I recently took part in a remote IEP eligibility meeting, where I wondered: does classification affect IEP goals and effectiveness? It was unclear for a while if this IEP would be granted. In addition, the case manager began to argue about the nature of the classification. There must be one classification that applies to the child and must be listed on the IEP. She was adamant about the anxiety being in the forefront and therefore decided that this child must be classified as “Emotional Disturbance”. The parents and I felt that the classification would be more appropriate if deemed “other health impaired”, which is where children with ADHD are generally classified.
Yes, anxiety was playing a large role in the whole school picture. It got to the point where the parents worked hard to get this child to school and keep him there. In addition, he was not staying in classrooms and would go to the bathroom many times to avoid the class.
But anxiety is a very common co-existing disorder of ADHD. The main diagnosis in this case is ADHD. Based on what I have read, the ADHD must be dealt with as the primary diagnosis with the hope that the treatment will lessen or alleviate the secondary co-existing disorders. Modifications can improve school struggles related to ADHD. So why was there such large disagreements regarding this choice? I am not sure. But based on other experiences, I believe that ADHD is not always looked at as a valid diagnosis and one that needs to be dealt with in order to encourage academic success. Many do not believe that any effects of ADHD in the classroom really impact their education. But anxiety where in this case the child avoids class seems more of a diagnosis and one that needs to be dealt with in order to encourage academic success.
But there is a missing piece in that thinking. Child with significant ADHD and executive functioning deficits suffer immensely in the classroom with so many areas like initiation, organization, transitioning, working memory, distractibility, writing, slow processing, and comprehension. Many times they are overwhelmed. This child’s psychiatrist said that this is his job and it must be done. Yes, that is true. But can you imagine going to your job everyday, feeling confused, lost, and ineffective as you cope with ADHD? Imagine entering a vicious circle where you feel bad about yourself. And no one understands.
The classification must be the primary diagnosis. The modifications and measurable goals will align with this diagnosis. Over time, all of those will serve to provide strategies for those ADHD impairments and lessen anxiety. We did achieve that classification despite the case manager’s protests on record.