How much is an ADHD diagnosis worth to a school?

Is it possible that schools may suffer financially if a child progresses past the two or more grade level deficit for which they receive additional funding when a child is diagnosed with ADHD?

Stephen Guffanti, M.D. not only was head of an ADHD clinic, he also served as President of the School Board in his community in California. So he knows of whence he speaks when he says to follow the money to get some answers about the increase in ADHD diagnoses.

The following excerpt is modified with permission and from his book, Does Your Child Really Have ADHD?

Twenty years ago I was taking a family practice education course from UCLA.

The doctor started his discussion on hyperactivity by stating that it was a Monday through Friday disease that took summers off! This statement couldn’t possibly be true – no physical defect could come and go based on the day of the week.

The cause had to be outside of the body, i.e. the school that was in session Monday through Friday and took summers off. I left that session in the middle of the doctor’s speech, disheartened that a well-respected institution, UCLA, had doctors who were willing to abandon a 2,500year tradition of applying science to medicine, in exchange for what has become political correctness.

How did we get here as it relates to ADHD?

Part of the answer about ADHD is to follow the money.

Insurance companies pay claims based on the diagnosis. A kinesthetic learner is a normal child who learns through ovement. This diagnosis would pay nothing.

ADHD is a medical condition that would pay generously.

At about the same time as my UCLA experience, I was talking to a high school principal about a student who was an all state CIF running back. The principal stated that the child was dumb!

Here was a young man who had memorized some 80 plays and executed them to such perfection as to be named “all state” yet the principal thought he was dumb!


Well, look at his grades! He was barely qualified to play sports.

Sadly, those same grades made the child think he was dumb. Research shows, however, that there is no relationship between I.Q. and grades. If tested using a kinesthetic test, he most likely would show a very high I.Q. His problem was that he was not taught the way he learns best – through movement.

He was taught the way his teachers learned best. (Fortunately for kinesthetics, good coaches tend to also have kinesthetic learning styles.)

In public education you need to follow both the money and the politics when it comes to getting answers about ADHD. Ritalin would have slowed this star athlete down and winning football games is politically important, so he was spared.

ADHD But a diagnosis of ADHD could be worth, to a school district, perhaps as much as an extra $1,000 or more per child, as long as that child is at least two years below grade level. The school district might spend much more than that giving the child “special services,” but that is simply an argument between different departments.

As long as Special Ed brings extra money into the school district, teachers, doctors and psychologists will be pressured to diagnose ADHD.

The same pressure that creates the label also keeps them labeled. Notice that the child needs to be “at least two years below grade level with this ADHD label.”

Obviously, any treatment that works to bring the child up to grade level would cut the funding. (A recent study shows that drug treatments for ADHD don’t improve grades.) As the interdepartmental fights reach their own equilibrium, children are released from Special Ed at about the same rate as new ones are placed.

Parents: You’ll Hear Conflicting Ideas—How to Know What Is True About ADHD

Because of the incredible influence of money and politics, the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD is very muddied. Good research is hard to find and hard to get funded. As a result many parents hear conflicting ideas.

How then do you know what is true about your child and ADHD?

Here are the criteria I use: The body responds to its environment. If the response is dysfunctional it will be consistently dysfunctional. A child who can’t pay attention in class, but can pay attention to television doesn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder; we know this because the response from the body is functional when watching TV.

Many parents are told, “But that is the way ADHD is!”

My suggested response to the professional that tells them that is, “How then can you tell the difference between ADHD and simple boredom?”

According to Pat Wyman, founder of there are excellent resources and articles available on ADHD and the services for which children who have ADHD qualify at a legal advocacy website known as Wrightslaw.

Part 2 of thisADHD article follows tomorrow in the articles section at

stephen guffantiStephen Guffanti is a physician, parent and author of several books and programs including Does Your Child Really Have ADHD, The Purpose of Passion and Rocket Phonics.

Dr. Guffanti is also the founder of the blog, ADHD or Active Child.

He is an Official ADHD expert on and will answer your questions on our blog.  Submit your questions using the contact us form at the bottom of the page.

Ask Dr. Guffanti your questions about ADHD and leave your comments about money and ADHD.

Related articles on ADHD:

For more on ADHD visit Dr. Stephen Guffanti’s site at

For the Super Speller Strategy visit

Put your comments below – do you believe your child really has ADHD?