Can a Student with ADHD get an IEP? It Depends…

Oct 6, 2022 | ADHD, Eligibility, Evaluations

In honor of ADHD Awareness month, let’s take a look at school supports for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The big question many parents have is: Can a student with ADHD who is struggling in school get an IEP? As with so much else in the law, the answer is … it depends. 

To qualify for an IEP, it’s not enough to simply have ADHD. That’s just the first step. Students must also meet the qualifying criteria under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law that governs IEPs. Students can qualify for an IEP under any one (or more) of the IDEA’s disability categories. ADHD typically falls under the “Other Health Impairment” (OHI) category.

In determining eligibility, school teams must consider whether there is an adverse effect on the student’s educational performance. Importantly, educational performance is broader than academics. It also includes social-emotional, functional, and behavioral skills. Some students with ADHD may have passing grades but they may still have difficulty at school in these other areas. Therefore, teams should look beyond grades. 

To qualify for special education, a student must also require specially designed instruction. For a student with ADHD, this could include instruction in organization or planning. Students with ADHD can be taught strategies to overcome attention or executive functioning deficits. 

In making eligibility determinations, teams must rely on a variety of data sources. Parents are a member of the team, and they can present input, observations and data. 

When students with ADHD are not found eligible for special education – for instance, when they are not deemed to require specially designed instruction – that doesn’t mean they can’t get extra support at school. Students with ADHD may also qualify for accommodations under a Section 504 plan. Additionally, they may qualify for an IEP at a future point in time.