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This lesson will provide you with basic knowledge of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the context of special education. We’ll also examine guidelines for writing IEP goals for a student who has been identified as having ADHD.

What Is ADHD?

Medical doctors will use multiple medical criteria listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to complete a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).Children and adolescents who meet the criteria of ADHD often have average intelligence but have problems that prevent them from paying attention or being engaged in their learning. Diagnosis for ADHD will involve the completion of a rating scale that is filled out by parents and teachers. If the child shows the same behaviors at school and in the home, then they have the earmarks of ADHD.Some students may also be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Students who are ADD do not have the hyperactivity component and can be misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, since their symptoms are less obvious than students who show signs of hyperactivity.

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What Are IEP Goals?

Now that you understand ADHD, writing IEP, or individualized education program, goals will depend on the areas where students’ ADHD affects their learning. IEP goals can be written based on test scores, informal observations, or recommendations from qualified professionals.IEP goals can be written and monitored by one or more of the following: special education teachers, regular education teachers, behavior specialists, counselors, and in some cases, school psychologists. Students with ADHD may also work with a speech language pathologist if their ADHD or other disability affects their communication skills.

IEP goals need to be observable and measurable and written to make sure you help the student succeed and grow. IEP can focus on peer interactions, social skills, and academics. However, IEP goals for students with ADHD will vary depending on their intelligence and behavior.

IEPs and Behavior Plans

Some students with ADHD will have extensive behavior plans and behavioral goals but no academic goals. For instance, some ADHD students might be aggressive and get into fights. In such a case, school psychologists, counselors, and behavior specialists might help the student with self-control and coping skills, and goals can be written to assist in these areas.Goals for the IEP and associated behavior plans are often written to modify the behavior of the student.

Students can have goals written to assist you in ensuring your ADHD student remains on task. You can use interval charts to assist the student with task completion. IEP and behavior plan goals will also be written to ensure that the student is actively participating in class. Goals might also address ways of being less disruptive during class time.

Examples of Behavior and Peer Interaction Goals

Let’s look at a few examples of what behavior and peer interaction goals might look like:

  • With prompting, the student will (TSW) interact with peers by saying good morning or hello to at least one student.
  • TSW keep his/her hands, feet, and objects to himself or herself and will be rewarded when each task is accomplished.
  • With prompting, TSW use positive words to describe peers at least 80% of the time during group work
  • TSW raise a hand before asking a question 4 out of 5 times during independent work time

Example of Self-Control Goals

Now, we can examine examples of self-control goals:

  • Before asking a question, TSW count to 10, 3 out of 5 times
  • TSW raise a hand to participate in class discussion 8 out of 10 times
  • TSW recognize when he or she feels frustrated and will raise a hand for help 8 out of 10 times
  • When feeling distracted, TSW use a squeeze toy 3 out of 5 times without being reminded
  • TSW ask for permission before leaving his or her seat 3 out of 5 times

IEP: Communication

In some cases, the student with ADHD might qualify for services from a speech language pathologist (SLP). Many students who have ADHD show an inability to follow directions or take turns, and an SLP can assist students in developing their expressive communication skills appropriately. Many school districts consider taking turns and sharing as an essential skill to be successful in school.

For this reason, an IEP team would consider if the students need to work with an SLP and develop appropriate social skills.

Examples of Social Communication Goals

Here are some sample social communication goals that could be written in an IEP for a student who has ADHD:

  • TSW follow directions 3 out of 5 times the first time they are given
  • TSW follow 2-step directions 3 out of 5 times when asked to
  • TSW a pass a toy to a neighbor 3 out of 5 times during circle time


A student who has ADHD will only have an IEP if the disability impedes learning or comorbidly exists with one of the 13 special education disability categories under the IDEIA (Individuals with Disability Education Improvement Act), ranging from autism to visual impairment. In some cases, the student may fall into the Other Health Impaired (OHI) category.For children who have been diagnosed with ADHD but do not meet the criteria to have an IEP, they would qualify for a 504 plan as noted in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. For instance, students who have ADHD and no other medical, psychological, or educational deficits are more likely to qualify for accommodations that fall under Section 504.A 504 plan allows anyone with a disability to have reasonable accommodations.

These accommodations can include extended time on tests and quizzes, breaks between learning, and extra time to transition from one activity to another. Students also may be given a different chair or desk. Accommodations outlined in a 504 Plan could be the same as those in an IEP, or they could allow for more structure for the student to learn in school.Students on a 504 plan receive education in a general classroom since their disability does not affect how they learn material.

This student will complete the same assignments and tests as non-disabled peers but will have extra time for other accommodations. Schools must comply with 504 plans and ensure that the accommodations for the 504 plan are followed in the same manner as an IEP.

Lesson Summary

A student who has ADHD will only have an individualized education program, or IEP, if the disability impedes learning or exists with one of 13 special education disability categories under the IDEIA (Individuals with Disability Education Improvement Act). The IEP team will decide what goals to write and who will monitor the goals. ADHD students who are not eligible for an IEP are able to qualify for a 504 plan, which also allows for accommodations.

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