Don't let your child be cheated out of services. A new, broader interpretation of 504 Plans puts the law on your side.
by Wayne Kalyn
When it comes to helping our kids in school, knowledge and persistence are the currencies of success. The more we know about what our kids are entitled to in school, the more we can engineer their success.
This point was driven home a couple of weeks ago by Chris Dendy, M.S., a former teacher, education specialist, frequent contributor to ADDitude, and author of Teaching Teenagers with ADD, ADHD, and Executive Function Deficits. She informed us that the Office for Civil Rights started issuing policy guidelines to schools earlier this year for granting eligibility for 504 Plans.
The message from the OCR is clear: Many school districts interpret the Americans with Disabilities and Section 504 acts too narrowly, denying services to some students who should be receiving them. This is good news for parents and students with ADHD.
For example, the OCR states, "Students, who, in the past, may not have been determined to have a disability under Section 504 and Title II may now, in fact, be found to have a disability under those laws."
Just as importantly, says the OCR, students whom a school district did not believe had a disability, and who therefore did not receive special education or related services before the 2008 Amendments Act was passed, must now be considered under these new legal standards.
So before you jump into your chainmail and helmet and head off to joust with school officials about securing a 504 Plan for your child, read this summary of need-to-know highlights from the OCR that Dendy passed along. Knowledge is power.
>> Students with ADHD who were denied eligibility for a 504 Plan in the past may now be eligible and must be reconsidered.
>> The school cannot penalize or deny services because the student is taking medication, has accommodations, assistive technology, or has learned behavioral modifications.
>> A disability should be interpreted broadly. It is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including reading, learning, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and neurological and brain functioning.
>> A school district should not need or require extensive documentation or analysis to determine that a child with diabetes, epilepsy, bipolar disorder, or autism has a disability. (Although ADHD is not listed, it should be included in this list when the student struggles in school.)
>> Students with ADHD who are making good grades may be eligible for Section 504 services. “Grades are just one consideration, and do not provide information on how much effort or how many outside resources are required for the student to achieve those grades,” says the OCR.
>> If parents request an evaluation, that request alone indicates that the child needs or is believed to need services.
>> School districts should revise policies and procedures regarding Section 504 if they don’t meet legal standards.
Read and print out all of the OCR’s policy guidelines before your next meeting with school administrators. Then hand them out to the attendees. This way, everyone will be on the same page, which is a good place to be for ADHD students and their parents.