Your Legal Rights

Qualifying for work accommodations, getting a school to adhere to an IEP or 504 Plan, and more.

A statue of Justice to represent legal rights for children and adults with ADHD
A statue of Justice to represent legal rights for children and adults with ADHD

Is ADHD admissible in court?

My daughter and her girlfriend got into trouble at the mall and had to appear in court. My daughter’s erratic behavior was a result of her ADHD medication wearing off.

Shouldn’t the authorities have considered that before hauling her into the judicial system?

Robert Tudisco: As a criminal defense attorney, and a disability advocate, I deal with situations like this all the time. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not a legitimate excuse for antisocial or criminal activity, and any attempt to frame it as such is often seen by the court as hiding behind a diagnosis.

It is important to impress upon your child that she must take responsibility for her actions at all times. That being said, the reason the crime occurred-your daughter’s ADHD-should be taken into consideration when deciding the punishment.

I have never used ADHD as a defense, but I have impressed upon judges, prosecutors, and disciplinary hearing officers that it is crucial to understand the reason for the offense, so that it can be prevented from happening again.

When the case is framed in such a constructive light, the court is more likely to listen to recommendations for leniency-counseling and behavioral interventions, rather than something more severe.

On-the-job accommodations

I am 40 years old and was recently diagnosed with ADD. What workplace accommodations are available?

Robert Tudisco: As an adult with a disability, you are protected from workplace discrimination under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974).

A diagnosis of ADHD, however, does not qualify you for work accommodations under the law. To qualify for them, you need a documented diagnosis from a psychiatrist or psychologist, and you must prove that your disability significantly impairs your performance at the office.

Many adults are reluctant to disclose their disability to a supervisor because it may adversely affect his opinion of them. If you’re worried about this, talk with your boss about “work style,” and impress upon him how making a few changes in the environment will make you more productive.

If you decide to tell the boss, think about which workplace modifications-taking on more structured assignments or moving to another office to limit distractions or noise-you’ll request in order to become more productive.

If your employer refuses to make these accommodations, you may be able to make an ADA or 504 claim.

Forcing a school to comply

How can I force teachers to adhere to my child’s 504 Plan (or IEP)-and stop some of them from demeaning him in front of his classmates? I’ve talked with school administrators several times, but have gotten no support from them.

Robert Tudisco: Developing a highly targeted 504 Plan or IEP is one thing; forcing a school to adhere to it is quite another. If a school district refuses to comply with the plan, contact an attorney specializing in special-education law, and demand, in writing, an impartial hearing with a state-appointed officer.

The officer will hear testimony and review your child’s file. If he finds in your favor, he can force the school to adhere to the IEP or 504 Plan. If he believes there is no merit to your case, you and your attorney should seek a review of the decision by a state-appointed review officer.

If these measures fail, have your attorney seek intervention from either a federal or state court.

The verbal putdowns you mention are unacceptable behavior. Notify the principal and the superintendent’s office, in writing, and demand that your son be assigned a new teacher. If the putdowns continue, make a formal complaint with your state’s department of education.