New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

Parents of ADHD Children

Our are ADHD children considered special needs?

I hear the word special needs, but does it apply to our children?  When I think of that, I think aspergers or autism, but what considers a child special needs…just curious!


From Understanding Special Education web site:


A particular challenge for children with ADD and ADHD is that this disorder is NOT listed as one of the 13 qualifying categories of learning disabilities identified by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Parents are often rightly confused when their school tells them that their child does not qualify for special education when their doctor has just told them their child has this disorder. This is because having ADD or ADHD is not an automatic entry into special education.  If you feel your child’s ability to learn is being adversely affected, you should ask your school for a student study team (SST) meeting.

The law is written so that each IEP team can determine what a child needs in order to be successful.  If the team determines that modifications are appropriate for your child, they can be implemented through a 504 plan. Section 504 states that any child with a disability that affects a major life activity, such as learning, is subject to appropriate accommodations or modifications. This includes ADD and ADHD in children.

If you believe that your child’s disorder is severe enough to warrant a placement in special education, you can request a special education evaluation.  Here, you can introduce medical documentation and support from your physician(s). The IEP team will review the results of the evaluation, hear from medical personnel as well as from school staff. If the team determines that your child’s ADD/ADHD is severe, the IEP team can agree to qualify your child for special education under the category of “Other Health Impaired”. 

However, the law states that a child must be served in the least restrictive environment.  IF the IEP team feels the child can be served in regular education with a 504 plan, this should be the first step.”

Here’s the link:

Hope that helps!

Posted by JAMurphy on Jan 30, 2014 at 11:10pm

My son received SPED (Special Education) services because his kindergarten teacher indicated his ADHD behavior is problematic enough to affect his academic success.  The teacher was able to tie the behavior and lack of academic success to his ADHD by providing supporting documentation about his inability to focus, participate, remain on task, stay in line for lunch, etc.  The relationship between ADHD and his struggles academically were strong enough to approve SPED services.  My son was mainstreamed and had a skills trainer from kindergarten through 2nd grade. 

With the combined effort of the school, skills trainer, and us (parents) our son is able to succeed at school and feel normal for the first time.  He has his struggles with being in a new school but we work with him to get past the negative thoughts & stuff. 

Best of luck!  My advice:  your child will look to you for guidance and your belief in him will become his belief.  So believe he can do anything and he’ll do something extraordinary!  Sounds cheesy but I really do believe that!

All the Best!

Posted by aholamom on Jan 31, 2014 at 2:02am

Both a 504 and IEP fall under that category, I believe, but to actually be under Special Education, it is an IEP - that is the difference. There has to be some disability tied to the ADHD to qualify for the IEP.
My daughter has a 504 in place, and we find it very effective for now. There are several things you can incorporate into a 504 to help her/him, without going as far a an IEP - we’ve found this year, that the teacher makes all the difference - even though they are legally bound to uphold an IEP or a 504.

Hang in there!

Posted by lmneely on Jan 31, 2014 at 5:35am


Such a great point! The teacher can make a big difference, as my sons teacher did for him.  If you need to, klsmidwestmom, find support groups to find out what other parents with ADHD children handled similar school issues.  I’m almost certain most of them would have some insight.  Another great resource is to Google ADHD in your area to find out what’s available.  We did that & it was so helpful!  We found an ADHD center and non profit that helped navigate legal issues for special education. 

Good luck!

Posted by aholamom on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:48am

Thank you all for the information, I will look into this further to see what is available in my area!

Posted by klsmidwestmom on Jan 31, 2014 at 5:46pm

It took me more than two years after my son’s ADHD diagnosis to accept that he has a “DISABILITY” (not a difference), and that he is truly a special needs child. The term “special needs” really is a sum of it’s parts. My child’s ADHD (and SPD and LDs) cause him to have needs that are special/different, therefore, he’s a special needs child.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:33pm

ADD kids are not considered “neurotypical”. They have trouble with self-regulation and social interaction. Due to the presence of learning disorders, they may also struggle academically. On top of that 30% of kids with ADD also meet the diagnostic criteria for ASD.

Call them what you like. I call mine, “my son.” I morn when he suffers and I rejoice when he succeeds.

Have a great day.
Susan in PC, Ohio

Posted by SueH on Feb 01, 2014 at 2:26am

Join the New ADDitude Forums

ADDConnect is shutting down on July 31.
To continue sharing and receiving support from the ADDitude community, visit our new discussion forums.

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions