Are Kids with Passing Grades Eligible for 504 Plans and IEPs?

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Can kids with disabilities who get good grades (or passing grades) be eligible for 504 plans and IEPs?

Yes. We address these questions in Chapter 5 (IDEA), Chapter 7 (Section 504), and n Chapter 10: Special Topics about “Grades” (page 451) of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 3rd Edition.

Never assume that the school team members have read the laws. Most have not. That’s why we include references in our articles – so you and the team can “look it up” – like this:

“I can’t go to a meeting and interpret the law as it applies to my student on a particular subject unless I want that to be my last meeting . . .

“But I can open the book to the page in Selected Topics and let someone read how you interpret that law for my student on that subject . . . It’s SO helpful, bulletproof, and quick.” – Special Education Advocate

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reiterated this fact about Section 504 Plans in the “Parent and Educator Guide to Section 504” (see page 5, page 14, and page 21). To parents of children with disabilities and teachers, you need to download and study this (free) Guide packed with helpful info.

If you are running into roadblocks from school staff, bring an extra copy of two of this Guidebook for members of your child’s team.

Re “passing grades.”

The Guide says:

School staff should note that a student may have a disability and be eligible for Section 504 services, including modifications, even if the student earns good grades. This is because the student’s impairment may substantially limit a major life activity regardless of whether the student performs well academically… For example, a student with dyslexia and is substantially limited in reading finds it challenging to read the required class material promptly.

The Guide covers special education under Section 504 and the IDEA.

The Resource Guide provides an excellent overview of the rights of students with ADHD and describes school districts’ legal obligation to evaluate and provide educational services to students with disabilities. For example, the school:

  • Must evaluate a child when the child needs or is believed to need special education or related services.
  • Must provide services based on the child’s needs, not on generalizations about disabilities or ADHD.
  • May not rely on the assumption that a child who performs well academically cannot be substantially limited in major life activities, including reading, learning, writing, and thinking. A child who performs well academically may also be a person with a disability.
  • Must evaluate children with behavioral difficulties and children who seem unfocused or distractible as they may have ADHD.
  • Must provide parents and guardians with due process and allow parents and guardians to appeal decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of their children with disabilities, including children with ADHD.

If you have questions about getting services for your child or student with a disability, this Guide is a must-read.

Students with ADHD and Section 504: A Resource Guide

Students with ADHD: Know Your Rights – This two-page summary of student and parent rights under Section 504 contains valuable information for a parent or an older child with a disability.

  1. Is there a limit on the types of accommodations/modifications that can be included in an IEP? My student is a high school student diagnosed with ADHD and current has all As except for a B in History. I am wondering, for example, would it be legal/ok/acceptable (not sure the appropriate word to use) to have an accommodation that states a student can retake assessments or re-do assignments if they score lower than a 70% on any of them? Or that any assessment given to the class must be divided for them and given immediately after the presentation of the material and not as a cumulative traditional test? If we are looking for a modification of the class, can the class be modified up to a 70% reduction in curriculum? Or is there a different limit?

    • A state could set rules or guidance on the types of accommodations that can be used, and details on their usage. Typically this is left to districts or campuses to determine. Schools tend to set limits on these, rather than individualizing the decision. (Late assignments must be turned in within X days, assignments can only be reduced x amount, tests and assignments cannot be redone). Parents, and educators should study state rules, and guidance on the use of accommodations, and modifications. Reducing the curriculum content for an entire class would not be individualized. Your state parent training and information project should be able to give you some guidance on this topic.

  2. In this insightful blog post, it highlights that students with passing grades may still be eligible for 504 plans or Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). It emphasizes the importance of considering individual needs and accommodations beyond academic performance. Thank you for providing clarity on this topic and advocating for the rights of students with disabilities.

