Advocating for a Child with ADHD – 504 or IEP?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

Leave a Reply

172 Comment threads
116 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
209 Comment authors
Notify of

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.


My six year old son was diagnostic with edhd last year but he was in IEP so they put him in mild class because was behind and also in first was in mild class so they never put him in regular class and they thing like that is good for him but me I asked to put him regular class when they refuse I exit him from IEP and transfer him to a new school but this school the teacher always contact me that he destruct class or hit some student or not accomplish his task know I do not know what to with his behaver or his academic his behind.


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


Hi my daughter is 8 and is in 1st grade. we have been dealing with ADHD and ODD for 3yrs now and last year she was turned down for an IEP. She transferred schools when the school she was at also turned her down for the 504, but even with the 504 at the school she is currently attending, they dont know what to do with her. Her current school said the other school tested her for the IEP, and said she cant get an IEP. Even if she did get one, it wouldnt be any different then the 504. I desperately need help. My daughter has been on meds for about 3 yrs now and i tried signing her up for SSI but she got denied. She keeps getting suspended from school and sent home every other day. Thank you if you have any suggestions.


My 7 year old son has ADHD, Autism, Anxiety disorder, sensory disorder. has been having a hard time with our family moving. He acted out at school cause they keep touching him. I called the Dr. & was told to bring him in to the ER to speak to someone to find out what’s wrong.

No one spoke to my son & next thing I knew they had Section 12 him & taken his clothes away. My son was in the hospital APS depart. For 50 hrs from 3/5/14 without any signs of harm to himself or others they have medicated him against our wishes & refused to release him to go home. He stayed 7 days & was transferred to a mental facility for 5 more days.

without my consent the hospital spoke to the assistant principal. The same assistant principal that refuses to acknowledge my sons disabilities or even add his disorders to his IEP. My son never hurt anyone.


My child has ADHD and has a 504 Plan. The teachers are aware of his 504 and his disability. My son has a teacher that is always pointing out my sons flaws with listening and focusing issues in class and has made it so my son is embarrassed to ask for help or to come to the teacher if paperwork/class work is lost. The teacher has gone as far as writing on my sons test stating, ” if you would pay attention, you would know…”. He has pointed out my son in front of the class when my child has not turned in assignments. I have repeatedly tried to work with this teacher and have not been fruitful. I’m at a loss.


I want to fight my son’s school has been adhd since first grade. He’s in the 11th grade now, had been kicked outta every school. And I’m just finding out about 504 or IEP.. I feel like the educational system failed him. . He’s again being kicked outta school. I wanted to fight it. I just can’t afford the attorney fees. .. so I feel like I’m failing him now. … plz help me if u know weekday I should do..

Jojo – You need to do your homework. In the Wrightslaw training programs Pete tells parents that they have to read Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy three times! When you read it the first time, you will see your mistakes and where you went wrong and wish that you could turn the clock back. You will go on an emotional roller coaster and become distracted as you read it. Thus the first time, read it, cover to cover, and recognize that the second time you read it, you will be able to start on your game plan. Your planning must include not just the present and this year, but even longer range. The book will help you get started. It is never too late!


My granddaughter is 11 and gets great grades but is very troubled by anxiety brought on by ADHD. This disability has been confirmed by both a psychiatrist and a neurologist to whom the school sent her. She currently has a 504 which isn’t working very well for her disability. They have denied the need for an IEP. My granddaughter, being very bright, figures out what answers they want to hear and feeds it to them such as that she loves school which is so not true. She hates both school and herself. She thinks she is ugly, fat, stupid, etc. but HUD it from the child study team. My daughter is so upset and needs some choices. She takes my granddaughter for therapy but there, too, she gives the answers they want. The 504 just isn’t working. What can we do?


What if you requested a meeting with the IEP coordinator over a month ago and the meeting was never set up. I also called the board of education and asked for help to get the school to set up the meeting, but no response. What is the next step?


