Can attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) be classified as a disability? The answer is not a simple one. Learn more about the circumstances behind an ADHD disability classification.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that mostly affects children but can also be diagnosed later in life. A person with ADHD exhibits signs of being impulsive, inattentive for long periods, frequent procrastination, periodic bouts of hyperactivity or problems starting and completing tasks. Depending on the severity of ADHD, individuals may have trouble functioning normally in everyday life, even with medication.
In many cases, a diagnosis of ADHD has long-term ramifications for the individual at school, in the workplace or during interactions with others. A question, therefore, arises as to whether or not ADHD is considered a disability. Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one. In order to address if ADHD is a mental disability, a complete understanding of the specific disability qualifications is necessary.
Article at a Glance:
- ADHD is considered to be a disability in the U.S. under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, with some stipulations.
- ADHD is only a protected disability when it interferes with a person’s ability to work and participate in society but not for mild conditions that don’t interfere with functionality.
- The Centers for Disease Control considers ADHD to be a developmental disability.
- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke does not consider ADHD to be a learning disability.
- It may be possible to receive disability benefits if you or your child has ADHD.
ADHD and the Americans With Disabilities Act
TheAmericans With Disabilities Act (ADA)is a federal law that went into effect in 1990 to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. The overall goal of the ADA is to make discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the public sector illegal. Thus, people with disabilities receive equal opportunities and the same protections as everyone else regardless of ethnicity, sex, age, religion and other criteria.
Is ADHD a disability under the ADA? Under both the ADA and another law known as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,ADHD is considered a disability in the United States, but with strict stipulations. For instance, ADHD is considered a protected disability if it is severe and interferes with a person’s ability to work or participate in the public sector. If, however, ADHD is mild or does not interfere with a person’s ability to function in society, then they are not likely to receive benefits from federal or state governments.
Is ADHD a Developmental Disability?
Yes, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD is among the most common developmental disorders for children, impacting neurodevelopment. Along with autism, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, vision impairment and others, ADHD is also considered a developmental disability.
Is ADHD a Learning Disability?
Learning disabilities are defined as a subtype of developmental disabilities. According to theNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a person with a learning disability has difficulty understanding either written or spoken word, and performing calculations and other tasks.
According to theLearning Disabilities Association of America, ADHD is not considered a learning disability. However, research suggests that up to half of all children with ADHD also have a concurrent learning disability that can make learning particularly challenging for those individuals.
ADHD and Cognitive Disability
Another type of disability that is commonly associated with ADHD is known as a cognitive disability. Cognitive disabilities are defined as a limiting condition where an individual has slower mental aptitude and functioning. People with cognitive disabilities may have difficulty learning and take longer to develop than their normal counterparts. These individuals may require assistance to function in society for the entirety of their lives. So, is ADHD a cognitive disability? Currently, many features of ADHD echo mild cognitive impairment. However, the answer to this question depends on the medical practitioner who diagnoses these conditions. Some medical professionals think that yes, ADHD can be considered a cognitive disability, while others distinguish the two conditions as separate.
Can Someone Receive Disability Benefits for ADHD?
Since ADHD is a disability, can people with the disorder receive disability benefits? The short answer is yes, an individual can receive disability benefits for ADHD. However, there are very strict rules about whether a person with ADHD qualifies for benefits under the United States government. First, the process for filing social security disability with a diagnosis of ADHD can be lengthy. In order to obtain social security disability income (SSDI) for ADHD, individuals must have beendiagnosed with the condition since childhood. Additionally, a person must be able to prove that their ability to participate in schoolwork or to maintain a job was severely hindered by their diagnosis.
A government official will examine school performance and look for patterns suggesting severe functional impairments during childhood and into adulthood via medical documents, standardized test scores and life history. In addition,several other requirementsmust be met in order to qualify for social security disability including:
- The individual must have documentation from a medical professional of an ADHD diagnosis, with the following symptoms: inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity
- The person must have documentation that two of three conditions were a direct result of ADHD: problems with communicating, functioning in social settings or functioning in one’s personal life relative to people of the same age
It should be noted that receiving social security benefits for an ADHD disability can be difficult unless substantial evidence suggests that this diagnosis has significantly impaired a person’s ability to function in everyday life.