    • Thank you for the info. We (grandparents-guardian) of our 11 yr old grandson are hitting brick walls. We had our grandson evaluated at 5 yrs old. This is when they told us he had High Functioning Autism. We didn’t know much about this. So throughout his Kindergarten, through 5th grade he has been in trouble for stupid stuff he wasn’t aware he was doing. Disturbing kids, rolling in the floor and under the desk, not focusing. Was sent to principals office.

      Fast forward to 5th grade this year, was diagnosed with ADHD along with Aspergers. The school systems still are not putting him on an IEP, even the Psychologist said he would benefit from it. But the school are telling me his grades are great(he has made all A’s since elementary school. But still nothing going on. They all keep telling me he’s making all A’s. He doesn’t need that. Are they correct? Would like an opinion. Thank you.

  3. Please Help:
    Is there an exhaustive complete list of ALL 504 accommodations available or are 504 accommodations “subjective” in nature and there is NO list that lists ALL 504 accommodations?
    Our daughter has Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia and we can’t seem to get the school to help us with additional accommodations we have requested. They keep telling us that her grades DO NOT show that she needs them. Please help us.

    • Johnny, think about this. Accommodations should be designed to help a person with a disability. Millions of people have a disability or several disabilities and different needs. Listing all accommodations for millions of people with different needs is impossible.

      Your daughter has language learning disabilities. If you google, you will find many useful lists of accommodations for children her age or grade level with language learning disabilities. I recommend you start at the website of the International Dyslexia Association – they are the experts on language learning disabilities.

      If your daughter has language learning disabilities, she had a comprehensive psychological and educational evaluation and perhaps a neuro-psych eval. Ask the evaluator to recommend accommodations that will help her now. Your daughter’s needs will change over time. I recommend you consult with the evaluator about what your daughter needs once a year.

      If someone says you shouldn’t expect your daughter to learn to read, write, and spell, don’t accept their advice. This bad advice has caused millions of individuals with learning disabilities to experience enormous pain and suffering that doesn’t end when they leave school.

  4. In our district, IEP goals are often “will make at least an 85/’B’ on assignments and tests in this (area)”. While that makes their goal measurement easy, it disregards this fact – that even kids with “good grades” can be eligible for an IEP or 504. I’ve told our district this, with crickets in response. They just move on to the next topic of discussion. How to address? They also disregard all of the work the student does on her own outside of class with private service providers and on her own. Wouldn’t this be something they need to consider? (The ameliorative effect of compensatory behavior and outside services, in accordance with ADAAA)

    • I’m wondering the same. Just yesterday we were told my son doesn’t qualify for IEP because he doesn’t display significant discrepancy between his cognitive abilities & achievement. His deficit of visual processing isn’t resulting in academic deficit, and even though the assessment/parents/teacher feedback shows some/minor characteristics of adhd he is still displaying avg academic skills/grades. I also think he really has EF struggles which impacts him. Should I push for IEE or look to get 504?

  5. Can an IEP for ADHD-related problems demand a grading practice that gives the students full credit for late work?

    The background for the question: A disturbingly high fraction of students with an ADHD diagnosis never get 12 years of education. The number of dropouts is 30 – 50% on average in various publications.

    One (I think major) reason for the large dropout is the grading policy of teachers, with “zeros” for forgetting, losing, mislabeling, or not understanding assignments. The reduced ability to keep track of expected work is very typical for ADHD, often used as a diagnostic criterium. A change to “take late work at any time, with full credit”-recommendation may improve the educational result. However, the legal foundation for such a change is not clear (to me), and a clarifica …

    • Hi Morton, There is no legal reason to deny a grading practice that gives students full credit for late work. The problem is that students need to be taught strategies to get and stay on track of their work (assignments). Future employers want employees who get work done on time. Many/most kids with disabilities will not magically learn these strategies on their own.

      In many private schools for kids with LD /ADD, the staff teaches strategies to stay current with assignments and monitors their students’ progress using these strategies, just as they teach students to read, write, and spell.

