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Advocating for a Child with ADHD – 504 or IEP?

by Susan Bruce

I’ve scheduled my daughter for a speech & language evaluation due to CAPD and potential expressive language disorder. She also has a diagnosis of ADHD Inattentive. Our school district goes to any means to prevent giving a 504 for ADHD. They say it does not substantially affect learning. How do I advocate for all her needs?

You need to get a copy of Section 504 and read it. Search the Wrightslaw website for information about Section 504. Contact your state Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to see if they offer training on the topic.

Section 504 says that a child’s disability must adversely affect a major life function. Going to school is our kid’s job. It is a major life function!

The school says your daughter does not qualify for a 504 because she does not have failing grades. Get them to put it in writing.

A good way to do this without seeming adversarial is to use a comment like this. “Wow.  I did not realize that my daughter’s grades had to be failing for her to qualify for a section 504. Do you have a copy of that law and could you put that in writing?” Write a polite letter to the school with your request.

Look at this a different way.  A student has a physical impairment that prevents him from getting to class on time. He is making passing grades. An appropriate 504 accommodation might be more time to get to class.  Would the school deny this student a 504, just because he is making passing grades? How would that be equal access and opportunity? This is the promise of 504.

Eligible for an IEP under IDEA?

If my child had an ADHD diagnosis, I would request a complete evaluation.  ADHD often goes hand in hand with a learning disability. If your daughter has CAPD, then she should be eligible under IDEA for an IEP with speech/language services. The IEP should include accommodations for all of her needs. IDEA says school cannot deny a child services because she is passing and moving from grade to grade.

An IEP provides your child (and you) with more rights and protections than a 504 plan. If your daughter has a disability that adversely affects educational performance, she is eligible for special education services under IDEA.  If your daughter is eligible for special education under IDEA, she is protected under Section 504 (but the converse is not true).

This diagram always makes it easier for me when I am trying to help parents understand that a child with an IEP is covered by 504.

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109 Comments on "Advocating for a Child with ADHD – 504 or IEP?"


I read everything and I have a question. What to do about the behavior in school?
Also my daughter is having trouble learning and her behavior in school. I ask for a 504 plan for her last year in just now getting.
I have to meet with school to get her back in school. My girl was being bullied now they’re saying she’s the bully. I don’t know what to do, what are her rights as child with ADD? Please help me….


My daughter has been diagnosed with ADHA and depression and anxiety and is repeating the 8th grade again now. but don’t have a learning disability and passed the testing for the IEP. so I was told she’s not eligible for IEP. put her this 504 plan and she’s still having trouble in her classes and is failing 8th grad again. so does she qualify for IEP with the conditions she has? if you can please let me know if I should fight for the IEP for my daughter and how. What I should say to get her the help I need? thank you


wow!!! my daughter has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression (and takes medication) and was eligible for an IEP under the “emotional disability” section. We live in Illinois so I don’t know if that makes a difference but you should really push your school a bit (no actually A LOT) especially since your daughter has been diagnosed with ADHA AND is repeating a grade AGAIN. Something doesn’t sound right there at all.


My 7 year old son has just been diagnosed with adhd 3 months ago. We tried working with him to teach him how to deal but his performance at school is rapidly getting worse so we got him meds and he had a horrible abnormal reaction. Dr said hes likely to have bad reaction to all meds so we put him on a diet restricting sugar intake. But he is failing. Although we see improvement its not enough for school and they keep coming at me saying he needs meds. I just don’t know what to do anymore. They know his condition, yet it seems to me they have done nothing to acccommodate him. Idk what else to do and everyone’s comments are negatively impacting him and giving him excuses not to try and to act out.


