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No 504 Accommodations Without an IEP?

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Eileen S. Marzola, Ed.D.

Q: I tutor a student who has ADHD and had a learning evaluation done. He has great difficulty in finishing assignments on time, taking tests, organizing and preparing any type of writing assignments, etc. He doesn't have an IEP.

He's entering a private high school and they will not give him 504 accommodations unless he has an IEP. I know this is a gray area when dealing with the subject of 504. According to the ADA, if the school is receiving any type of government funding, then they have to accommodate students with disabilities. His parent wants to get him classified. She trusts my advice and wants to know if she should send her son to the public school district. Any suggestions?

A: You do not have to have an IEP in order to receive Section 504 modifications. You do need a Section 504 Accommodations Plan. Modifications or accommodations, however, are not the same as services. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires public school districts to provide a free, appropriate public education to every "qualified handicapped person" who resides within their jurisdiction. The Office of Civil Rights is the federal agency within the Department of Education that enforces Section 504. That office has ruled that children with ADHD are "qualified handicapped persons" under Section 504 if their ability to learn or otherwise benefit from their education is substantially limited due to ADHD. Harvey C. Parker in his book, Problem Solver Guide for Students with ADHD, provides an excellent list of modifications that could be proposed under Section 504.

Many students who need services in addition to modifications in their academic programs might be eligible to receive those services at the closest public school that provides them. Many times these services are provided before or after school so that they do not disrupt the student's regular school day.

Before contemplating a change in schools, I would contact CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders) at 1-800-233-4050 to see if there is a branch of this advocacy group in your community. They may have already had dealings with this school and may be able to help you work through the system. In any case, someone there should be able to provide you with support as well as information about this student's rights under the law.

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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.

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