      I suggest including direct instruction of organizational skills and strategies in the IEP early, with frequent monitoring. How early? Why not teach these skills and strategies in elementary school? Middle school at the latest. It’s usually faster and easier to teach new skills when kids are young, and before they develop a failure mindset.

      It’s never too early to teach students a system they can use indefinitely.

  6. I am wondering if it is possible to qualify a child with autism under Other Health Impairment? My son has a medical diagnosis of autism and was recently evaluated by the school. We have his eligibility meeting coming up and I have already seen his test scores. I anticipate that the school will say that he does not qualify for educational autism based on the language scores in their evaluation being in the normal range. In our private evaluation, his language scores were lower, but the school tends to favor its own evaluations.

  7. We just had our initial IEP eligibility meeting for my 10 year old son who has the diagnoses of ASD( Asbergers type) , ADHD and pragmatic speech delay. He is gifted intellectually and can perform well above grade level, but has had serious behavioral issues that have disrupted class and struggles socially. In their assessments, he qualifies for an IEP under the need for speech services and his autism diagnosis. The school is saying that if he graduates from speech, then he would no longer have an IEP, but his accommodations and modifications would transfer to a 504. Is this correct? Doesn’t the IEP have to look at every aspect of school participation, not just academic performance? Wouldn’t his need for behavior supports due to his autism qualify him for an IEP?

    • No, Yes & Yes. The federal government, & courts have stated that schools must identify, & address all needs of a student with a disability, & those include behavior, social skills, & functional skills. I suggest that you contact your state parent an training project for information and support.

  8. My son had his triannual iep and he is no longer under autism. Meanwhile at regional center he is and social security administration , they’ve taken services away but I have not agreed yet is there anything I can do , he tested at grade level but is diagnosed with adhd.

    • You can request an independent educational evaluation (IEE) paid for by the school. You can find out more about these on, & the dispute resolution processes available to you on this website. If an initial evaluation & diagnosis were done correctly, the disability does not go away. It appears they are saying that he no longer needs specially designed instruction (sdi). However, if he has above average intelligence, he should receive gifted & talented (GT) services, & may need sdi. Also needs for sdi includes social skills, behavior, etc needs that students with autism often have. Your state parent training & information center can give you additional support on this.

  9. I have a high functioning autistic child who has good grades due to teacher accomadations without an IEP or 504 yet struggles socially and with communication. School refusing IEP based on her grades alone.

    • Courts have ruled that education for students with disabilities includes social skills & behavior. OSEP has issued letters stating that a student can need specially designed instruction even though they have “good grades”. You can contact your state parent training and information project or Disability Rights agency for assistance.

  10. I have what appears to be an advanced child, does incredibly well in academic subject areas, but is very bored, disrupts class. The school refuses to provide advance material when he is bored or finished before others, I have asked them to evaluate and instead suggested a 504 plan. He has no disability that has been diagnosed, is the 504 plan the appropriate next steps?

    • I am not sure about all states, but I would think that the state would require schools to have a gifted & talented program. You can try researching this on the state education agency website.

  11. This is a very simple question. I have a student making passing grades whose disability does not influence her activities of daily living, but she is legally blind in one eye. I accommodated her last year by giving her breaks during long tests, as well as the opportunity to use a cold compress when needed during testing, as she experienced eye strain and told me eyes were hurting (and there was some physical evidence of strain (red eyes, tearing).. This year she has STATE mandated testing, so I want to be sure she has the accommodations she needs IN WRITING and I want to be sure she qualifies, as does her mother. Any comments?

    • It is not clear, if she currently has an IEP. If she does, is there a concern that she will be reevaluated & removed from special ed? A teacher of the visually impaired should be involved to determine if she still needs special ed services, & what accommodations she needs through an IEP or Section 504. Under either plan accommodations should be clearly written and shared with everyone involved with her.