Receiving Benefits for a Child With ADHD
Receiving benefits for an adult with ADHD is a very similar process for children. The same conditions must be fulfilled for a child to receive SSDI or an alternative benefit known assupplemental security income (SSI). Unless a child has a parent who is also collecting SSDI benefits, they will not receive these benefits. Instead, SSI helps both children and adults who are disabled and cannot successfully earn a living or earn too little to make ends meet. The goal of social security benefits for a child with ADHD is to help family members with their care.
While ADHD is considered a disability for a child, in order to be considered for government disability benefits, children must meetspecific criteriasimilar to their adult counterparts.
Depending on the severity of ADHD, this condition can be managed using a variety of strategies. Given thatADHD is treatedvery differently in children than adults, some strategies may be more effective than others. Strategies to manage ADHDinclude:
- Using prescribed medications:including stimulants, non-stimulants, antidepressants, or a combination of the aforementioned
- Psychotherapy:includingindividual therapy, group therapy,cognitive behavioral therapyanddialectical behavioral therapy
If you or a loved one struggle with managingADHD and a co-occurring addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Call today to speak with arepresentativeto discuss the best options for treating both ADHD and addiction together.
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Editor – Gretchen Pruett
Gretchen Pruett is a writer and editor based out of Detroit, specializing in academic and evidence-based content. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Bonnie Bullock, PHD
Bonnie is a medical communications specialist at Boston Strategic Partners, a global health industry consulting firm. Her recent work in mental health includes developing conference materials for clinical studies in mood disorders and copy-editing clinical manuscripts. Read more
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ADA National Network. “What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?” June 2019. Accessed June 28, 2019.
Clarke, Molly. “Social Security Disability Benefits for […]ildren with ADD/ADHD.” The A.D.D. Resource Center, August 20, 2013. Accessed June 28, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Facts About Developmental Disabilities.” April 17, 2018. Accessed June 28, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?” May 3, 2018. Accessed June 28, 2019.
Disability Benefits Help. “ADHD and Social Security Disability.” (n.d.) Accessed June 28, 2019.
Harvard Health Publishing. “Recognizing and managing ADHD in adults.” November 2009. Accessed June 28, 2019.
Learning Disabilities Association of America. “ADHD.”(n.d.). Accessed June 28, 2019.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Learning Disabilities Information Page.” March 27, 2019. Accessed June 28, 2019.
Noor, Asha. “ADHD and the Protection Under the Americ[…]ith Disabilities Act.” Disability Resource Community (n.d.) Accessed June 28, 2019.
Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities. “Cognitive Disabilities Resources.” (n.d.) Accessed June 28, 2019.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.
Yes. Whether you view attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as neurological — affecting how the brain concentrates or thinks — or consider ADHD as a disability that impacts working, there is no question that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers individuals with ADHD.Is ADHD enough to get disability? ›
Yes, it's considered a formal disability under different acts and organizations. The accommodations you can receive may change depending on your condition and how it impacts your life. To qualify for disability benefits under the ADA, your ability to work or learn at school must be impaired from living with ADHD.At what point is ADHD a disability? ›
ADHD is only a protected disability when it interferes with a person's ability to work and participate in society but not for mild conditions that don't interfere with functionality. The Centers for Disease Control considers ADHD to be a developmental disability.Is ADHD a disability or learning disability? ›
ADHD is not a learning disability, as it does not affect a person's ability to learn a specific skill set, such as reading, writing, or mathematics. However, some effects of ADHD, such as difficulty concentrating, can lead to some challenges in learning.How do you prove ADHD is a disability? ›
You must be able to show medical evidence that you undergo the following symptoms: Marked or severe impairment in age-appropriate cognitive/communication function; and/or. Marked or severe impairment in age-appropriate social functioning; and/or. Marked or severe impairment in age-appropriate personal functioning.What is considered severe ADHD? ›
Severe: Many symptoms are present beyond the number needed to make a diagnosis; several symptoms are particularly severe; or symptoms result in marked impairment in social, school or work settings.Should I list ADHD as a disability for work? ›
Is ADHD covered by the ADA? Yes. Whether you view ADHD as neurological — affecting how the brain concentrates or thinks — or consider ADHD as a disability that impacts working, there is no question that the ADA covers individuals with ADHD.Is ADHD a mental illness or Neurological Disorder? ›
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that affects a person's ability to control their behavior and pay attention to tasks.Is ADHD a part of Autism? ›
ADHD is not on the autism spectrum, but they have some of the same symptoms. And having one of these conditions increases the chances of having the other. Experts have changed the way they think about how autism and ADHD are related.Is ADHD considered a mental disability? ›
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disability condition that is characterized by excessive impulsivity and hyperactivity. 1. Those with ADHD may also have problems focusing on particular tasks or exhibit high inattention levels as well.
