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Your Legal Rights

Robert Tudisco answers your questions about ADD and the law.

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You’re in the Army Now—Maybe!

My adult daughter wants to sign up for military service, but I heard that the armed forces won’t accept anyone who has ADD. Is this true, and, if so, is it legal?

The armed forces accepts individuals diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, with certain limitations: The applicant must not have taken ADHD medication for at least one year prior to admission, and she must establish, through a doctor’s evaluation, that she no longer presents with ADHD symptoms (impulsivity and distractibility) during the time she’s been off medication. Your daughter may be able to get a waiver of these requirements, but the military is unclear about the claims for the waiver.

The military’s policy does not seem fair or legal according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The armed forces likely follows the section of the ADA which requires the applicant to establish that she is qualified to perform the duties of the position. The armed forces’ position on ADHD has not been tested in court.

Making the School Comply

My son’s doctor wrote his high school, requesting that his teachers give him class notes to help him study for tests. The school refuses to do it, and he is failing several courses. What can I do?

The law requires that the school district review the recommendations of your son’s doctor, but it is not bound to follow them. Request, in writing, that the school do a formal evaluation of your son, and review the results with the doctor who is making the recommendation. Provide documentation of your son’s diagnosis, showing how ADHD impairs his ability to learn. The school is required to determine whether your son qualifies for services under IDEA, or for reasonable accommodations under the Rehabilitation Act.

If the school still refuses to grant your request for accommodations, request an impartial hearing by a state-appointed hearing officer, who will make a determination based upon your son’s needs. Consult a special-ed attorney before requesting the hearing.

Gifted and Denied?

My son is gifted and has LD. He has an IEP to help him with his disability, but no services to address his gifts and talents. Isn’t he entitled to these?

The law requires that his school provide special services or a private placement to address your son’s deficits, not to support his strengths. The law does protect him from discrimination because of his disability, and ensures that he receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

However, receiving services and supports should not disqualify him from participating in a gifted or advanced placement program. If you believe that he does qualify (because of his grade-point average or test scores), and the only reason he is not permitted to participate is because of his special-education classification, you may have a claim for discrimination based upon his disability.

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