Is My Son's School Wrong to Deny Him Accommodations?


My son takes an advanced placement class and does well on state tests, but he struggles in some subjects. The school has repeatedly denied him accommodations. I wonder if the school could be discriminating against him because he is bright. Is that possible?

ADDitude contributor Robert Tudisco is a practicing attorney with ADHD and an expert on special education law and disability advocacy.

Children with ADHD and other co-occurring conditions are often bright, but have deficits that affect their performance in the classroom. Regulations and case law are clear that standardized test results aren’t an accurate measure of a child’s impairments -- or a reason for denying accommodations.

Talk with your son’s teachers about the gap between his test scores and his performance in the classroom. For instance, he may bring home the wrong book or fail to turn in assignments. Or some other ADHD symptom may be causing him to fall short academically. It’s very important to summarize the teachers’ opinions in writing, to have a paper trail that documents all of your son’s classroom problems.

Also review the school’s non-academic requirements in the student handbook. Parents and teachers should understand that behavioral issues -- not just academic deficiencies -- affect a child’s performance in school. If your son doesn’t meet these non-academic requirements -- if he acts up in class, say, or refuses to answer the teacher, or speaks out of turn -- this bolsters the case for accommodations.

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.
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