My child is Dyslexia AD/HD and I know of the 37 characteristic of this disability he has over 80% of them. Example:I know he can memorize 10 Vocabulary words with definition in about 3 days. He will make a 100 every time but if you give him the same test in about two weeks maybe less he won’t remember. My question is how can the state give them a state assessment test and expect them to pass…Most of time it is in the moment they learn and put it behind them. Make me understand and how we can change this…UPSET PARENT. OH did I say I am Dyslexia AD/HD


My granddaughter Rachel, is 13 and has been diagnosed with a Social Phobia and once we were told she had Selective Mutism, after I had mentioned that I had read an article on it in Reader’s Digest.
She is very reclusive and does not like to be around people she doesn’t know. She is enrolled in K12 Online School (OLS) and I am her learning coach. I only had one page of Algebra in all of my educational history, and I am expected to show Rachel how to do Algebra, when I don’t know how. K12 tells me that even though she is under an IEP, their IEP is not like the Traditional one, and they cannot furnish her a state paid for tutor. My question is, Can I and just how do I, go about getting her a state paid for tutor in Math in general and Algebra in particular? If you can’t help me, please tell me who can. Thanks


I am a graduate student studying School Psychology so I am still learning myself. But there is a law called Child Find is also mandated under IDEA. This law states that public schools are responsible for locating and serving all children living within their district in need of special education or related services. Your granddaughter may be able to receive a state paid for tutor under this law. This link to another “Wright’s Law” article has more information on Child Find.


Hello, I really need help, 1st IEP for 5 year old granddaughter that we have custody of, the school is trying to qualify her for an IEP on the basis of ADHD type 2(?) She sees a psych every 6 mths, has a weekly counseling session and had never been diagnosed with ADHD but school won’t remove. I tried to record the IEP meeting and was told NO so I made her state her name and why the school is forbidding taping and then said we are done here, she tried to get me to turn off the recorder and I told her not until I leave the building. Where or what do I do next????


I am a single Grandmother raising my 9 yr old Grandson. I am just now learning about ADHA and all this disabilities laws for in the school. My Grandson came home crying on last Friday because he was excluded from a field trip because he has been not paying attention and so on in class. We went to a Dr and he gave me a paper to take to school telling the school that he should have 504 accommodations. What this means,I have no idea. I also have mental health disabilities and things are hard for me to understand. Is it possible for you to send me some information on the RIGHTs of Students With Disabilities. I have internet but no printer. I would appreciate anything that will help me. Im trying to help my Grandson as much as possible so he doesn’t feel stupid…as he puts it.


I am in California. I have requested evaluation and for learning disabilities. During the meeting it was decided to wait until after the doctor diagnosed ADHD and the doctor test for dyslexia. The docotor does think he has ADHD and has referred him for further testing. Additionally i have also found that the school is resonsible for testing for the reading disorder (dyslexia). 1st question: Is there a need/benefit to waiting for a complete ADHD eval before the school starts testing or is the school stalling. 2nd: I’m not sure if it’s lack of knowledge that the school referred me to the doctor to determine dyslexia but exactly what test are they requierd to give. I don’t quite trust that the school will give the appropiate test and i want to be sure that I know what to look for. Thank you


My son has been treated for ADD for years. Has been wonderful for impulsivity and behaviors. Throughout elementary school academic performance was exceptional with advance placement. He just entered middle school and is making D’s and D-‘s in many subjects solely due to missing homework. Classroom work, quiz and tests are consistently 100%. He is just not able to manage the necessary organizational demands. Have meeting tomorrow with his Team. Would GREATLY appreciate any input/recommendations/suggestions. Thank you!


Did you ever find out about your son getting a smaller version of his math tests? We are in the same situation with our 7th grade son. He seems to get math at Hm when we work with him and guide him but bombs tests:( we were trying not to put him on ritalin again but have to recently to help him focus . He eats and grows so much without the med but the alternative is distracted and no focus.


My daughters elementary school wanted to place her on an iep and label her “ED”. We attended every meeting and were very active with private doctors and therapists. We chose to decline the IEP and did not want our child labeled. She is now a 6th grader, mostly honor roll high level classes. She is somewhat defiant at times and lases out with refusal to do some work assignments etc… I requested a 504 plan meeting but was told verbally by the assistant principal that she is not eligible due to us declining an IEP years ago. I asked for this proof in writing/documentation. They have not responded. Can you answer this for me? We are located in public schools of Maryland.


