So Is My ADHD Child Covered by Section 504?

Your child may qualify to receive accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 states that:

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance….” [29 U.S.C. §794(a), 34 C.F.R. §104.4(a)].

Under Section 504, students qualify if they are between ages 3 and 22 and have a disability [34 C.F.R. §104.3(k)(2)].

So, the next question is, does ADHD qualify as a disability? The federal law states that:

“An individual with a disability means any person who:

i. has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity;

ii. has a record of such an impairment; or

iii. is regarded as having such an impairment” [34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)].

Does ADHD qualify as an “impairment?” This is the gray area in which ADHD seems to fit well but allows wriggle room for schools. Under Section 504, impairment may include any disorder or disability that “substantially” reduces a student’s ability to access learning in the educational environment because of a learning or behavior related condition.

The wriggle room for schools is that the law is always subject to interpretation. So, every school interprets and implements Section 504 differently. Since ADHD has no physical manifestation like epilepsy or cerebral palsy, it is a hidden problem. Compounding this is the fact that many educators still believe the myth that poor parenting causes the problem or that by giving the child medication, all will be solved without need for accommodation at school. Therefore, under these circumstances, the onus is not on the school, they believe, it is on the parent.

Unfortunately, Section 504 does not define a list of specific disorders (again wriggle room). Obviously, that list would have to be highly comprehensive and definitive.

Also, ADHD would have to affect “major life activities” Major life activities do include, among a variety of other things, concentrating (ADHD), learning, sitting, working, thinking, and interacting/cooperating with others. Many of these major life activities are often affected by ADHD. So, your ADHD child may be included, but the school must agree that some of these “major life activities” substantially limit your child’s education.

So, does your ADHD child qualify for section 504? The answer is, yes – most likely. It should be apparent to you that the law has left a large gray area for interpretation in some cases. 

Remember this: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Squeak loud, know your rights, and document everything. You should be able to make good headway with this approach.

IEP: An ADHD ADD Student Right

To IEP or not to IEP that’s the $100,000 question!

MICHAEL BARBER of the Bradenton Herald reports that:

 The Manatee County school district has spent more than $100,000 in legal fees battling an attempt to get an 11-year-old boy with attention deficit disorder a special education plan, according to documents The Herald reviewed.”

Since the AD/HD boy has performed well academically and on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, the school doesn’t believe it’s responsible to provide a special education Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

School officials argue that accommodating this student could set a costly precedent for the district and state by allowing thousands of other ADHD students to apply for special education plans.

Final arguments in the federal case were heard in Tampa on Thursday. U.S. District Judge James Whittemore is expected to render a decision in the next couple of weeks.

While I agree that this could precipitate a flood of AD/HD requests for accommodation, what’s more important here, students’ educations and well beings or money?

Every student has a right to an IEP.

It simply defines what goals and objectives will be used over the student’s academic year to achieve success. If some accommodations like computer software, lengthened test time, etc. need to be implemented, then do it. It is mandated and paid for by the federal government under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). It does require extra effort and perhaps even extra staff to write and implement the IEP.

“On Thursday, Superintendent Roger Dearing told The Herald the district had spent an estimated $50,000 on the case.

…Although exact legal fees the school district paid to the various firms were not available Friday, district records indicate the total figure spent on the case exceeded $100,000.

When asked whether he thought the $100,000-plus legal tab was worth it, Dearing was emphatic.

“Would you spend $100,000 to save $10 million?” Dearing asked.

Dearing said that there are more than 2,000 students in Manatee County schools who are ADHD and that special education plans can cost $5,000 or more. If all of those ADHD students applied for special education plans, the cost could be as much as $10 million per year.”

In order to save money, the school system is arguing that AD/HD is not covered by the IDEA.

School board members Larry Simmons and Harry Kinnan both said they did not like having to spend district money on costly court cases, but in this instance they thought it was the right thing to do.

“I think it’s an important enough case that we have to spend what it takes,” Simmons said. “It’s not about this particular young man or his mother. It’s about a potentially serious financial impact to the school district.”

Kinnan agreed.

“I think it’s regrettable the money can’t be marked for other things, but we’ve decided as a school district that it’s important to stop a precedent from being established,” Kinnan said.

“You have to weigh the implications for the school system if you don’t fight this case.”

Who is right? and who is wrong? seem to be moot questions. The question is, what is the best education for this child and what would a special education IEP provide that? If that answer is yes, then do the right thing. We’ll see what the courts say.

ADHD: An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for ALL Students

Dr. Sydney Zentall from Purdue urges new techniques for teaching ADHD children. I agree wholeheartedly. However, the new techniques should be based on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that should be given to ALL students thus teaching to their strengths and strengthening their weaknesses. While advocating new teaching methods for ADHD students sells books, it is only a small portion of this nation’s massive education problem.

From United Press International:

New ADHD educational methods urged WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., July 11 (UPI) – A Purdue researcher says teachers and parents need to learn new methods to help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Fads and ‘how-to lists’ are more prevalent than methods based on educational research, said Sydney Zentall, a professor of special education and psychological sciences in Purdue’s College of Education.

But, she added, because students who have ADHD spend the majority of their time in general educational settings, it’s critical to get scientific information to the people who are going to help them learn how to live in society.

She said part of the reason for the scarcity of ADHD information in textbooks is ADHD has not been categorized as a disability in special education until recently.

Purdue News Service said Zentall is an internationally recognized authority on hyperactivity and ADHD. She developed a theory in 1975 called Optimal Stimulation Theory, suggesting hyperactive children might have a greater need for stimulation and would benefit from a more active learning environment.