Starting Point: ADHD

School-aged children with ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder affecting between 4-12 % of school aged children. It is a deficiency of a specific neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. The ADHD brain matures at a different rate than a typical brain, resulting in a delay of 3-5 years of the frontal cortex area, and a faster than typical motor cortex. Among other things, the frontal cortex is responsible for suppressing inappropriate actions and thoughts, focusing attention, short term memory and the ability to work for rewards. Two thirds of children with ADHD have at least one other co-existing condition such as a learning disability, anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant Disorder, or others. Common symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity, poor social skills, and poor concentration.

Many children with ADHD are not appropriately evaluated for a disability or accommodations in school. According to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), ten percent of OCR complaints in the last 5 years have dealt with allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD. Because of this, in July 2016 OCR issued a guidance document for students with ADHD.

The guidance clarifies:

  • when a student may be eligible for special education or related services;
  • makes clear that even students who perform well academically may have a disability if also substantially limited in major life activities such as such as reading, learning, writing and thinking; and
  • reminds schools to provide parents with information regarding due process and how to appeal a decision involving identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities.

This guide is available on the Office for Civil Rights’ website at

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