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Dr. Steven Richfield provides articles on many different aspects of raising a child with ADHD.                                   

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Study on ADD and TV
The recent study published on watching television between the ages of one and three and the possible link to ADD/ADHD did not take many considerations into account. The author of the study even admits that he cannot conclude that television watching and ADD/ADHD are linked.

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by Steve Glink

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This morning I had a parent-teacher conference that was the result of an evaluation at my son's public school, and I still have a knot in my stomach ever since.  We live in a predominately middle class suburb, and my son attends a middle school that has won a presidential award for being the top school in the country.

Anyway, the meeting started out very well--the teachers all agreed they really like my son, but he cannot concentrate, cannot focus, grades are failing, etc.  They kept giving me examples of his disruptive behavior (ex: singing to himself, being silly, twirling pencils, not paying attention), and telling me that my son's behavior takes away time from the other students (which I can understand).  They all admitted they think my son does not intentionally exhibit this behavior, and all think he has ADD.  I agree that he has always had ADD, but over the years, has been improving bit each year.  Last year in school, and the years before he has done average, and had some behavior problems that need addressed.  I have not had health insurance for him but every so often, and his current health insurance will be no longer available in about a month.  I have been working a full time plus a part-time job, but recently became permanantely unemployed by my first job, but with my unemployment and $150 earnings per month from my second job, I make just a few dollars a month over the limit for Welfare Medical Assistance.  My point is, how am I supposed to get him qualified for special education if I can't prove he has ADD?  Even with 2 jobs, I still only can make about $1500 a month, and cannot afford to take my son to a doctor or behavioral clinic for evaluation.  

The meeting ended with the Assistant Principal entering the room for the last 5 minutes of the meeting, and using scare tactics to threaten me.  He said he can press charges against my son for disorderly conduct, made references about the magistrate, and juvinille detention centers.  My son definitely does not fit into this category!  Furthermore, the school is telling me the only option is to put him on Ritalin (or other drug for ADD).  They said if I can't have health insurance, I should check with the SSA to get him disabilty.  I thought of that, but am concerned the status of being disabled would have on his future, ex:  entering the military to get college money (that will be the only way he will be able to afford one).

I'm 30 years old, and my son is now 13.  We've been through a lot, but have always survived....Being a single parent and working 2 jobs is tough, but I think my son is doing well considering all that he's been through.  When you are the working poor, without health insurance, it seems there are no resources for you...if you make $20 a month above the poverty level, etc., there is no where to turn.  I've checked through the blue pages of the phone books, and have searched and searched....

Furthermore, I am 100% against Ritilan, in fact, it scares me...the long-term effects are still unknown, right?  The school is saying that is my only option for my son.  Please help.  Thank you.


Pamela: your e-mail to the Addhelpline was forwarded to me for review and response. Before I respond, I must tell you that I am an attorney licensed to practice law only in Illinois. Although special education is focused under federal law (IDEA, 20 USC 1400, et. seq.), court decisions vary from state to state or jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Your e-mail does not say where you are from, but that is always importatnt. Also, my reponse is based exclusively on your version of the facts. The facts and the applicable law is usually disputed in every case. There is no guarantee that the court would accept your version of the facts or my interpretation of the law. Finally, my response should not be considered as legal advice because I have not had a full opportunity to review the file. Rather, it is intended to give you some information so you can decide how you want to proceed.

First, under 1997 revisions to the IDEA, ADD kids can now be eligible for special education and related services under the Other Health Impaired (OHI) category. You have to demonstrate that you son has ADD AND that it has a negative impact on his ability to be educated. It sounds like that is true. If not, he may qualify for assistance under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which is another federal disability law. There, you usually do not have to prove the negative impact component. If your son has ADD, the school must make "reasonable accommodations" in his educational program to help him. That could be untimed tests,  preferential seating, etc. The kids have more protection under IDEA, but not everyone qualifies. By law, the school has the duty to evaluate and identify special needs kids. You should send a certified letter, return receipt requested to the superintendent and the principal requesting a case study evaluation (CSE) immediately. They have 60 days to complete it and hold a meeting to discuss it. Among other things, they must provide a social developmental study (by a social worker) and a psychological evaluation. Often times, a psychologist can diagnose ADD. Also, your son's doctor can do that. All he/she has to do is to send a letter to the school. By law, they must consider it! One thing you can do is to log onto your state board of education's website. Usually, there is a lot of information there.

After the CSE, they will have a meeting called an MDC to discuss these evaluations. At that point they will decide whether or not your son is eligible for special education or a section 504 plan. They could decide that he is entitled to neither. You should attend because by law, you are an integral part of the IEP team. If you disagree with their decision(s), you should note that on the meeting notes. Then, you can file for a due process hearing. By law, they must give you a written explanation of your rights. They must also give you a list of where you can obtain low cost legal assistance in your area. Make sure you get both of those. If they fail to do either of those things, go file a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Justice Department in your area. They will investigate the school's actions. You might also consider filing a complaint against the principal for threatening to arrest your son, especially if it is an attempt to dissaude you from exercising your rights under the law.

The issue of Ritalin is a medical issue, not a school issue. They have no right to tell you to use Ritalin. That decision should/must be made by a doctor in conjunction with the parent. There are other medications out there for ADD or ADHD. That is something that you should discuss with your son's doctor.

Going through this process is often quite heartwrenching for parents because (1) they do not know the law and (2) the school has a lot of power.

You must keep copies of everything and document what is going on by sending letters to them or keeping a journal. You must not back down. You should try to get legal assistance from a qualified lawyer. If you cannot get one via the school district list or the state board's website, call (847/480-7749) or e-mail me and I will try to help you get one. Good luck.

Steven Glink