Joanna Savarese, Ph.D.
The time has come when you have finally come to terms with the idea that your child might have ADHD or a learning disability. Sure, you have made excuses over the past 7 or so years for his/her tantrums, inattentiveness, impulsive behaviors, difficulty with learning, and inability to sit still at school, home, or basically anywhere. However, those excuses are no longer working and the reality has set in. It’s time to get your child evaluated so he/she can receive the services and treatment they need to be more successful at home, school, and in life.
Obtaining a Formal Diagnosis
If your child attends public school, you may request an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and/or a 504 Plan. You don’t need a formal diagnosis to request an IEP/504 evaluation. The school system has 60 days to respond to your request and/or complete all testing and create a plan for your child. Many experts believe that obtaining outside testing and diagnostic considerations through a formal evaluation (rather than relying solely on the school’s testing results) from a neuropsychologist or psychologist is beneficial and key to the process – oftentimes the test results determine the services your child will receive. The neuropsychologist or psychologist should clearly explain how your child’s disability impacts their learning and recommendations that would be helpful and appropriate. Additionally, formal evaluations can help the child by suggesting classroom recommendations and accommodations that teachers can implement in the 60 day waiting period so your child does not fall further behind.
Difference between IEP and 504 Plan
IEP – To qualify for an IEP your child must be diagnosed with a specific learning disability, ADHD, or OHI (other health impairment ) and require special education services. Under the IDEA (Individuals with Disability Act) parents are required to be present and involved in the IEP process.
504 Plan – To qualify for a 504 plan your child must have a disability that significantly impacts and limits one or more of their major life activities but does not require special education services under IDEA.
Depending on the situation, if a student qualifies for an IEP, a 504 plan may or may not be necessary.
For example, if your child has executive functioning issues and/or ADHD and needs accommodations with testing time (such as sitting in a quiet room or needs additional time to take a test) he/she might be more appropriate for a 504 plan. However, if your child needs these accommodations and also needs support with specialized reading or math (or special education services) an IEP may be more appropriate.
Hiring an Advocate
You can also hire an advocate that stands by your side during this process. An advocate can be a specialized educational advocate, an educational attorney, or the neuropsychologist who conducted the testing (among others). Advocates have the experience and objectivity that you may not during this emotional time.
At the end of the day, as a parent, you are your child’s biggest advocate. And, your child is worth fighting for.
*San Diego BrainWorks conducts formal evaluations and specializes in the diagnosis of ADHD and learning disabilities. You may also contact other medical providers to perform the evaluation. SD BrainWorks also conducts therapy and creates individualized treatment plans (including psychological and educational) for children with learning disabilities, executive functioning problems, and ADHD.