyares.com/2019/07/31/what-exactly-is-special-education/) of special education.
  • Think about what kinds of support your child might need. There might be recommendations in the evaluation report if you had your child tested by a psychologist. Kids with ADHD often have executive functioning challenges and you can use these resources to help suggest supports at school and home.

Remember, regardless of how he receives support, a child with ADHD can be successful in school.