Ask the Experts

Q: My Daughter Gets Good Grades, but It Takes Superhuman Effort

Your child is succeeding in school, but at what cost? Staying up all night or devoting every weekend to studying could be considered “mitigating measures” that entitle her to 504 Plan services. Our expert explains.

Q: “My daughter is doing well in school, but only at great personal cost. Her grades are good, but she stays up all night doing homework. She devotes her entire weekend to catching up on school projects. She’s intelligent, so it seems like things should be going more smoothly for her. Does this mean she needs an IEP or 504 Plan?”

This is a really important question, and there are a variety of ways to help your daughter. The easiest approach is a 504 plan that can help a child who is not suffering academically, but is suffering in other ways.

What I tell parents to do in this situation is to keep a log of all the things that are happening outside of school. This should include everything the student is doing in order to keep up:

  • how much time she is spending on homework
  • how many sleepless nights she’s had
  • how much extra tutoring you, as a parent, are providing

If there is an outside counselor or therapist involved, ask them to write a letter addressing these issues.

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Under Section 504, those efforts have a name that’s important legally: mitigating measures. A mitigating measure is something that is provided that assists the student to perform in a way that lets her meet the expectation for standard performance, but only because she is putting in special effort that others don’t need to exert. Other examples of mitigating measures include: medication, eyeglasses, sound dampening devices, or enlarged type on a computer. They are all things that neutralize some of the negative effects of the disability and allow the student to perform.

The important factor is that the school is not allowed to deny eligibility for a service based on the mitigating measure – in your daughter’s case, staying up all night doing homework. They have to take into account any extraordinary effort to perform. That’s why all the extra documentation is critical.

For many of these students, academic difficulties may also be causing a degree of anxiety or depression. The absence of accommodations can increase that anxiety – even if the student still gets a good grade.

This advice came from “IEP or a 504 Plan: Which Is Best for Your Child?,” an ADDitude webinar lead by Matt Cohen, Esq. in October 2018 that is now available for free replay.

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