Frequently Asked Questions. Is ADHD considered a mental illness or disorder? ADHD is considered a psychiatric disorder because its symptoms involve mental functioning and cause significant impairment.Is ADHD a severe mental impairment? ›
They are often associated with distress and can affect social situations, work, or relationships. Although ADHD falls into the defined category of mental illness, it's most often referred to as a disorder, even by the American Psychiatric Association.Do you get money for having ADHD? ›
ADHD is recognised as a condition which qualifies for disability benefits and funding. The following is a summary of the various avenues to explore: The Disability Register Identity Card (for children and young people) is an invaluable card for ADHD children.Should I disclose ADHD as a disability? ›
You must disclose your documented diagnosis, and show that ADHD “substantially limits a major life activity” — in this case, your job. Formal requests for an accommodation must be made in writing, and the accommodation(s) you ask for shouldn't place an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.Can my child get Social Security for ADHD? ›
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, or ADD, he or she can qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits if the severity of the child's ADHD meets the Social Security Administration's childhood impairment listing for neurodevelopmental disorders (listing 112.11).What age is ADHD hardest? ›
- The median age of onset for ADHD is 6 years old, with symptoms typically appearing between ages 3 and 6 .
- The more severe the symptoms, the earlier the diagnosis, with 4 years old being the median age of diagnosis for severe ADHD.
ADHD brain fog causes people to feel unfocused and mentally exhausted. Brain fog can also cause anxiety, depression, low productivity, forgetfulness, and problems communicating with others. When all these factors combine, it becomes virtually impossible for the person to function normally.What looks like ADHD but isn t? ›
People with bipolar disorder appear to display ADHD symptoms during manic episodes, such as restlessness, trouble sleeping, and hyperactivity. During depressive episodes, symptoms such as lack of focus, lethargy, and inattention can also mirror those of ADHD.Should I mention my ADHD in an interview? ›
When should you reveal you have ADHD? ADHD is a medical condition and should be treated as such. Employers cannot legally discriminate against you because you have ADHD, but to make certain it's not an issue, you shouldn't reveal you have it or if you need accommodations until after you have the job.What kind of accommodations should I ask for work ADHD? ›
- A quiet workspace or noise-blocking headphones to reduce distractions.
- Calendars to keep track of important deadlines.
- Timers to help the individual stay on task.
- Tasks that are divided into smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Short, intermittent breaks.
For employees and family members affected by ADHD, FMLA may be an option to care for unique needs related to ADHD if criteria are met for ADHD to be considered a serious health condition as defined under the law. Consult your employer's FMLA policy and/or your human resources department for more information about FMLA.What are people with ADHD good at? ›
These may include hyperfocus, resilience, creativity, conversational skills, spontaneity, and abundant energy. Many people view these benefits as “superpowers” because those with ADHD can hone them to their advantage. People with ADHD have a unique perspective that others may find interesting and valuable.Do ADHD brains work faster? ›
Many people with ADHD (Inattentive subtype and hyperactive subtype) find their brains work faster than people who don't have ADHD. Your non–linear way of thinking means you can problem solve, catch on to new ideas and have high speed conversations in a way that non–ADHDers just can't.Are you born with ADHD? ›
Genetics. ADHD tends to run in families and, in most cases, it's thought the genes you inherit from your parents are a significant factor in developing the condition. Research shows that parents and siblings of someone with ADHD are more likely to have ADHD themselves.How do people with ADHD think? ›
The mind of a person with ADHD is full of the minutiae of life (“Where are my keys?” “Where did I park the car?”), so there is little room left for new thoughts and memories. Something has to be discarded or forgotten to make room for new information. Often the information individuals with ADHD need is in their memory…Can ADHD be on a spectrum? ›
This is a great question, and the short answer is “yes.” ADHD symptoms exist on a spectrum or a continuum. But the longer answer is a little bit more complicated. There are two important factors to consider: the type of symptoms a person has and how intense the symptoms are.What is ADHD stimming? ›
ADHD stimming is repetitive behavior that helps people with ADHD concentrate and get rid of excess energy. Here's what to know about the different types of stimming and how to manage it in children or yourself. Jul 22, 2022.Is ADHD an emotional or behavioral disability? ›
ADHD is the commonest neuro-behavioural disorder in children and adolescents, with prevalence ranging between 5% and 12% in the developed countries. ADHD is characterized by levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention that are disproportionately excessive for the child's age and development.What is the most common mental illness with ADHD? ›
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
ODD is one of the most common disorders occurring with ADHD. ODD usually starts before 8 years of age, but can also occur in adolescents. Children with ODD may be most likely to act oppositional or defiant around people they know well, such as family members or a regular care provider.
