With the diagnosis of ADHD comes the journey of many decisions. Decisions that include the need for effective management in areas of home and school. Effective management may include behavioral therapy, ADHD medication management, or a combination of both. Although research says that the latter has proven most successful, parents have the decision to make.
It is then concerning when on top of all the stress of accepting, understanding, and managing this medical diagnosis of ADHD, the school personnel many times inserts its proposed dominance. I have heard the following said to families:
First, the school does not have the right to operate outside of it’s professional parameters. They are a school and are supposed to provide education to children. They must be involved with establishing 504’s in the classroom when it is necessary to provide accommodations in the general education classroom. In addition, the child study team along with parents are mandated to develop IEP’s in the classroom as per the IDEA so that there are appropriate modifications, services, and measurable goals. The IDEA, special education law, requires FAPE, free and appropriate public education, and requires: “special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.”
Crossing over to medical management is crossing over to a realm of expertise that is not possessed by the school system.
Secondly, it is important to note the areas in which they need to explore and define. Many times, their concern with ADHD medication has to do with behavior occurring in the classroom. With a diagnosis of ADHD comes the need to evaluate if behavior is related to the diagnosis. In order to develop a needed positive effective behavior plan, a functional behavioral assessment takes place by someone experienced in that area. This is usually a school psychologist or a behaviorist. Sometimes it is necessary to outsource this professional in order to have this assessment done. It is important since it helps to gather information to determine the triggers of behavior that are unwanted.
Behavior plans can be a part of a 504. But many times, these behavior plans are a part of an IEP, especially if there was a need for this assessment. It’s important that the behavior plan for this child is not a generic plan that is written for the entire class. It must be specific, related to the information gathered from the assessment with measurable goals and incentives that are agreed upon by the child.
Again, it is important for parents to know and understand the lines of expertise. Making the decision to medicate is very personal and up to the family of the child. In addition, people who do not have a medical background should never feel that they have the right to determine medical management. Parents should never feel threatened to make medical decisions when lines of expertise have been crossed. Medical management should solely be discussed between the family and their provider.
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