What if I signed the consent form in May 2013 and the school has not tested?


I have a question? My son is in the 7th grade and is failing math. I do have a 504 for him. I have also hired a tutor. My question is – What rights do I have for him with his 504. He seems to be getting his math with the tutor but when he takes the test he fails. Can I request a smaller version of the test, or a teacher to read the test to him, make him figure it out but be there to guide him? I have a meeting scheduled and want to go in knowing what I am allowed to ask them to do for him.


Kimberly, I don’t know if you will check back here, but your son’s situation sounds exactly like mine’s. He is in 8th grade, (last year of middle school, and feels like the last year to “figure this out”). I have a meeting with his teaching team on Friday, and I feel sad and exhausted about how to approach it. We’ve been dealing with honest and often negative feedback about our son since he entered the world of education at the age of 3. We’ve tried to do things right, and advocate when necessary, but allow him to navigate and make mistakes and learn from them. He is a beautiful person. But now we’re in the last year of middle school, and the stakes are much higher, and the teachers much less patient and understanding. He comes off as lazy and not invested to them, and I get why, but it’s just not the case. More to say, no room.


Hi can you tell me if its possible to put in my childs iep that when his teacher is absent that he is excused from going to school that day. Substitutes stress him out completely and they know nothing about his daily routines. The school is saying that its not possible. I even suggested that i would go sit the day in class with him when she is out. They were completely against it.


Currently defending a six yr old’s IEP, where the school district is trying to remove transportation because he is not physically handicapped. I challenge that education is a major life function, and denying transportation denies him a fair and appropiate edu. She wants Alternate Dispute Resolution.


I submitted a request for testing from our private counselor whom diagnosed my 8 year old son with ADHD 3 months before school ended last year due to his focus issues and behavior problems in class. This year I attended an SAT meeting and offered suggestions in the plan that was agreed on by myself, his teachers, assistant principal etc, then last Friday written in his agenda was having trouble focusing. I agreed that we would wait 4 to 6 weeks to test him based on the results implemented in the plan but the teachers did not enforce the original plan agreed on at the SAT meeting. What are my other options?


My daughter has ADD. She is on medication. She is in 10th grade. The Special Education Coodinator will not write a 504 plan for her but will write down on paper accomodations for her which are shared with her teachers to implement in the classroom. She stuggles with memorizing, reading and does not spell well.She has been tested for a learning disability two times since second grade. She doesn’t quailify for anything. I worry about her when she takes the Ohio Graduating Test that will be adminsitered to her in the Spring. I also, worry about her with the A.C.T. I know if she had an I.E.P accommodations could be made to help her take these tests. She was tested in Second and Eighth Grade. There was a big enough discrepancy between ability level and achievement level. If it weren’t for the accommodations she would be struggling.


Kimberly, there is a discrepancy formula that was used to determine eligibility for Special ed services This was a formula that showed a discrepancy between intelligence and performance. If there was a certain level of discrepancy the child was considered for services. This was a great formula for children with normal & high level of intelligence to get services. It is my understanding that there is nothing in the law that states that if a child is making good grades he does not qualify for services. All of my children were identified with learning disabilities when the discrepancy formula was used. I believe they may not have received much needed services if the RTI formula was used at that time. You can request an evaluation any time.


Yes you should persue changing the IEP. This is a change. I was told by my state special ed dept. that an OHI IEP can have scholastic goals on it if that is what the child needs. Perhaps you can set up a meeting and then discuss all of the issues.


