“Do you think I’m weird because I’m wired, or wired because I’m weird?”
― Jack Gantos
One of my closest friends often has difficulty paying attention to what I say. She changes the subject mid-sentence and sometimes fidgets.
Before I got into the field of special education, I would get angry thinking she didn’t care. It was only after I read about ADHD symptoms in kids and how those symptoms can continue into adulthood, I was able to understand her difficulties.
Of course, I persuaded her to get professional help and thankfully, she showed improvement. Because of lack of awareness, she couldn’t get the necessary support early in her life. But, the situation has changed now.
More people have the basic knowledge about neurodevelopmental disabilities and the support available to them now.
ADHD symptoms in kids may make them eligible to receive support such as an IEP or 504 plan.
ADHD Symptoms in Kids
There has been an upward trend in the number of caregivers and parents who report ADHD symptoms in kids.
It is difficult to say if the prevalence of ADHD symptoms in kids is increasing or more people are getting the diagnosis done now.
The good news is that ADHD is now getting as much focus as any other neurodevelopmental disability.
Let’s try to understand what are the ADHD symptoms in kids.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder and ADHD symptoms in kids are characterised by three main components.
ADHD symptoms in kids are typically identified and diagnosed before 12 years of age, though it may continue into adulthood.
ADHD symptoms in kids can be of three major types.
- Predominantly inattentive: In this type, the majority of symptoms fall under inattention. Affected individuals find it hard to follow conversations, finish a task or pay attention to details or remember finer details of the daily routine.
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: The affected individual finds it hard to sit at a place. They fidget a lot and are almost always restless. They may show impulsive behaviour which can be disruptive in nature.
- Combined: The symptoms of the above two types can be equally dominating.
Children with ADHD may also struggle with low self-esteem, poor academic performance and difficulty in building and sustaining relationships. It affects their daily life and progress.
Symptoms may change or lessen over time and some people may outgrow it.
Researchers have proved early diagnosis and intervention along with appropriate support to be of benefit here. These supports are given through IEP and 504 Plan.
What is an IEP?
An Individualised Education Plan or IEP, is a programme developed for a child attending elementary or secondary educational institutions who is identified to have a disability under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
It is a document containing the child’s specific needs, how those needs would be addressed and what special services would be provided to the child, among other components.
Developing an IEP is a team venture and the team typically consists of the following members.
- The child
- Their parents
- Special educator
- General education teacher
- Special Service providers (such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, etc.)
- Child’s doctor
For a child to be eligible for an IEP, their condition has to affect their learning at school. It is tailor made for each child and is renewed at least once every three years.
It documents the child’s current academic level and sets annual goals to ensure the child’s steady progress.
An IEP details the accommodations and modifications that a child will be entitled to.
Accommodations are the changes in how the child will learn whereas modifications are changes in what the child will learn.
As parents and caregivers, you can put in a request for an IEP or the school can initiate the process after receiving your consent. The development as well as the service delivery is done free of cost at the school.
Is IEP Relevant for Your Child with ADHD?
The educational trend of the twenty-first century has moved towards inclusion, and rightly so. We do not want to segregate our children based on colour, gender, religion, race or disability.
We want them all to live and thrive together, learning from the diversity they share. What we require right now, is equity. We need to address the individual needs of the children.
ADHD symptoms in kids can significantly affect their learning. ADHD symptoms in kids may prevent them from paying attention at all or listening to instructions.
They may leave their seats and move around in the class, disturb the classroom routines or be uneasy throughout the day. All this leads to a reduction in their productivity levels and disruption in learning. In such cases, an IEP becomes imperative.
For a child with ADHD (and any other disability), the school experience can be greatly enriched with an IEP.
With accommodation, modification, a learning environment fine-tuned to the child’s stimulation and learning needs, along with proper support services in place, the child’s placement in an inclusive environment can work wonders.
The accommodations can include:
- Taping an area around their seats designated for walking when they feel the need.
- Allowing breaks to avoid hyperactivity.
The modifications can include:
- Providing alternative topics that are of interest to the child.
- Assigning a different project to the child than the rest of the class.
Each and every accommodation and modification provided is documented in the IEP.
504 Plan: An Alternative for IEP?
A 504 Plan is covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. It is not a part of special education services.
A 504 Plan is a blueprint of how the school will remove the barriers for children with disabilities. It modifies the learning environment to ensure the full participation of the child.
The child can have any disability in order to qualify for the 504 plan. The only requirement to be eligible for a 504 Plan is that their disability should be hindering their learning at school.
Like an IEP, a 504 Plan too is developed and implemented free of cost and there is no need for the child’s family to go for an independent educational evaluation.
But, how is a 504 Plan relevant to ADHD symptoms in kids? Is a 504 Plan any different from IEP? The answer is Yes.
There are many points of differences between an IEP and 504 Plan. Having ADHD symptoms in kids alone doesn’t guarantee eligibility for special education services.
To qualify for an IEP and 504 Plan, the child’s learning process must be substantially affected by it.
While IEP includes both accommodations and modifications, a 504 Plan only includes accommodations. These accommodations can include use of assistive technology, preferential seating, providing extra time during tests and receiving handouts for the lessons beforehand.
Children with ADHD who may not qualify for special education services and IEP under IDEA Act, may qualify for 504 Plan and its services.
“ADHD hasn’t changed me…It is me. It’s an undeniable and simple fact of who I am.”
— Mazey Eddings, Tilly in Technicolor
ADHD symptoms in kids don’t need to be binding. If they were, Bill Gates would have never founded Microsoft, Justin Timberlake wouldn’t be making the world groove on his tunes and Michael Phelps would have never won a gold medal for swimming.
True, many bumps hinder the path. Still, they are all living proof that understanding the needs of people with ADHD and giving appropriate support and services can change their course of life.
IEP and 504 Plan form the backbone of these support and services. Let us all remember that inclusion is not a privilege. It’s a necessity. It is their right.
Does your state or country offer any unique facility to children with ADHD? Do you have an inspiring story to share on the topic? Comment below and enlighten us!