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Treating ADHD

Two-thirds of children ages 4 through 17 who are currently diagnosed with ADHD are being treated with drugs like Ritalin or Adderall, according to recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While these stimulants, when used appropriately, can significantly improve the lives of children who legitimately require them to balance abnormalities in their brain chemistry, they can also pose serious risks—potentially leading to anxiety, addiction, and occasionally psychosis.

ADHD is one explanation for behavioral problems and/or poor academic performance, but it’s not the only one (and some experts are concerned that it is being over-diagnosed). Likewise, medication is just one option for managing ADHD-like symptoms. Special education is another. It is available under federal law to any child with a disability that hinders his or her ability to learn—be it physical (e.g., visual or hearing impairment), behavioral (e.g., emotional disturbance or autism), or cognitive (e.g., communication or speech disorder). And it is individualized to address the student’s unique differences and needs.

Special ed accommodations can range from smaller class size and tutoring to non-academic services such as recreation or life skills training. The first step in the process is getting assessed for eligibility. When a child qualifies, his/her parents—and when appropriate, the child—become part of the team that creates an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) based on the child’s needs as identified in a thorough evaluation process.

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