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ADHD resource & accommodation information for parents

Learn more about ADHD, including the three types of ADHD, the prevalence of ADHD in the U.S. and learning strategies and accommodations for students with ADHD

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What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, is a mental health condition that affects a person's ability to remain focused, pay attention, and control impulsive behavior.

Is ADHD a learning disability?

ADHD is not considered a "specific learning disability" under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) because it does not affect a student's capacity to learn or process information the way conditions like Dyslexia or Auditory Processing Disorder do. However, symptoms of ADHD do interact with a student's behaviors and habits while learning. Symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulty staying focused or tendency toward hyperactivity, can present challenges in the learning environment.

ADHD can be considered a disability under IDEA in the "other health impairment" category, meaning that a student with ADHD may qualify for appropriate accommodations and other special education assistance in school. Furthermore, ADHD often co-occurs with other conditions that are considered learning disabilities. The symptoms of ADHD and co-occurring conditions can interact to create a unique set of learning challenges for students who experience them; any learning plan for a student with ADHD plus a learning disability should account for both aspects.

Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD includes symptoms like difficulty sitting still and controlling impulses
Inattentive ADHD, formerly called ADD, includes symptoms such as difficulty paying attention, staying organized, and following instructions
Combined Type ADHD, the most common of the three subtypes, is expressed as an equal combination of the behaviors from Hyperactive-Impulsive and Inattentive type ADHD

How can parents help their students with ADHD succeed in school?

While each learner is different, there are strategies that can be used to support many of the challenges that students with ADHD experience. Students with ADHD may have a variety of learning styles including auditory (preferring to listen to lessons rather than reading), tactile/kinesthetic (working in a hands-on way with materials), and visual (using and creating written tools to organize and share what they've learned). Given the symptoms of ADHD, some suggested classroom accommodations for students with ADHD might include minimizing distractions, allowing for physical movement during class or study time, and using organizational tools to plan and complete assignments.

You can help your child with ADHD focus on their homework and prepare for tests by:

  1. Using visual cues to keep them on track and help them remember what they've learned.
  2. Breaking larger tasks into smaller parts to make major tasks feel approachable and help prevent distraction.
  3. Establish a routine for timing and location of homework and studying. A dedicated space and consistent timing will minimize distraction and allow students to make the most of their study sessions.
  4. Focusing on your child's learning preferences to help them learn, use, and retain new information. By emphasizing the process of studying and learning in a way that suits them (for example, by playing catch while practicing spelling words), parents can make new concepts more approachable and memorable.

What are accommodations for students with ADHD?

Classroom accommodations are adjustments made to a student's learning environment to make sure it's set up to work with their special educational needs. Students with ADHD might benefit from accommodations that make it easier for them to stay focused, organized, and on task. These can be in the form of presentation, setting or timing and scheduling accommodations.

  • Presentation accommodations change the way information is given to students
  • Setting accommodations are changes made to the environment or location in which students learn
  • Timing and scheduling accommodations allow for adjustments to the time or breaks integrated with a given task

The following table shows how these categories of accommodations can be tailored to assist students with ADHD.

  • Accommodation Type
  • Examples
  • Presentation Accommodations
    • Using a variety of sensory modes to introduce information – speaking, reading, visual stimulation
    • Repeating or summarizing information at key points
    • Providing access to lesson outlines, notes, or transcripts instead of requiring traditional note-taking
  • Setting Accommodations
    • Providing seating that allows for movement while remaining seated, such as a bouncy or rocking chair
    • Allowing students to use an object like a stress ball or fidget putty
    • Situating a student's desk near the teacher or a role model, or in a low-distraction location
  • Timing and Scheduling Accommodations
    • Receiving more time to complete a task
    • Allowing for frequent breaks
    • Taking a test or quiz in multiple, shorter testing sessions

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Frequently asked questions about ADHD

How is ADHD diagnosed?

ADHD can be diagnosed by a qualified, licensed healthcare professional such as a clinical psychologist, pediatrician, psychiatrist, clinical social worker, neurologist, or nurse practitioner using diagnostic criteria from the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition). There is no single test that can be used to diagnose ADHD; rather, a comprehensive evaluation is required to assess a child's developmental, academic, and socioemotional functioning. Healthcare professionals use guidelines and checklists to reach an ADHD diagnosis , rule out other primary diagnoses, and identify co-occurring conditions. An ADHD diagnosis will be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the number of symptoms present.

How common is ADHD?

It is estimated that approximately 6 million children aged 2–17 in the United States have ever been diagnosed with ADHD. About 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD had at least one co-occurring mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. ADHD tends to affect more boys than girls, with about twice as many boys receiving an ADHD diagnosis than girls.

How do teachers accommodate ADHD in the classroom?

Because students with ADHD may find it challenging to stay organized, sit still, or pay attention for long periods of time, teachers may wish to make topics and concepts more accessible by utilizing classroom accommodations. Accommodations do not change the difficulty of the material, but rather help create a learning environment that allows a student to focus and retain what they're learning.

Teachers can accommodate students with ADHD in the classroom, for example, by providing flexible seating or manual manipulatives to allow students to move or fidget while staying focused and on task. Students that lack executive functioning skills necessary for staying organized may be supported by teachers who outline assignments, tasks, and projects in visual ways. Organizational skills can also be supported by providing handouts like notes with blanks, graphic organizers, and signposted syllabi that clearly display learning objectives. Because tests and quizzes can be anxiety-inducing for students with ADHD, teachers can allow more time or schedule multiple short sessions to complete an exam.

Do students with ADHD need an IEP or 504 plan?

Students with ADHD often benefit from classroom and testing accommodations that are available under and IEP (Individualized Education Program) or 504 plan. Parents may request that a school evaluate their child in order to determine whether they are eligible to receive services. Evaluations may include academic testing and evaluation of educational performance but are not diagnostic—only a licensed health professional will be able to diagnose a student with ADHD.

IEPs for students with ADHD

Because ADHD can fall under the "other health impairment" category of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and can co-occur with qualifying learning disabilities, students may be eligible for an IEP. The IEP serves as a roadmap for an education that addresses a student's specific learning needs and includes annually reviewed goals. If students do not have an identified learning disability, they will not be eligible for an IEP. The group that will design the IEP must include a student's parent or guardian, their regular classroom teacher, and a school's special-education teacher.

504 plans for students with ADHD

A 504 plan is designed for students who have a documented disability that substantially limits a major life activity, such as education; students with ADHD may be eligible for a 504 plan if their symptoms substantially limit their ability to learn in a typical classroom environment, even if they do not qualify for special-education services. Under a 504 plan, a student may be entitled to specific accommodations or services that will be provided by the school to help them learn best. The team that will put together a 504 plan can vary, but will usually include a student's parent or guardian, their regular classroom teacher, the school's special-education teacher, and the school's principal.

Should a child with ADHD be homeschooled?

Homeschooling can be beneficial for students with ADHD, with many options and approaches to content, instructional methods, and learning styles. Students with ADHD may thrive in a homeschool setting that provides increased individualized attention, opportunities to customize content, and learning environment flexibility. Before deciding to homeschool your child with ADHD , consider potential challenges, such as decreased socialization opportunities and limited help and resources for instruction and assessment. Resources to help parents decide whether homeschooling is the right fit for their child with ADHD can include local and state educational groups, as well as in-person and online homeschooling communities.

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