My 8 yr. old daughter was recently diagnosed with ADHD from her pediatrician. While I requested a special education evaluation to assess her writing and math (areas that are a challenge), I was told that she likely does not have an LD (although testing has not been completed) and that she would only qualify for a 504. How about her lack of response to interventions that have been tried? She is fairly bright and will likely do fine on the cognitive battery, while I am unsure of the achievement portions for math and writing. Is it just a lot of advocating on the parents behalf to get an IEP over a 504 and in the long run does it really matter if she gets the 504accommodations necessary to make academic gains? Can I get a 504 and if there is not improvement asking for specially designed instruction? I am also concerned about ESY w/o an IEP


To Dawn at Comment 1: The gifted programs are often less structured in middle school, which is a nightmare for an ADD child. Your daughter may also be experiencing effects to her learning from difficulties with executive function, which seems to begin to surface in middle and high school. You should ask for her to be re-tested for all aspects of learning. You should set up a meeting with the IEP coordinator. Push for a study skills class or time in your daughter’s schedule to allow her to catch up on work. Push for weekly check-ins with the teachers by the IEP coordinator to keep track of performance and missing work. Your daughter is working hard, but her disability is not allowing her to be successful. The school needs to provide supports now!


My son is eight years old and diagnosed with ASD, ADD,Motor Coordination Disorder, & sensory processing disorder. We have applied for an IEP and 504 for him. The school has turned him down for both because he is doing well academically well. My son is having a lot of problems staying focused and is easily distracted. He has made some failing grades on tests in the classroom, but passing grades at report card time. What can I do to get the school to accommodate my son’s disabilities?


My daughter has ADD and is also in the gifted program. This year is her first year in Middle School and she is in the top ranked middle school in our state, which is a Magnet school.

My daughter has always been an honor roll student, often straight A’s, although due to her ADD, it always took a lot of work on both her part and the parts of her dad and me. She has an IEP in place becaause the gifted program is considered Special Ed.

This year has been a nightmare. She is failing most of her classes, repeatedly forgets or does not do her homework and the work she does turn in is sloppy and sub-par. Her teachers say she appears not to even care.

We have a conference at the school tomorrow and I want to go in armed with the right questions to ask so that we can get her motivated and liking school again. I feel so lost.


Nancy .. First you should spend sometime on and educated yourself about what a 504 is ? ..You should contact your local CHADD group and ask to speak to someone who can help guide about what to expect having a child w ADD .. .. Educate yourself about ADD and how it affects your chld and what you can do to help him at home and in school. You can contact your states PTI ( Parent Training Information center ) .. google it .. and you can ask them to help guide you thru questions you have ..Your child’s 504 can have modifications and accomodations written into it . if your child needs to be reminded about HW by a teacher or a buddy in class that can be written into the 504 .Child’s grades failing . request in writing for evaluations ..


My daughter was diagnosed with ADD three years ago. Never needed 504 because school was accommodating. We now live in Florida and school is not accommodating, particularly one teacher. My child struggles to stay focused, they are responsible for printing out their own homework at home on Monday and then turning it in on Friday. They’re not allowed to turn it in early. She forgets to turn it in and in two to three meetings with teacher, was never told that my child didn’t have AR points she needed to maintain her grade. She ended up with a C (for the first time) on her report card. Have 504 meeting scheduled for this week but I feel like they have already made their decision because they keep saying “her grades are too good to be on 504.” What do I do? I am trying to help my child and feel like I hit a wall at every turn.


My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, defiant disorder, mood/emotional problems, anxiety, and been on ADHD meds for a year now. My daughter is still having such trouble in school with the other kids teasing and laughing at her (I suppose you can say bullying), she has much difficulty with attention and social skills, she is having difficulty learning, difficulty with everything……and this is on her medication. I had a 504 meeting and I left this meeting feeling as if they were going to reject her already. What do I do? My daughter needs help and can’t work independently and the school has already made accommodations but she is still having trouble.

Christy, where do you live? I am an Atlanta-based advocate, and I sometimes work with families in other areas of the country, depending on the situation.