Though brain scans cannot yet reliably diagnose ADHD, some scientists are using them to identify environmental and prenatal factors that affect symptoms, and to better understand how stimulant medications trigger symptom control vs. side effects.
- having a short attention span and being easily distracted.
- making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork.
- appearing forgetful or losing things.
- being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming.
- appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions.
symptoms of bipolar disorder tend to be more severe than those of ADHD. ADHD behavior is ongoing, while symptoms of bipolar disorder occur during distinct episodes. a child with bipolar disorder may experience both high and low moods (depending on the type of bipolar disorder)What does untreated ADHD look like in adults? ›
Symptoms of untreated ADHD in adults include: restlessness or hyperactivity – demonstrated through talking or fidgeting excessively. impulsivity – acting without thinking of long-term consequences. inattention – difficulty staying focused.What is the most severe mental illness? ›
By all accounts, serious mental illnesses include “schizophrenia-spectrum disorders,” “severe bipolar disorder,” and “severe major depression” as specifically and narrowly defined in DSM. People with those disorders comprise the bulk of those with serious mental illness.Can an employer fire you for having ADHD? ›
ADHD is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means your employer can't discriminate against you because you have ADHD.What are the benefits of ADHD diagnosis? ›
The advantage of diagnosis and treatment
After matching for age and gender, those with a diagnosis reported a higher quality of life, which included metrics for work productivity, self-esteem, and functional performance (Pawaskar, M., et al., Journal of Attention Disorders, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2020).
Success rate. The average success rate for all assessed claims for PIP is 53%. For ADD/ADHD the success rate is 49%.Do I have to tell my job I have ADHD? ›
You must disclose your documented diagnosis, and show that ADHD “substantially limits a major life activity” — in this case, your job. Formal requests for an accommodation must be made in writing, and the accommodation(s) you ask for shouldn't place an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.What rights do people with ADHD have workplace? ›
Rehabilitation Act, Section 504
The act prohibits discrimination against qualified employees who have a physical or mental impairments. Like the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 requires employees to demonstrate how ADHD substantially impairs one or more major life activities.
One thing you should know: An ADHD diagnosis alone, does not entitle an employee to services and/or accommodations. You must disclose your documented diagnosis, and show that ADHD "substantially limits a major life activity" — in this case, your job. All formal requests for an accommodation must be made in writing.
The five gifts of ADHD include creativity, emotional sensitivity, exuberance, interpersonal empathy, and being nature-smart (The Gift of Adult ADD, 2008).Is there any point getting an ADHD diagnosis? ›
Many people find that having a diagnosis of ADHD helps them make sense of their life and past decisions. You will want to discuss treatment options with your doctor. Treatment can include lifestyle changes, medication, and therapy, and often includes more than one component.What it feels like to have ADHD? ›
People with ADHD will have at least two or three of the following challenges: difficulty staying on task, paying attention, daydreaming or tuning out, organizational issues, and hyper-focus, which causes us to lose track of time. ADHD-ers are often highly sensitive and empathic.Do people with ADHD get money? ›
If you or your child is struggling with symptoms of severe ADHD, you may qualify for federal benefits. For example, supplemental security income (SSI) under the federal Social Security program is designed to help children under the age of 18 who are affected by severe chronic conditions.Can you claim SSI for ADHD? ›
Having attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD) is not an automatic qualification for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but a documented diagnosis can be helpful if the condition and the impairments are severe enough. ADHD is included in the category of Listed Impairments, under the SSI guidelines.How much is PIP payment? ›
|Lower weekly rate||Higher weekly rate|
|Daily living part||£68.10||£101.75|