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Eligibility for Special Education
Q: My eight-year-old son has ADHD. In order for the school to get him into special classes, they want me to sign a paper saying he's mentally retarded. He isn't. The school said it's the state that makes them word it that way. Is this true?
A: It is true that there is not a special education category in the law for ADHD. So if a child has another handicapping condition (most commonly a learning disability), that category is used to get services. Sometimes they label a child as "other health impaired" to get services. I would certainly never sign anything giving my child a label that is not true. Placing your child in a class where instruction is geared for children with mental retardation is not going to meet his needs if he has ADHD.
It sounds like you need an advocate to help you navigate the special education system to get the help you need for your child. I would call the main office of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD) at 1-800-233-4050 to see if there is a branch in your community to guide you through this process. You can also try the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities at 1-888-GR8-MIND for other resources in your community to give you some hands-on help.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.