Does your child with ADHD need accommodations in the classroom to be successful in the school environment? Then he/she may be eligible for a 504 Plan.
If your child already has a 504 Plan, let’s review what’s new under Federal Law as it relates to the 504.
On September 25, 2008, the President signed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) . The Act, effective January 1, 2009, emphasizes that the definition of disability should be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These changes were mandated over 2 years ago, but you, the parent, need to know that schools are not always up-to-date with changes in provisions.
(The following information was pieced together from www.wrightslaw.com, an excellent resource for matters relevant to educational law.)
ADAAA changes do apply to Section 504 regulations. Changes may increase the numbers of Section 504 plans schools must prepare for students whose needs previously were handled under health plans. The ADAAA restores the original definition of “substantially limited” – that the impairment simply be a substantial limitation rather than a “significant” or “severe” restriction. The ADAAA broadens the definition of “major life activities” and provides that the impairment only needs to limit one major life activity in order to be considered a disability under the ADA.
School districts must now make their Section 504 determinations based upon the child’s disability as it presents itself without mitigating measures (i.e.,hearing aids, medications, learned behavioral adaptations). There is one exception, ordinary eyeglasses on contact lenses. (Example: Suppose you have hired a tutor for your child with a disability, who helps him with homework 2-3 hours a day and helps keep his grades at A or B level. The tutor is a mitigating measure. Now, the use of this mitigating measure (resulting in better grades) cannot be used to preclude someone with a disability from being a person with a disability whose ability to learn is substantially impaired.)
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regulates the implementation of the 504 Plan, among other things. Their website, www2.ed.gov, is great reading!
A summary of information from the OCR follows. My commentary is added in italics.
The Section 504 regulatory provision requires school districts to individually evaluate a student before classifying the student as having a disability or providing the student with special education. It is not adequate for the parent or the child’s physician to submit documentation of a disability. Tests used for this purpose must be selected and administered so as best to ensure that the test results accurately reflect the student’s aptitude or achievement or other factor being measured rather than reflect the student’s disability, except where those are the factors being measured. (In other words, the school wants the whole picture, not just a sketch of the disability.) The tests and other evaluation materials must be validated for the specific purpose for which they are used and appropriately administered by trained personnel (a licensed individual).
A physician’s medical diagnosis may be considered among other sources in evaluating a student with impairment, or believed to have an impairment which substantially limits a major life activity. (I think that most physicians do a poor job of objectifying the evaluation of ADHD. A computerized assessment, called a continuous performance test, is relatively easy to administer and carries tremendous credibility if administered by the physician or psychologist, along with standardized behavioral rating scales.) Other sources to be considered, along with the medical diagnosis, include aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social and cultural background, and adaptive behavior. (I don’t need to tell you that most kids affected by ADHD function at a low adaptive level. Adaptive skills are those skills required to function from day to day. These kids are typically delayed in independent dressing, hygiene, feeding and social skills. If you are negotiating for a 504 Plan, don’t forget to ask for a measure of adaptive skills.)
The results of an outside independent evaluation may be one of many sources to consider. Multi-disciplinary committees must draw from a variety of sources in the evaluation process so that the possibility of error is minimized. All significant factors related to the subject student’s learning process must be considered. These sources and factors include aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social and cultural background, and adaptive behavior, among others. Information from all sources must be documented and considered by knowledgeable committee members. The weight of the information is determined by the committee (that committee includes you, the parents) given the student’s individual circumstances.
Once a 504 Plan is obtained, specific accommodations can be requested. Stay tuned for the next blog post from Spruce Kids, addressing some accommodations that you may not have thought of.
Karen H. Harum, MD, FAAP
Fellow, Neurodevelopmental Disabilities
Related posts: 504 plan, adhd and homeschooling, adhd and school, parenting/FAMILY