My son was diagnosed with combined type (hyperactive/inattentive) at 9, he’s 14 & in the 9th grade now. He also has an IQ of 151. I have been told by every school he has attended that he would not qualify for an IEP or 504 because his super genius intelligence makes it look on paper that his ADHD is not substantially impacting the major life activity of learning. He struggles with keeping up with work due to poor time mgmt & organizational skills & it is affecting his grades, yet they won’t even evaluate him. He’s constantly stressed and has D’s in several classes at the moment, yet spends countless hours on schoolwork. I’ve tried everything I can to help, including therapy, medication & organizational tools. Nothing has helped. His poor grades are solely due to late/missing assignments, not an inability to do the work. Need help please!!

Concerned Parent

Can you please provide the specific statute that says that school districts cannot deny 504 accommodations to a child with ADD and learning disorders (working memory, audio and visual processing) because the child has passing or good grades?

Thank you.


My 10 year old son has an IEP under OHI due to ADHD but we’ve recently discovered that he has moderately to severe dyslexia. We think that the ADHD diagnosis was given too quickly and other LD’s we’re not looked into. He has not taken his ADHD medicine for over 6 months and has been doing great, although he is still severely struggling academically. Since his IEP is under OHI due to ADHA and this may be a misdiagnosis, could this be detrimental to his ability to receive services? His IEP has mostly been for accommodations and modifications. Our public school does not teach an approved Orton-Gillingham method for dyslexics. Should we pursue changing the IEP?


At what grade is a good time to ask for a 504 plan?


Recently the school decided to form a junior high which is 1.4 miles from my house. my daughter has adhd and ODD with other underlying issues not yet diagnosed per doctors. The school has refused to provide transportation for my daughter although i have told them in phone conversations and in writing that my child can not walk that distance alone. I fear for her safety because she is very defiant and the lack of attention leaves her at risk. I have attempted to allow her to walk with an adult following her without her knowledge and on several occasions she has crossed streets without looking,talked to strangers and completely just got distracted from where she should be going. can anyone help me. I do not drive and I have to go to work in the morning. I do not know how i am going to get her safely to school on a daily basis.


Have you requested the evaluation in writing? If not, make the request and in this letter say something like, “please consider the letter my informed, written consent to evaluate.” I would also demonstrate suspicion of disability along with “adverse educational effect” in my letter as well. Whether it be a medical diagnosis, failing grades, MISSING class time due to being in the principals office or suspensions, poor standardized test scores etcetera.


My 13 yr old son has adhd & 504. He continues to struggle despite the accommodations. I have asked for a homework modification & been denied. His issues continue to contribute to falling/ failing grades. He needs more help. Does he need to be retested for an IEP. I have followed all recommendations for counseling and medication.


I was told my son (6 year old with behavioral problems) couldn’t get IEP or IDEA services because he is passing. Please help. He is always kicked out of school.


To Carly, re IEP for college.

There are several issues in your question.

Does a private school have to provide an IEP for a child with a disability? Answer-No

Does the public sch have to provide that child with an IEP? Answer-variable, complicated. Begins with child find laws.

Does a college have to provide a child with a disability with an IEP? Answer-no, IEP are based on IDEA 2004 which only applies to public schools, not higher ed.

What does apply? Answer-Section 504 and ADA AA.

On our website, left column, scroll down to Transition and read links on that page. Most recent is by Bartlett and is outstanding. She is the famous Bartlett in the landmark case v. NY State Bar, Board of Bar Examiners. Her case(s) on Wrightslaw.


My son had is IEP updated last in 3rd grade. He is a senior at a private christian school. How can I get his IEP updated for college?


Hi my child has an IEP and is being denied preschool services because I’m a stay at home mom and of if their requirements at the school is that both parents work. But I’ve been told that it should not matter if I work or not that just because she has an IEP is all that matters.


I wanted to find out if my kids can continue in the school they were in last year. They both have an IEP but we have moved to a different zone but same county. Its about 40 miles maybe a little less in distance to our home and the school. My son failed last year because of a car accident and got way behind. So can my kids continue in there old school? My son is going to the 11th grade and he doesn’t want to be in another school. I also feel he would excel in the school where he knows the teachers and they know all his needs and all his friends there. Can they go there and get public transportation? they both also have ADHD with IEP.


