ADHD declared as specific disability under federal civil rights law

ADHD declared as specific disability under federal civil rights law

To ensure a healthy nation, paying attention to mental health care is as important as ensuring proper physical health care. The United States is no different when it comes to implementing necessary guidelines for protecting and augmenting the mental health of its people. However, more than the struggle to make medical facilities available to mentally ill people, it is the need to tackle the social stigma attached to mental illnesses that needs attention.

The U.S. Department of Education laid down a set of principles on July 26, 2016 to protect the increasing number of students suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) against any kind of inequity exhibited by educational institutions. The policy guidelines were outlined by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to increase the accessibility to equal educational opportunities for students suffering from ADHD under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973.

Eliminating discrimination against students with ADHD

The department, in a series of recommendations posted on its website, instructed schools to obey the existing civil rights law to identify the students afflicted with ADHD and make necessary provisions for development of their learning abilities.

Emphasizing on this, Catherine E. Lhamon, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights announced, “On this 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am pleased to honor Congress’ promise with guidance clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools. The Department will continue to work with the education community to ensure that students with ADHD, and all students, are provided with equal access to education.”

The guidelines were made in response to the numerous complaints by families alleging discrimination against their children due to their disabilities, received by the education department. Of the total complaints received over the years, more than 10 percent cases indicated intolerance against children afflicted with ADHD.

A look at the nature of complaints filed by the guardians revealed the nature of adversities or extent of arduousness faced by students with ADHD during their brief stint in schools due to incorrect evaluation or non-adherence to timely support for the affected kids. Also, lack of necessary special education or associated services to these kids was cited as a major cause of worry among concerned parents.

Evaluation needed to provide necessary services

The OCR emphasizes on the importance of the assessment of students, based on their manifestations of aimlessness and distress. It clearly warns against theorizing the symptoms of ADHD or deriving conclusions based on vague hypotheses.

Stressing on the difficulties faced by teachers in diagnosing the disorder, Lhamon said that many people, including school teachers, were not familiar with ADHD and therefore, they failed to provide the necessary services to students with disabilities which may result in serious social, emotional and educational harm.

As per the provisions in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, schools need to go the extra mile for supporting their ADHD students by helping them with recorded lectures, highlighting the passages being taught and allowing them additional time to complete their tests. The guidelines make it mandatory for the schools to evaluate students with possible symptoms of ADHD, no matter how exceptionally they perform academically and the guardians have the right to request for such evaluation.

Treating ADHD with professional help

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 10.2 percent American children, aged between five and 17 years, were diagnosed with ADHD during 2012- 2014. The number of affected boys was more than double that of girls.

If your child or someone else in the family is suffering from such a disorder, consult the Sovereign Mental Health Services which offers an array of treatment options for various problems. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 954-0529 or chat online for more information.

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