Dear ADDitude: Does My Son Need a Diagnosis for a 504 Plan?
“Do you have to have a diagnosis to get a 504 plan? We had a meeting yesterday with my son’s teachers and principal, and they said he should have one. What does this entail?”
Sign up to receive our new Dear ADDitude newsletter.
The truth is it is easier to get a 504 Plan with a diagnosis from a physician, but it is not necessary. You can send a written request for an evaluation, and the school must comply or deny your request. If the school requires a medical, psychiatric, or neurological exam before completing the evaluation, they, not you, must pay for the evaluation. Some schools have a staff school psychologist to perform evaluations.
If you choose to have an evaluation done privately, talk with your family physician. Some family doctors understand ADHD and are qualified to complete assessments. Others will refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for the evaluation.
Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance Writer, Author Specializing in ADHD, Anxiety, and Autism
My understanding is that the law does not require a diagnosis for a 504 plan, just that learning is negatively affected.
If they are pushing for diagnosis to work with you though, then you will likely have to get the diagnosis. Here’s how
Posted by Penny Williams
ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, and Mom to Pre-Teen Boy w/ ADHD and LDs
A Reader Answers
See a doctor who is trained to properly diagnose your child. A form needs to be filled out. Ask school for the form and the doctor needs to complete and sign off on it. The form should clearly identify the diagnosis (using medical codes) and, if need be, identify if a full time para is needed along with other services.
Posted by Mooch
A Reader Answers
This is really going to depend on the team you are working with at the school. Even with a doctor’s diagnosis, the teachers, principal and other school staff might not agree. They may need to do their own academic or behavioral testing.
First make sure you have documentation from the school talking about performance/behaviors/trouble. Make sure you can prove that he has a problem — this is assuming that they don’t already agree with you.
I would then write a list of the problems your son has — both in and out of school, and share it with the school before you meet with them.
This will help you drive the meeting. What I found was that if the school leads the meeting, then they only address the stuff they want to address. They only provide the typical accommodations regardless of whether they are appropriate or not. It also help you stay on topic and make sure your concerns are addressed.
Then systematically go down the list with them and see how they will help your son address each of the problems. In many ways, I approached this like an IEP. I wanted them to get very specific with their accommodations — which a 504 won’t do. 504 plans are meant to be generic.
If your son can function in class without getting into trouble, do all of his work, and have strong social friendships, then you may not need one. However, if your child has ADHD, he likely has some/all of these problems in which case I would think you do need a 504.
Posted by Motherhenn
A Reader Answers
In my state, they only required a signed doctor’s letterhead diagnosis note stating the nature of my son’s learning disability, in order to be eligible for a 504 plan. Teachers and staff are accountable by the state as well as the district you’re in once you have initiated the 504 process. They are reported on as part of your child’s 504 team, and yearly group meetings are required as his 504 plan follows him up through the grades and gets modified to fit his growing and changing needs. I never would have known about 504 plans if it weren’t for my son’s first pediatrician. The school doesn’t advertise any of these free services in my district, you just have to know to ask for them. Many different kinds of testing are available, including social services, speech therapy, cognitive development assessments, occupational therapies, Asperger’s and autism awareness, and many more. Our public school tax dollars help pay for all this, you just have to ask the right person or ask the right questions to get started within your school.
Posted by WhoAreYou4
A Reader Answers
Our state parent advocacy group advised me to write a letter requesting a meeting to consider a 504 plan. I wrote the letter stating my request, the reasons for the request, and the exact needs that would be met. Before that I had been told that they didn’t have to assess my daughter just because I asked for it. Once I put it in writing, I got a prompt response almost bending over backwards to comply with my request, because they now had a paper trail and a legal obligation to respond to me.
Posted by Camhy
A Reader Answers
Section 504 is a Federal Law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and ensures that children have equal access to education. So whenever anyone tells you that the school/school district/or whatever does not know or have to abide by something, ask them to please read the section 504 laws. I suggest you read them as well. They are hard to understand sometimes, but it’s surprising how fast a school will move when you reference these laws.
If they tell your child tests too high or needs a diagnosis, ask for a FBA (Functioning Behavior Assessment) to be completed. Sometimes just a behavior issue is enough to get accommodations/modifications. If there is a behavior issue, then that means your child isn’t learning correctly and the behavior is a symptom/side-effect of the child’s challenges. This way along with evaluation for academics, there is also a behavior assessment. At the same time ask for a psychological evaluation and an IEP/504 meeting. Send requests in writing. Make copies of the letters and keep them.
You are letting the school know you have some knowledge regarding what is required to get started, that you won’t be bamboozled, and that you want services for your child. If you get to an IEP/504 meeting and they have not performed and completed a FBA (Functional Behavior Assessment) and sent/given you a copy before the meeting as is required by law then you can just tell them they did not complete their part of the process and you will be glad to meet them when they have completed all of their responsibilities for your child. Don’t let them tell you a FBA is not needed. If there are behavior issues, you want them documented because this helps with getting accommodations/modifications on a 504/IEP.
Posted by PattiJ
This question was originally asked on the ADDConnect forums. Read the original discussion here.
Updated on May 1, 2021