Advocating for a Child with ADHD – 504 or IEP?

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

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01/20/2016 8:38 pm

My grandson is having trouble with Math and is starting to fall behind. His teacher thinks he may be OCD and suggested that he be evaluated by a pediatrician but they can’t see him for 4 months. It was my understanding that the school should be resposible for any testing to determine if he has a learning disability regardless of what his state test scores are.

01/24/2016 4:04 pm

My understanding is, if the school suggests a child be evaluated for something, they can be held responsible for the costs of the evaluation. I’m surprised they would say that.

11/21/2015 9:21 pm

My 11 yo son has a,diagnosis of ADHD. He has been suspended for the third time and was referred to a juvenile officer. He hit other students. Some of this is due to ongoing teasing. They tell him he is making it up when he reports the teasing.

The principal called him a little freak.” What can I do?

10/29/2015 12:11 pm


I was told my daughter had an evaluation and did not need special services. It would be best if she attended half days. Next year I found out there was never an evaluation done. She is now in 3rd grade still far behind, yet the school still will not provide her with the help she needs. I filed a complaint and they found negligence with regards to my daughter. The school had to put some procedures in writing. The issue my daughter’s education, is side stepped or “We don’t have the funds”. I feel there were laws broken in kindergarten, and my daughter should be compensated for them. She still deals with the consequences she was subjected to, by the violations of responsibility and unethical behavior of that group of educators.

09/22/2015 8:57 pm

My niece 10 last yr when the school gave her the Mm Cass, test, we got the results in the mail the following school year say she had a warning in math.. ok so my question is this. I requested a IEP AND 504 before the test and the following yr also. The school tests her and keep saying she does not need a iep small town .. . She has adhd, odd, bipolar and ptsd. So she is temporarily in another school in the city who soon as her entry into the school said to me she needs to be on a iep and puth her on one, with out me having to request it.. So my question is, can I sue the small town school for denying her the IEP i new she needed???

10/27/2015 12:39 pm


Sorry but for many reasons, we can’t recommend that anyone sue their school district based on information in an email or question to the blog. We don’t have access to your niece’s complete educational file, including evaluations, and we don’t know the rules in the state where you live.

If you are serious about pursuing this, I suggest that you consult with an advocate or an attorney with expertise in special education law. You can find names and contact info for attorneys and advocates on your state page of the Yellow Pages for Kids site here:

You can also check the people listed as members of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates here:

10/27/2015 11:30 am

I’m not sure if you can sue, but you can call the State and make a complaint. You can also contact the media which could be very embarrassing.

10/27/2015 10:44 am

You can request an Impartial hearing . If you want her in her local school.Call your state education department or county office . And office of civil rights.
But I think once she has the IEP she can take it back to her local school and it’s mandatory they can’t remove it..

She may not need and IEP or 504 for math per se but may need either Bc her various diagnosis are impairing her ability to function..

02/26/2015 8:58 am

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….

02/25/2015 1:12 pm

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

05/21/2015 12:42 pm

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.

P am
09/18/2015 11:15 am

I’m in IL also and when my daughter started freshman year I requested that she get a 504 or IEP for her depression and was told she didn’t need it since her grades were good. She is now a Jr and her grades are down. I am going to ask again for an IEP. Do you have any tips to help? Thanks

01/25/2015 7:07 pm

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.

09/25/2015 9:41 am

My son is 10 and was diagnosed 2 years ago with ADHD. He also had a bad reaction to the pill form of the medication. I won’t go into detail but it was very bad. He is doing much better now because of the patch form of this medication. You might want to check with your child’s doctor. We are fighting right now with the insurance company to assist us on the payment. It is very expensive, especially because there are only 30 patches in the box. But is was worth it my son is doing much better in school and his appetite is better as well. I hope this has helped. I certainly know the heart ache and frustration that goes with being the best advocate for our children with ADHD.

01/22/2015 1:34 pm

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

01/08/2015 3:00 pm

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

08/28/2015 7:49 pm

Use Kahn Academy to help with instruction. If she qualifies for sped services, the on-line school is responsible. You may be better off having her in regular school and requesting Hospital Homebound services. This is not under special ed but is available to all students who need to have education provided at home.

07/10/2015 12:22 am

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.

08/28/2015 7:47 pm

child find covers free evaluation and identification, but it does not guarantee services

12/23/2014 1:01 pm

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????

12/09/2014 11:27 am

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.

11/14/2014 9:44 pm

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

11/04/2014 10:57 am

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!

10/29/2014 7:08 am

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.

10/22/2014 12:37 pm

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.

10/03/2014 11:29 pm

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

10/02/2014 5:31 pm

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.

10/01/2014 8:21 am

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.

09/28/2014 4:29 pm

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.

09/25/2014 7:59 pm

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.

09/15/2014 8:00 am

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?

09/08/2014 10:51 pm

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.

09/08/2014 10:10 pm

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.

09/08/2014 9:30 pm

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.

09/08/2014 1:35 pm

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
09/06/2014 11:33 pm

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.

09/01/2014 1:00 pm

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?

08/26/2014 6:32 pm

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

08/22/2014 1:01 pm

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.

08/20/2014 9:43 pm

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.

08/19/2014 1:12 pm

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.

08/18/2014 7:10 pm

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.

08/15/2014 10:47 am

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.

08/14/2014 8:53 pm

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?

08/11/2014 3:52 pm

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.

08/01/2014 1:23 pm

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.

07/31/2014 9:13 pm

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.

07/25/2014 7:38 pm

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.

08/01/2014 11:21 am

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.

06/19/2014 2:18 pm

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?

06/09/2014 12:16 pm

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?

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