I need help finding my son an advocate. He is in 6th grade and again is struggling. For the last 3 years I have asked the school to meet and determine if he is eligible for an IEP and every time We are told no because ADHD is not an disability. He has not been tested for a learning disability, The school will not test him. I am worried he will drop out when he reaches a certain age. He is punished for not getting work completed and not turning work in because he forgets. I feel like I am pushing a 1000 LB ball up a mountain. What do I do?

Renee D.

I saw your post below re: IEP vs. 504. In your case, be thankful and don’t make waves. An IEP is much more robust than a 504 and they’re actually being honest with you. Under an IEP your son qualifies for more help, it is more legally binding, and will ultimately result in far better services (vs. 504). My ADHD son only had a 504, and it did nothing for him. My other child with an IEP received a ton more. This site has lots of info about 504/IEPs. Read it and you’ll see what I mean. In essence, congrats! You’ve landed on a better school in CT for your son than the one in TX.


Maureen O, you could not be more wrong. My kids (one with bipolar/ADHD and one with SPLD) both get decent to good grades *in spite* of their issues, and that is only due to extremely hard work on their part and ours. What should take most kids an hour to complete may take my SPLD kid 6 hours to complete. He has an amazing work ethic and frequently falls behind because of the time it takes him to do his work. Teachers generally like him because of his work ethic, so they usually grant him extra time- but not always, and they aren’t required to, and he can’t get extra time on ACT or SAT. My ADHD/bipolar kid has no study or organizational skills, which an IEP would help him develop. I am sick of kids being penalized for not failing, which both would do without the help we (parents) and some nicer teachers provide.


My child had an IEP and was covered under section 504 in his new school, in CT, does not want to cover him under 504.. They said he has all the protection under IEP, and 504 is for more general things ..’like a broken arm”. I’m confused? I this even accurate? Why would TX have covered him under both if that were the case? Help..


My son attends Texas A & M Commerce. He has ADHD. He cannot get help with his disability although the disabilities program has asked teachers to accommodate his handicap.

Wrightslaw is loaded with information for students in public school.

Good Luck


I am looking for information to support my child who is in jail with ADHD. It seems his behavior continues to be difficult even in jail.

Maureen O

As a special ed teacher I believe a student must be struggling academically to be eligible for an IEP. To have good grades there must be data backing those grades. Perhaps the student is getting a great deal of help to receive good grades. But, overall, a student should be demonstrating significant below grade level performance or not meeting grade level standards to qualify for IEP services. I believe we over qualify students for special education and their needs can be met in general ed with good teaching and research based intervention programs. If there is evidence this has been done in good faith and consistently and the student is still not progressing or meeting standards then an evaluation for special ed services should be completed. Some students will fall into the ‘basic’ range or be average performers…and that’s okay.


These comments are just heartbreaking. My 14 year old finally got a 504 in 8th grade, but not until after suspensions, grade problems – and he has a high IQ – the schools push back – Know the law first, find a lawyer if you can, and be the squeaky wheel, don’t let your school fail to provide what your child deserves! ADHD you can get a 504, the IEP you may have to fight for! It took us 3 years and we are still fighting but getting a little more of what we want. Good luck everyone… you’re not alone!


My daughter is 11 years old she is in 4th grade. She was diagnosed with a processing disorder. The school gave her a 504 and then said she needed a IEP. But then was turned down for the IEP and the 504 was taken off her. They said because she has good grades there is nothing wrong. I feel she is going to have issues later on. What can I do?


I have a brother who is 18 yrs old and has been diagnosed with ADHD. He will be a Senior next year. He attends a private school and we have recieved many phone calls regarding his behavior. If you have a 504 are you suppose to tell the teacher you need more test time? Is this an option? He has been on medication and the medication has been changed and we noticed a behavior change. The school is constantly calling saying he did this he did that and I have requested outreach help. Is there anything else we can do possibly revaluate him to change the very vague 504 plan which who knows if the school or teachers even follow it. Please help