An IEP helps children with special educational needs, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), succeed in school. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) applies to schools and ensures that children who live with ADHD and other recognized health conditions get IEPs.
For a child to receive an individualized education program (IEP), their condition has to affect how they learn at school. IDEA also has to include the condition on its list. IDEA currently recognizes 13 conditions that qualify a child for an IEP.
Keep reading to learn about IEPs for ADHD, how they work, and more.
It is important to note that families are not liable for any service costs. IDEA covers the funding for everything within an IEP.
For legal reasons, only certain people can create an IEP.
An IEP team usually includes:
- a parent or caregiver
- the child’s teacher
- another specialist who could be a child psychologist
- a representative who is working in special education services
An IEP sets annual goals to ensure the child keeps progressing at school. The plan will also take into account their current academic performance.
Other things an IEP includes are:
- available services, such as special educational lessons, for example, extra reading classes
- timing of services, when they happen, and how long they will last
- any changes to the child’s learning environment
- format of class tests and exams
- inclusion in class and other school activities
An IEP will detail accommodations and modifications that will help a child with ADHD thrive in a classroom environment.
Learn more about the characteristics of ADHD here.
Accommodations include changes that help a child learn, for example, allowing breaks during lessons to help ease hyperactivity symptoms.
Modifications change what a child will learn. For example, if a child with ADHD is struggling with grade 3 spelling, it does not make sense to move them to grade 4.
More examples of accommodations for ADHD include:
- giving a child two sets of textbooks so they can never leave one at school or at home
- giving a child a foldout shield they can place on their desk when there is a lot of activity happening in the class
- taping an area around their desk where they can walk if they feel the need to move
More examples of modifications for ADHD include:
- assigning a different project for homework
- giving math problems that are a grade lower
- grading work differently
The IEP team reviews the plan at least once a year.
The maximum age for an IEP is 22.
A doctor or medical healthcare professional could recognize and diagnose ADHD at any age, and some children learn they have ADHD when they are older.
If a teenager receives an ADHD diagnosis, they still qualify for an IEP. If they are in high school, they must also join their IEP team. Being part of the IEP team means they can voice what they need and learn how to assert themselves.
When a person is 14 years old, their IEP will transition. This means the IEP begins to focus on skills a person needs to live independently.
IEPs for people with ADHD at this stage tend to focus on functional skills such as:
- money management
- paying bills
- getting around on public transport
- living a healthy life
- creating a schedule to balance work and leisure activities
If a child has ADHD and needs extra help at school, parents can request an IEP evaluation at no cost. Sometimes schools start the evaluation process and request consent from the parents to proceed.
During the evaluation process, a child will need to take a number of tests to assess their reading, writing, math, and memory abilities.
After the evaluation, a team will go over the results with parents and confirm if the child needs an IEP.
Parents can appeal the result if they disagree with the outcome.
If this happens, a parent can apply for a 504 plan. This plan is different from an IEP and falls under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The difference between the 504 plan and an IEP is that children do not usually receive modifications. However, both plans include accommodations. There are also no set rules for how the 504 plan should look. Parents and children are encouraged to participate, although schools do not need to invite them to the creation of the plan or meetings regarding the plan.
When a person applies for a 504 plan, the process is slightly easier than an IEP, but it can vary between schools. Children do not need a full evaluation, but most do get one. As with an IEP, parents and children must consent to evaluations and have access to all their records.
An IEP ensures that children with ADHD thrive in school and achieve their full potential. It includes accommodations and modifications, which change how and what they learn, respectively.
As a child gets older, the goals of the IEP will change to include life skills that will help them live an independent life. Some of these life skills include managing money, living a healthy life, and getting around on public transport. A person can have an IEP until they are 22 years old.
If parents want an IEP they can request an evaluation, which is free. An IEP team, the family, and the child will review progress each year and change goals accordingly.
If an IEP application is unsuccessful, parents can apply for a 504 plan. This plan falls under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is different from an IEP but still aims to help children with ADHD reach their full potential at school.