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Can the School Force You to Put Your Child on Medicine for ADHD?

by Anne Goetz, studioD

If your child's school is pressuring you to medicate your child for ADHD, take a deep breath and educate yourself on what comes next. Often, parents feel as though their child has only two options -- take drugs or leave school -- but this could not be farther from the truth.

Whose Choice is It?

Ultimately, it is your choice whether to start your child on medication. It is a decision that you make in conjunction with your child's pediatrician or therapist than with your child’s teacher or school superintendent. Child experts at PBS.org suggest that parents ask themselves a series of questions to help in the decision-making process. Ask yourself what behaviors you are hoping to alter, and if the medications might interfere with your child's learning. Also, ask what the benefits and risks are of medicating.

Special Accommodations

According to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Learning Disabilities, children diagnosed with ADHD can apply to the school district for free accommodations, such as an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP. Although ADHD is not classified under learning disorders, it is covered under the Other Health Impairment category of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, or IDEA. To request an assessment, a parent usually notifies the school counselor or psychologist. Once it is determined that an assessment is in order, a team of professionals evaluates the child -- this might include a psychologist, special educator, speech therapist or others -- to determine eligibility. To qualify for an IEP, a child's disorder must affect how he functions at school. A child following an IEP might spend several hours a day in an alternative classroom setting under the instruction of a highly qualified teacher.

Suspension and Expulsion

The school district can suspend any student, whether he has a disability or not, for up to 10 days for infractions of school policy, according to the Parent Information Center on Special Education. In extreme cases, such as those involving weapons or bodily harm, the school can enforce harsher penalties. It is important to note that if the school determines that it was the disorder that caused a child's behavior, then the district must return the child to school immediately and expunge the suspension from his record.

Refusing Drug Therapy

Since the formation of IDEA, school districts have been unable to exclude children based on whether or not the child is on drug therapy. If medicating your child feels wrong, you might seek the help of a professional in behavioral therapy. According to the experts at KidsHealth.org, sometimes, a solution as simple as reorganizing a child's home and school environment can prove beneficial in improving the symptoms of ADHD. Enforcing clear boundaries and a system of rewards and consequences can also be helpful.

Who Can Help Decide?

The most important factor to keep in mind is that whether you decide for or against medicating your child for ADHD, you should never make the choice alone. Always seek the informed opinions of pediatricians, therapists, counselors, or whoever your child sees for his disorder. Talk with his teachers, guidance counselor and school principal, if you haven't done so already. Most importantly, talk with your child. He is the most reliable source to tell you what is going on inside his mind and body.

About the Author

Anne Goetz shares her parenting and career experience with North American Parent, Hagerstown Magazine, c0ws.com, Lhyme.com and a variety of other online and print publications. A mother of two with a degree in communications and a long history in management, Goetz spends her spare time hiking, camping and blogging. She is the author of the site, An Unedited Life: The Ultimate Blog for Freelance Writers.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot/Polka Dot/Getty Images