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Dear ADDitude: Is a Modified Schedule a Reasonable Accommodation?

“We’d like my son’s 504 Plan to include a stipulation that his most difficult core classes be scheduled for the morning, when he’s most alert. The high school is dragging its feet, and his grades are suffering. Is this a reasonable accommodation?”

ADDitude Answers

If you are not satisfied that the school is following the 504 Plan, the first step would be to write a letter to the Section 504 Coordinator in your school district. This is often enough for the school to stop “dragging their feet” and implement the accommodations in the 504 Plan. If you aren’t satisfied with the results after talking to the coordinator, you can file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.

As to whether this is a reasonable accommodation, that would depend on whether the classes are offered in the morning and, should your son take them in the morning, will he still be able to take all the classes he needs to graduate? Is there another required class that is offered only in the morning? That said, there should be ways to coordinate this. More high schools are offering online classes or through a virtual school environment. This way he could take classes based on his alertness, and then have the rest of the day to take other required classes. I think the question to the school would be, “Why is this so much trouble?” If you ask that, you might find out exactly what is causing the problem and, hopefully, how to work with the school to find a solution.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

The law does provide some recourse for families. Check out these articles:

Special Education Laws: Fixing IEP and 504 Plan Problems
What To Do When the School Fails Your Child

Can your son take these courses again over the summer or through virtual online public school, so he can take them in the morning?

You know, even if his medication is worn off in the afternoon, the school (public schools) is obligated to offer him a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)—they must accommodate his needs at that time, not what his needs would be if he had the class when his medication was working.

Since his 504 obviously isn’t effective, I’d ask for a 504 team meeting (in writing to principal) to review and modify the plan so it will be effective for him.

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

We moved out of the country and homeschooling became our best option. Surprisingly it has worked well for all of us! We can meet school requirements in about 4 hours a day. Our daughter mostly self-teaches using online curriculum and curriculum that has checklists and detailed instructions. She does most of her work in the morning when she’s much more alert. I don’t assign homework and her national U.S. test scores increased 29 points!

Posted by Lilies&Orchids

A Reader Answers

Let me suggest a rather obnoxious way to get the result you’re looking for. It may cost a little money, but should get things moving. Have a lawyer draft a letter to the school that says the equivalent of, “We have notified you that our son has a disability for which he is entitled to accommodation under section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We understand that, in your professional opinion, you are not willing to give our son accommodations at this time. Your failure to develop and follow a plan to address our son’s disability is concerning. Please be advised that, given your decision not to develop a plan, we will treat any adverse consequences that our child suffers as a result of his disability (including, but not limited to, grades and disciplinary consequences) as a violation of our child’s rights under section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and will litigate as appropriate.”

In other words, put the school on notice that even though they are dragging their feet, you still expect them to accommodate your child’s disability as required by law. My guess is that they’ll quickly develop a change to the accommodations, because not doing so leaves them open to legal liability.

Posted by todd0813

A Reader Answers

We have to advocate for the best interests of our children. If we don’t then nobody will. If you’re not having success with the 504, which I’m sorry to say is all too common, or the counselor, then it’s time to call in the principal and possibly the director of special education. Your son should not be suffering from the results of his ‘disability’. I always phrase it that way for effect.

Another option is to ask for a meeting and bring in an advocate. Often schools are more responsive to their requests and the advocates know what to ask for. It takes some of the burden off of you.

Posted by Havebeenthere

A Reader Answers

We made the decision to remove our daughter from our local district’s brick and mortar system, and work with a public cyber school (K12 curriculum, state-funded; same standards, certified teachers, same state assessment, etc).

We have found block scheduling — doing multiple lessons in one or two subjects one day, then another subject the next day — to be most beneficial for her learning and sanity!

In general, cyber programs seem to work best when there’s a parent at home that is willing and able to work with the child, although it doesn’t have to be an ‘educator’ by profession! Frankly, cyber schooling has been the ideal for our family because it provides academic rigor, allows us to take time during the day to schedule appointments for therapy, gives us flexibility for enrichment in areas that she really enjoys and we can implement whatever interventions work best for her.

It takes a lot of intentional effort on the part of the parent(s), but it’s well worth it. Definitely check into whether your state has public cyber programs; or just visit your state dept of education website and search ‘charter schools’) because then you’re putting your tax dollars to great use!

Posted by VPMom