I’ve referenced my daughter’s 504 plan before on the blog and it’s possible that some of you don’t know what that is. As with any child who has problem in the classroom, there are ways to make sure that accommodations are made. The goal is to help the child be successful. Lots of people know that IEP (Individualized Education Plans) are available and they can sometimes cover ADHD under the category of OHI (Other Health Impairment). Often though, schools will tell parents that their ADHD child doesn’t qualify for an IEP.
I’ll be honest. As a former teacher, having students with accommodations can be challenging. One child can have multiple accommodations which require the teacher to modify how the child learns and if you have more than one child in a class… well, it quickly becomes a lot of work. School districts have been known to keep things like 504 plans on the hush-hush because it’s easier for the teachers and the staff. I definitely don’t have that problem with my school district and my daughter has a plan that we modify as needed. If you aren’t so lucky though, there are some things that you should know.
- 504 refers to the law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) that prohibits discrimination against people with a disability. Essentially, the child needs to have a disability (ADHD is classified as one) and the disability must interfere with the child’s ability to function in a general classroom. Most kids with ADHD are going to have trouble with normal classroom rules and requirements. It’s just how ADHD is.
- There are fewer rules governing the 504. IEP’s have very specific requirements regarding what the school must do, how the document is formatted and there are rules about changing it. Those rules don’t apply to 504 plans, which can make things tricky. You have to stay on top of what’s going on in your child’s classroom. 504 plans are usually written documents (although nothing says they have to be, you want this in writing!) that outline what supports are going to be given to the child, and who will implement those supports. Keep in mind that as a parent, you will likely have things that you need to do (sign behavior charts, send in prize materials, fidget toys etc).
- You should get a written document outlining your rights as a parent. Read that document and make sure you understand it. Ask questions if you are unsure about something. You need to advocate for your child in this situation. If you don’t nobody else may and that isn’t going to end well for your child.
- You can request evaluation for an IEP without getting a 504 plan. In order to get a IEP, you need to make a written request to the school district to have your child evaluated (this is free). You can find sample letters here: Sample Letters from Understood. The school district will then have 60 days to respond to your request. They will have a professional evaluate your child and present you with the results. You can also have a private evaluation done but you will have to pay for it.
- What kind of accommodations can you have in a 504 plan? Pretty much anything as long as all the parties are in agreement. You can see some ideas here: Accommodations. Think about what you know will help your child and see if your child’s teacher has any ideas. They have had lots of students, generally, and may have ideas that you haven’t thought of.
- There are special education advocates who can help you if you are struggling. I am lucky that I haven’t needed any help so far. I have a background in education so I have some knowledge of the process and the school has been incredibly helpful. That’s not always the case though and you may need somebody on your side who knows the ins and outs of the process. Keep in mind that they are not free and you need to find out what their fees may be. It would also be helpful to find out what kind of experience they have. There are certifying organizations but almost anyone can call themselves a special education advocate.
If you are trying to navigate this process, I get it! It’s hard and frustrating at times, even when you feel like you know what you’re doing. If you need more information, there are places to go for help. Understood is an incredible resource. WrightsLaw is also helpful, although their website can be confusing. ADDitude has plenty of resources and there’s also CHADD. There are resources out there. If you need help, it’s available. I have more resources too, so feel free to ask in the comments if you can’t find what you need on one of the sites I linked to.