Tweens with ADHD and Learning Disabilities

It is common for tweens diagnosed with ADHD to be diagnosed with one or more learning disabilities. Most involve language (especially speaking and understanding what is being said) or a specific academic subject (usually reading or math). A host of educational tests claim to be able to identify learning disabilities, yet many professionals have challenged the whole concept.

Special Education Services

If regular classroom teachers cannot accommodate your child's educational needs, special education help may be a good option. Special education services may involve going to a special classroom all day, getting extra help in a particular subject for an hour a week, or anything in between. It may mean having a specially trained teacher come to the regular classroom to work with your child.

To qualify for special education, your tween's ADHD symptoms must cause significant learning or behavior problems at school. Section 504 of the Individual Education and Development Act legally obligates public schools to ensure that children with a disability have equal access to education.

To qualify to receive services under Section 504, a student must have a disability that “substantially limits one or more major life functions, including education, learning, and behavior.”

What to Do If You Think Your Child Needs Special Help

If you think your child needs special services, you may have to be unusually assertive, depending on your child's school district. The first step is to submit a written request for an evaluation via certified mail to the school. Special education classes are expensive due to the small classroom sizes and advanced degrees of the teachers. Parents may have to be assertive to see that evaluations are handled in a timely manner and that the recommendations are implemented.


It is a good idea to request a copy of your school district's policies and procedures for complying with Section 504. It will list your rights and the district's responsibilities. If your complaints are not satisfied, you can call the Office of Civil Rights hotline of the U.S. Department of Education at (800) 421-3481 for information about how to proceed.

With its individualized instruction and self-paced learning, special education can help any student. Most students enjoy special education classes and like their teachers. Many students feel a sense of incredible relief and experience heightened morale when their learning problems are finally acknowledged and they are provided with instruction that allows them to progress at their own speed in an accepting environment.

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