Can a School Recommend Medicating Your ADD/ADHD Child?

It is an unfortunate fact. Schools oftentimes suggest that parents medicate their ADHD child. Now, I understand ADHD symptoms quite well. I was diagnosed when I was younger and managed to get through my entire schooling experience (except law school) without medication. Oftentimes teachers were unaware I was not paying attention because I have the inattentive type. During class I would usually be thinking about other things and the teachers always thought I was following along with the rest of the class.

Children that have the hyperactive or combined type of ADHD are a completely different story. They do not go unnoticed and often have discipline issues at school. These children are frequently distracting to other students because of their inability to sit still, lack of self-control and impulsivity. As a parent, it crosses our minds that perhaps it is just a maturity issue and that our child will outgrow it. Sometimes that is the case. Other times it is because this behavior is actually uncontrollable due to reduced blood flow in areas of the brain (the underlying cause of ADHD).

Teachers see a lot more children compared to those of us who are not in the classroom and therefore have a better understanding of how your child compares to his or her peers. As a parent, we are aware our child’s behavior, but don’t have a point of reference to provide comparison and therefore can completely miss the magnitude of a potential problem. If the school suspects your child has a disability, under IDEA, they must do an evaluation if they believe the disability requires services. ADHD qualifies as a disability under the Other Health Impairment (OHI) category of special-education law and as a disability under Section 504.

So let’s say the school evaluation team does an evaluation and identifies your child as needing special education services. This is not a diagnosis but rather an identification. A diagnosis and an identification have a common goal: to get your child the support he needs. Medication is not a support that can be required by the school.

Medication and IDEA 1412(1)(a)(25)

Under IDEA 1412(1)(a)(25), schools cannot require a student to take medication as a condition for his being eligible for special education or any school activity. Taking medication is a decision to be made by the family and their doctor. If a student has ADHD and qualifies for special education or a 504 Plan, the school must develop appropriate academic and behavioral supports to meet his or her needs, regardless of whether that student takes medication or not.

So if the school suggests your child takes medication, advise them it is your personal choice. Treatment for ADHD is no longer limited to just medication. Alternative treatment options like exercise, diet, behavioral therapy and supplements have all been increasing in popularity primarily because they can have success. Good luck!