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Understanding No Child Left Behind
"I suspect my son has ADHD and dyslexia, but our school district says he doesn’t meet the criteria for being tested. I thought I could demand a medical evaluation if I disagreed with the school’s decision. No Child Left Behind, the school said, has phased out that provision."
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has not phased out that responsibility. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to evaluate children, at no cost to the parents, to determine whether they have a disability, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, that substantially impacts a major life activity (learning, for instance).
Specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia, are mentioned in IDEA; ADHD qualifies under the Other Health Impairment (OHI) category. School administrators may incorrectly quote the law to thwart the efforts of a zealous parent trying to advocate for her child.
Notify the school, in writing, that you’re officially requesting that your child be evaluated. If the school does not comply, contact a special-education attorney—the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) offers a list of them at copaa.org—and file for an impartial hearing from your state’s Department of Education.
A hearing officer will be appointed to make a determination on the case. Upon receiving such a notice, the school district will often contact its attorney, who will advise them on the law. In my experience, many children are granted the evaluation by the school.
Since Robert Tudisco was diagnosed with ADHD, he has researched and written extensively on the subject of special education law and disability advocacy, and now specializes in the area as a practicing attorney. He is a former Executive Director of the Edge Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides specialized coaches for students with ADHD and Executive Functioning Impairment. He has served on the National Board of Directors of CHADD and is a former Vice President of ADDA. He is a frequent resource for the media, including CBS News, New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, ABC News, The BBC, The Today Show, CNN, USA Today, and The Seattle Times.