    • Hi Carol — I’m glad you are on this forum advocating. I agree with you that it’s wise to get something in writing. I admire cultivating strength & bravery when it comes to our short-comings ; however – I also believe that leveling the playing field provides increased Human Dignity.

      I argue that being legally blind in one eye likely DOES influence, & “at least some-what impair” a person’s activities of daily living. It reduces one’s ability to read, drive, & see with optimal peripheral vision; while it may not necessarily qualify the person for early Social Security disability benefits.

      I would consult with the family to see whether they think requesting an IEP under : Other Health Impairment — or a 504 Plan,… best suits this student’s needs.

  12. My child was recently diagnosed with dyslexia. The school put accommodations in place for this school year while we spent the entire year trying to obtain an evaluation. Accommodations included reading everything aloud to him. Now, the school wants to deny him an IEP because he made honor roll all year when everything was read aloud, citing “lack of educational impact.” Can they legally deny an iep to a child who cannot read because he makes good grades when all materials are read to him? We have a meeting Tuesday to determine if they will approve the iep. Any help, resources or guidance would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

    • Why do you want you want your child in special education if he does not need it? Eligibility is two -pronged – Does he meet eligibility criteria and is there a need for specialized academic instruction? Sounds like a Section 504 Accommodation Plan would meet all his needs.

    • Carefully review dyslexia topics on this website. What are his goals and dreams for the short term term! What excites him. I would talk to a local college or university disability office so you can get a better check/reality on dyslexia resources, challenges and accommodations. Talk to dyslexia advocates to plan a strategy for school intervention and your local parent resource center. He may need remediation and assistive technology. He needs more than people “reading aloud” to him which, for some students, is demeaning. There are other resources to help and also build his confidence and even help plan for his future. Also this website on dyslexia at the University of Michigan is priceless:

    • I’m sorry that sound advice did not come in written form here soon after you posted. Numerous experts advocate that immediate corrective actions be taken for children diagnosed with Dyslexia / or any form of Reading Difficulties. The earlier the problems are detected & set on-course the better :
      1. Increased Explicit Reading instruction such as Orton-Gillingham; or similar
      2. Increased “Language Experiences” strategies

      Univ of Michigan says : Developmental dyslexia is the most common learning disability & it affects somewhere between 5–10% of the population, with some estimates as high as 17%.

      An IEP — YES…! Here are some other helpful links Univ Mich provided :

    • Dyslexia is not curable so he will always have the disability. Why isn’t he receiving direct, explicit, structured, multisensory specialized instruction to remediate the phonological piece of his Dyslexia? Accommodations are great, but shouldn’t the district be addressing the disability?

  13. How long after a 504 meeting between parents and school must services begin and that the parents receive a copy in the state of GA?

  14. Can a 504 plan be applied “retroactively”? For example, a NY State Regents test has been taken – and failed. Can a 504 plan be developed after the fact in order to provide NY State’s “safety net”?

  15. My son suffers from an anxiety disorder called SELECTIVE MUTISM and he’s nonverbal in school due to his anxiety. He is obviouly not able to communicate his needs (raise his hand and speak when he needs to go to the bathroom, so he has accidents), he can’t ask for help if he doesn’t understand an assignment, he cannot do any oral presentation in front of the class, he can’t participate in group activities, BUT he manages to get excellent grades (don’t know how.. ) anyways. He’s in 3rd grade now. I keep getting denied an IEP because of his excellent grades. I tell them “Well what about his Social Skills? His Social/Emotional needs!! But they keep telling me he is ‘fine’ and he doesn’t need nor qualify for an IEP. I am so frustrated .

  16. My 7th grade daughter is diagnosed with ADHD ( Inattentive ) and Social Anxiety Disorder by 5 different physicians. School and the district denied her 504 plan even though one of her clinical psychologist was there with me at the meeting with school.
    ” Your daughter isn’t struggling. ” school said.
    I contacted the education ombuds, they didn’t give me any useful info.
    She is taking medication and doing therapy still she needs help or accommodation at school.
    I don’t know what else I can do to get 504 plan . I am stuck.

