Kids with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) have trouble with inattention and impulsive behavior. It can be difficult to manage the routine of the classroom. Teachers and students may blame the child, even though ADHD is a neurological condition. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was created to "level the playing field" and prevent discrimination of a person found to have mental or physical impairments that impede his ability to learn. If a child is protected by Section 504, he has accommodations within the classroom, and is protected from disciplinary actions.
Section 504 offers the child with ADHD some protection, but is broader than IDEA (Individual Disability Act) and does not include an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). For instance, all kids that are protected by IDEA are also protected by Section 504. Yet, kids who fall under Section 504 are not protected or afforded the services of IDEA. Also, Section 504 is not federally funded, so the school is less apt to provide additional services or obtain resources.
Children with ADHD are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) with a Section 504 Plan. If a discipline problem is found to be a manifestation of the disability, then the child receives protection. A child with ADHD is frequently out of his/her seat, talking out of turn, and disrupting the learning environment. Section 504 requires the teacher to make accommodations within the classroom such as preferential seating, necessary breaks, and a possible behavior chart or reward system to prevent escalating behaviors.
IDEA vs Section 504
Section 504 provideds minimal support such as extended time on tests and preferential seating. But due to a lack of funding, it is difficult to get additional services or resources for the child with a Section 504. It is also difficult to obtain legal compliance. Section 504, unlike IDEA, does not require written consent by parents, or the Planning and Placement Team meetings (PPT), which are can be requested at any time in the year if the child has an IEP.
If a child with ADHD struggles emotionally, but not academically, the parents have a hard time convincing their LEA that the child needs services beyond the Section 504. The child must work harder to keep up with his peers, and there are emotional implications. An IEP provides more supports and interventions for the child because it is detailed, and it is a legal contract between LEA and parents. On the contrary, some kids with ADHD are affected to a much lesser degree and are able to handle the school environment with just a few accommodations. In this case, the Section 504 is appropriate and works well.
Each situation is carefully measured by what degree the ADHD child's learning is impacted. Parents that fight to get an IEP for their child could find themselves embroiled in an adversarial situation with lawyers. Despite its delicacy, at times, due to intense emotions of the parents, it is best to remain calm and procure an advocate or outside support when necessary. The simple fact is that children, overall, do better when parents work as a team with their LEA.