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More Than 1,200 Parents in Federal Inquiry Say Schools Fail A.D.D. Pupils

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Washington--More than 1,200 parents of children with attention- deficit disorder have complained to the Education Department that the youngsters are not being adequately served in regular classrooms and are being excluded from special-education services.

But most of the administrators, teachers, and education groups re sponding to a department request for written comments on the issue said children with the disorder who need special attention are receiving it.$

In all, the department received 2,068 letters in response to a notice in the Federal Register soliciting comments on how to define the disorder and whether afflicted children are being excluded from services they are entitled to. The Congress mandated the notice when it reauthorized the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act last November.

The department forwarded a summary of the responses to Capitol Hill late last month.3

The size of the response was surprising, according to Robert Silverstein, staff director of the Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy.

We saw a general consensus that add exists as a physical and men0 tal impairment, and that when it adversely affects educational perform0 ance, a child should receive special education," Mr. Silverstein said.

"The disagreement," he said, "came with [school] people saying that already exists, and parents say0 ing, 'In my school system they're telling me the opposite."'

One administrator, however, in a comment the Education Department summary states was one of many along the same lines, wrote: "In order to get services for a typical [add] child, that child must wait until his/her performance is significantly below his ability. By this time the child's self-esteem and desire to learn is almost irreparably damaged."$6

Last fall, a Congressional propos0 al to explicitly entitle children with the disorder to special-education services was dropped after opposi0 tion arose from a wide array of edu0 cation, mental-health, and civil-Hrights groups. The opponents feared such an expansion of services would flood special-education programs Land dilute their effectiveness.

The civil-rights groups also feared that vague clinical definitions of the disorder, which is characterized by distractibility and impulsiveness, could cause many children to be inap propriately labeled. Many of the com ments sent to the department reiter ated that concern.$

Maria Cuprill, staff director of the House Subcommittee on Select Edu cation, said a Congressional response to the comments would be "very high priority" and could come as an amendment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or as separate legislation.

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