Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Counselors, Laws, and Implications for Practice

By Erk, Robert R. | Professional School Counseling, April 1999 | Go to article overview

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Counselors, Laws, and Implications for Practice


Erk, Robert R., Professional School Counseling


Barkley (1990, 1995) and Taylor (1994) believed that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common childhood disorder in our society The more conservative estimates of the prevalence rate for ADHD range from 3% to 5% of the school-age population (Barkley, 1990; American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 1994). Popper (1988) reported that the prevalence rate for ADHD is 3% to 10% of the school-age population. Hosie and Erk (1993) concluded that ADHD affects 5% to 10% of the children in our nation's schools. Shaywitz and Shaywitz (1992) estimated that ADHD may possibly affect as much as 20% of the school-age population. For school counselors, it is prudent to consider ADHD as a prevalent, severe, and pervasive disorder.

Failure to diagnose and treat children and adolescents with ADHD properly can have detrimental effects to key areas of their lives (e.g., academic, emotional, social, familial, occupational) that often endure across their lifespans (Barkley, 1990; Copeland & Love, 1991; Friedman & Doyal, 1992; Goldstein 8z Goldstein & Goldstein, 1990; Taylor, 1994; Zemetkin, 1995). It seems that the population of children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD who are referred for counseling or treatment by parents, teachers, school psychologists, and physicians to school counselors (e.g., elementary, middle school, high school) has significantly increased. Therefore, the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD has often placed greater demands on school counselors and teachers to be cognizant or aware of the federal laws or statutes that can be applied to children and adolescents diagnosed with the disorder.

Unless speaking specifically in this article, the term ADHD is used to incorporate all the subtypes (e. g., predominately inattentive type, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, combined type) of the disorder that are contained in the DSM-IV (1994). School counselors should be cognizant or aware of the specific diagnosis or subtype of the ADHD when they are providing or monitoring services for children or adolescents with the disorder. For example, counselors should remember that the diagnosis of a particular subtype of ADHD (e. g., predominantly inattentive) can mean that there is a need for special or specific interventions to match the different academic, behavioral, or social profiles that can be present or exist. In this article, the terms ADHD and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are considered interchangeable.

The purpose of this article is twofold: first, to provide school counselors with an increased understanding of the federal acts or laws that can be applicable to students with ADHD and second, to provide counselors with implications for practice utilizing a multidimensional treatment approach to working with these children.

Counselors And ADHD: Legal Issues

For today's counselor, legal issues have become a major concern (Capuzzi & Gross, 1995). The handling of children and adolescents who have ADHD has raised a number of legal issues (Ouellette, 1991). Counselors and other professionals who work with students have a responsibility to be aware of the laws relating to students and to attempt to ensure that their legal rights are respected (Fisher & Sorenson, 1996).

Moreover, counselors should remember that today's schools carry responsibility for managing matters or conditions (e. g., child abuse, suicide, substance abuse, ADHD) that can ultimately lead to litigation (James & DeVaney, 1995). Counselors are the school personnel most likely to be involved with problematic or dysfunctional children, and with increasing frequency, counselors are finding themselves facing legal issues and responsibility for their actions (Davis & Richie, 1993).

One can, therefore, reasonably assume that liability can potentially accrue for counselors or individual educators and schools who have not kept abreast of the laws and of their responsibilities to identify, serve, and make accommodations or treatment available for children or adolescents diagnosed with ADHD. …

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