Teacher Insights: Do all Students with ADHD need an IEP?


Did you know that just about 10% of school-aged children have a diagnosis of ADHD?

Knowing this, let’s consider the average class size of 23 students. That means that at least two students in a general education classroom are likely to have a diagnosis of ADHD. It’s also possible that this number is higher, and with additional students who have executive function challenges.

Now, does this mean that all these students should have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and receive special education services? Well, not necessarily.

Medical Diagnosis vs. Educational Identification

First, it’s important to understand the distinction between a medical diagnosis of ADHD versus an educational identification for special education services. While a medical diagnosis is made by a healthcare professional based on clinical criteria, an educational identification is determined in the school setting through an evaluation process as outlined in special education law. While a student may be impacted by ADHD, an educational diagnosis for special education services requires that this disability significantly impacts their ability to access and make progress with general education alone.

When Special Education Services are Needed

For some students with ADHD, the challenges they face may exceed what can be effectively addressed through general education support alone. These students may require additional specialized instruction and/or related services through an IEP. When students exhibit significant challenges with attention regulation, emotional regulation, organization, etc., a student may require more intensive interventions tailored to their individual needs.

This specialized instruction may include executive function skills building, behavior support strategies, social skill intervention, or writing organization instruction. Students may also require additional support from related service providers, such as a school psychologist.

Success without an IEP

Many students with ADHD can be successful in the general education setting when supported with the right tools and possibly additional accommodations. With the right instructional strategies and behavior management techniques, the specific needs of students with ADHD can often be met with great success. Additional accommodations, such as extended time on assignments and assessments, preferential seating, assistive technology, etc., can be implemented through a 504 plan.

Benefits of Educator Training in ADHD

While many students with ADHD can be supported through general education alone, we also recognize that ADHD and Executive Function deficits can still present unique challenges in this environment.  Training educators to understand the social and emotional impact ADHD and Executive function challenges have on learning, motivation, behavior, and even the family system is crucial for everyone’s success. When equipped with knowledge of ADHD and evidence-based strategies, teachers can create environments where all students, regardless of their learning needs, can succeed.


Related articles:

Finding Balance: Supporting the Needs of the Individual Student with the Needs of the Classroom of Students

Train All Teachers About ADHD Challenges

What Makes a Good Accommodation?


Written by Carly Wolf
ADHD Teacher Trainer Academy© Facilitator
Elementary, Special Education Teacher 

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