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Psychologists’ Authority to Diagnose ADHD to Determine Special Education Eligibility

posted on Tue, Oct 23 2018 4:47 pm by The Network for Public Health Law

Poor impulse control and an inability to concentrate are hallmarks of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Left undiagnosed and unaddressed, ADHD can lead to significant problems and poor outcomes for school-aged children.

A requester contacted the Network regarding whether Minnesota law permits psychologists to diagnose ADHD for purposes of determining special education eligibility. In contrast to states like Michigan, Minnesota law currently does allow psychologists to diagnose ADHD for this purpose. The written diagnosis to determine eligibility can be made by a qualified practitioner, including not only a licensed physician, but also a licensed psychologist or an advanced practice nurse.

Prior to 2008, eligibility for an individualized education program (IEP) based on a diagnosis of ADHD was always based on a written diagnosis provided by a physician. But in 2008 the Minnesota legislature amended the relevant special education statute (Minn. Stat. 125A.02) and added the following sentence:

“A licensed physician, an advanced practice nurse, or a licensed psychologist is qualified to make a diagnosis and determination of attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for purposes of identifying a child with a disability.”

The term “licensed psychologist” denotes a psychologist licensed by the Minnesota Board of Psychology.

The corresponding Minnesota regulation (Minnesota Rule 3525.1335, subd. 2(A)) states:

“Sub. 2. Criteria. The team shall determine that a pupil is eligible and in need of special education instruction and services if the pupil meets the criteria in items A and B.

A. There is:

(1) written and signed documentation by a licensed physician of a medically diagnosed chronic or acute health condition; or

(2) in the case of a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD or ADHD), there is written and signed documentation of a medical diagnosis by a licensed physician, an advanced practice nurse, or a licensed psychologist. The diagnosis of ADD or ADHD must include appropriate documentation using DSM criteria that items A to E have been met. DSM criteria documentation must be provided by either a licensed physician or a mental health or medical professional licensed to diagnose the condition.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the history of the amended Minn. Stat. 125A.02 confirms that this added language was intended to expand the scope of practitioners qualified to make a written diagnosis of ADHD for special education eligibility.

Those seeking additional information and support can consider contacting the following organizations and programs:


Network attorneys are available to answer questions on this and other public health topics at no cost to you, and can assist you in using law to advance your public health initiatives. Contact a Network Attorney in your area for more information. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.