  17. I was denied a 504 plan from my school because of my good grades. Now is it illegal to deny a child with a medical diagnoses a 504 plan BECAUSE of their good grades, or is it legal to do so?

    • No the school cannot deny you that. You parents should fill out the paperwork to have you evaluated to see if you are eligible for a 504 plan or an IEP

  18. Does this 504 law apply to children with IEPs, or only 504 plans ? I’m told my child (who was recently diagnosed with ADHD and significant executive functioning deficits) no longer qualifies for an IEP (he originally had it for speech), because he earns good grades and they won’t consider that it can take him five hours to do easy HW and the difficulty he has in organizing materials and projects (they say they will only consider what they observe in the classroom). They allowed me to keep his IEP, while stating in the IEP that he doesn’t meet criteria for it, but will only provide ongoing OT once a month, which is not sufficient to help him develop habits/strategies that will help him as academic demands increase. So, does this apply to him, or only students considered for 504 plans?

    • Grades are not to be a criteria for qualifying for an IEP. Contact your state parent training and information center. They can assist you in advocating for the services your child needs.

        • Yes, but the part about not looking at grades is in the IEP (IDEA) law not in 504. 504 is a civil rights, non-discrimination law.

      • How are grades not a criteria? The school is looking to exit my daughter. They are saying they have to prove my daughter’s disability (autism) is having a negative impact on her general classroom performance. If she is on and above grade level in all academic areas, can they exit her?

        • Marcelle – no, not based on her grades alone. They have to evaluate her academic AND functional levels of performance. Functional performance relates to things like self-care, social skills, behaviors, mobility etc. If any of these functional skills limit her from progressing in the general educational curriculum, then she could still be eligible.

          Many children with autism often find ways of overcoming some of their difficulties academically by establishing rules that they can use to solve a problem. It’s much more difficult when they face more complex issues of social interactions and executive functioning. It’s easy to teach a child with autism a math fact – it’s more difficult to explain to them why they shouldn’t turn their back on their teacher while the teacher is still talking.

  19. Our daughter has been denied a 504 because she “fares too well.” We administer the barton 2x/week for an hour each time. Her grades have always been ok and she reads on grade level since kind. Now through fourth. She was diagnosed in second grade and we started therapy and working on studying spelling words and math work. Do you think I have a due process case with ocr?

  20. My 11th grade “twice gifted” son with dyslexia (documented learning difficulties from grade 1 to 11) had an IEP grades 6-10, then it was terminated because of his good grades. The school psychologist (also the district 504 coordinator) said that he was not eligible for a 504 plan for the same reason. After seeing the OCR guidance, we requested that the school consider his eligibility for a 504. His teachers provide informal accommodations (extra time on tests), but we fear that a teacher in the future could choose not to provide extra time and then he has no speedy recourse. I cited the OCR report at today’s 504 meeting, but it was ignored because “all students could benefit from extra time” and his performance is not enough below average.

    • I am in the exact same position. Have you made any progress? We filed an OCR complaint and the school district wants to have an impartial hearing. The school district is saying he is 504 eligible due to his disability in written expression and ADHD (they won’t recognize his dyslexia), but that he doesn’t need any accommodations.

  21. I have a student with PTSD who is passing all subjects. The student will be testifying at court hearing (several) in the near future. To provide academic protections as well as time for the student to be absent for counseling, etc. to get themselves together emotionally again for school would it be wise for the school district to support this students needs under a 504 Plan?

    • Hi Whitney,

      You asked a great question. Yes it is wise for the school to support this students needs with a 504 plan. However, from what I am reading it sounds like your student would do better with an IEP. An IEP is going to give hime more and its federally mandated so the school has to follow it. Also no changes can be made without the IEP team. A 504 plan can be changed and all the school has to do is give the parents/guardians writing of the changes. Hope this helps.

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