IEPs & 504 Plans

“Is My Child Entitled to an IEP?” It Depends.

Your child may be entitled to special school services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), but ADHD alone does not merit an IEP. Learn why a 504 Plan is often implemented instead.

Children with ADHD playing with blocks in classroom while teacher looks on as part of school accommodations under IEPS and 504 plans
Children with ADHD playing with blocks in classroom while teacher looks on as part of school accommodations under IEPS and 504 plans

Two federal laws require public schools to provide additional educational services to children who need them — at no cost to parents.

To qualify under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a child must meet the criteria for one of 13 specific disability categories. Attention deficit disorder (ADHD) is not one of these categories, but your child may be eligible if he’s also affected by one of the specified conditions, which include learning disabilities and developmental delays. Or he may qualify under IDEA’s “Other Health Impairment” category.

In either case, having ADHD (or LD) alone doesn’t guarantee eligibility for special services. To qualify for an IEP or 504 for ADHD, the disorder must substantially affect a child’s ability to function in school.

What Your Child Is Entitled to Under IDEA

Children who qualify under IDEA are entitled to special education services, including individual instruction by education specialists. Parents, teachers, and other school staff work together to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

An IEP is a plan for the delivery of special education and related services. It should describe the child’s learning problems, detail the services to be provided, set annual goals, and define how progress will be measured. By law, parents have the right to ask for changes to the plan.

What Your Child Is Entitled to Under a 504 Plan

The other federal law providing educational support is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities, including access to a “free and appropriate public education” (also called FAPE).

If ADHD symptoms “substantially limit” a child’s ability to learn, he is entitled to Section 504 services.

Usually, services included in a 504 Plan involve accommodations in the classroom — like extra time to complete assignments. But the plan may also include the use of assistive technology, such as computer-aided instruction, or access to therapy. There are no legal requirements about what a 504 Plan should include, and the school isn’t required to involve parents in developing it (although many schools do).

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