Patricia, the IDEA does not address retention or promotion standards, that standard would be set by the state. In some states it may be an IEP team decision. If it is an IEP team decision, YOU are a member of that team. It has been my experience that retention does not work or help (research shows this too). Also good questions to ask are, does my child’s IEP address the areas he is struggling with, does it provide the educational supports and accommodations he needs so he CAN participate AND progress in the general education environment? To better understand your state’s policy on retention/promotion call your state’s Parent Training and Information Center.


I have some question I need to be answer if a child has an iep. Can a child get retain in a grade? I have child in 9th grade.


Patricia: Read the articles, information, and resources on the Wrightslaw Retention, Delays and Social Promotion page here:

SusanB offers good advice. Scroll down the listing on the Yellow Pages for Kids for contact information for your state PTI.


The school district decided my child only needed help in two of the four major classes. She failed the two she did not have support in.
Can the district just decide not to offer full services?


My son was retained because of poor test scores and missing assignments. He was diagnosed at NIH for ADHD. I submitted paperwork to school. They did a 504 plan, he was never evaluated by the school. What are my options?


My child has ADHD and is barely passing 2nd grade. He has been formally diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and APD (auditory processing disorder) My specialists outside of the school. I requested an evaluation and he scored very high on the witt/wyatt (spelling) they told me he doesn’t have APD. And with his ADHD he only qualifies for 504, not IEP. He failed the state test and the teacher had to give to him in segments for him to pass. She recommends a 504. Is this something I am overlooking and not worry so much about IEP and just do 504? Also, how many days does the school have to put a plan into affect after i sign for it to take place? because it was at end of school year they pushed it off til next school year when they can speak to his new teacher about accommidations. Thoughts and opinions please! -Erin

Trish LD

I have 1 paper w “Service Agreement” at top dated 5/31/13 (no f/u) after psychoeducation assessment done. I was told and has always been referred to as IEP.
Her diagnosis is ADHD combined and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
At a meeting last week, the principal, who has never to been meeting prior, not on team and whose signature is missing, refused me when I opined HER suggestion of chunking wouldn’t work for my child. Her exact words “we are doing it anyway” I asked her to please be polite. She even more hostile and beligerant. I got up to leave, went back to grab paper she demanded “sit stand or get out”, I slammed door, she has since had EXTREMELY wrong meeting w husband stating my “overall bad appearance” filed w police and issued disorderly conduct warning at an ATTENDANCE meeting. What can I do?


My son has add, ocd and anxiety. Everyday chores and task are difficult for him. I was also told when he was younger that he had a developmental delay. So he’s very immature and naive for his age. Getting his school to understand his disabilities has been hard. He has a number of quirks and organization is rough. He currently has an IEP in place but I worry about next year and the 6th grade. Administration has made it clear they don’t believe there’s anything wrong and he’s simply being defiant. They’ve been clear in suggesting he change schools as he is at a magnet school for the arts. I’m at a loss. I’ve asked he be tested to see if he can be placed in a learning handicapped class so it’s smaller in size and allows him to pace or stand when he needs it. They say he tests well on the state testing, even though he’s failing in class.


I am pretty sure this is something for a lawyer, your sons civil rights were violated and discrimination of ignoring he has disabilities but yet used his disabilities that ended him in a hospital with things done without your consent. It is hard to get to sue the hospital but you can file civil rights grievance and discrimination on school and find anything else you can to throw back on them. So sorry you went through that. I am now very scared for my little cousin I live with that is autistic that just started school last year and he is 7. he had the “melt down” and took all his clothes off except boxers and crawled under a desk crying until his mother was able to get to him and he was still hard to get home. Easily could have happened to him. He is at the most part actually calm and happy going. He hasn’t hurt anyone. good luck