IEP/504 for ADHD

Parent Q&A

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  • My ninth grader was just diagnosed with an possible ADD and psychiatrist recommended 504 plan. She also has depression. She used to have high GPA until 2 months ago.

    I heard that selective colleges look less favorably on applicants with 504 plans. Someone told me that the fact that the student is on 504 plan (not the diagnosis itself) will be released by high schools to colleges as a part of student's file. Is this true?

    If you work in college admissions and familiar with this issue or have high schoolers on 504 plans please comment from your experience.  

    Psychiatrist also recommended small dose of Vyvanse. If your children took it was it helpful for them?

    My son is ADHD and is now in college, He took a variety of ADHD meds, Concerta being the best fit for him. Sometimes you have to find the right med -- the first one you try isn't always the best one. But he told me life was much better on the meds -- he said "I can hear the teacher better."  I recommend you try meds -- a short acting dose is out of your kid's system quickly, and you can observe the results and make a decision then.

    Short Answer:  504 plans should be confidential ......but to allay your concerns, just ask your student's counselor in High School. Good luck!

    Many students have 504 plans. There's no need to disclose that. Once your child is admitted you should research the services available to disabled students. I know many students with 504 plans who were admitted to UCs and other highly selective colleges. The grades, the test scores, the essays, and the recommendations are what matters. If your daughter's challenges have had an effect on those indicators it could be a problem, and sometimes students in that situation choose to discuss the difficulties in their essays.

  • My son is in 2nd grade and just got a504 accommodations because Of ADHD. the school didn't provide the information for over 2 years. I complained with Department of education and they just said sorry.  They don't want to change the bad grades in behavior he got. His teacher mistreated all the time, unprofessional.  I requested a change of class and the school placed him in another class where there's a bully and he is hurting my son frecuently. I assume it's retaliation because I complained. What can I do.  Do I need a lawyer or do I have a case?  Any suggestions? Anybody with similar situation? Thank you

    I feel your pain. You just have to stay in constant contact with the school. Ask for an SST meeting at the beginning of every school year to get the new teacher on board with techniques that work. Stay on them. Ask for a weekly email from the teacher about how things are going. Involve your school's principal and guidance counsellor.

    In my opinion, you should only be looking forward and trying to figure what needs to happen to help your son succeed in school. Forget about what has already happened. Who cares about the bad behavior grades of a small child? If it will impact your ability to get him into a fancy private school that school probably wouldn't be a good fit for him anyway. Understand that the school didn't give him ADHD and he's probably very challenging to have in class (my son is). Just focus on what you can do to make sure that he doesn't hate school. My son is allowed to move around the classroom when he needs to as long as he doesn't bother the other students. If he wants to stand to do his work that's fine. We have a lot of different agreements like that with the teacher. Believe me, if you can figure out an accommodation that will work, the teacher will do it because her life will be easier. 

    Treat the school like your ally in this instead of the enemy. I've found that sitting down with them, acknowledging how difficult my son is to have in class, asking them for suggestions for things that I could be doing at home to help them, have really worked for us. My husband approached the school with anger that they weren't doing what they were supposed to do and it took me a long time to repair the damage that he did. 

    Hello, Totmom.  I had a similar situation with my son in first grade.  I didn't have funds for a lawyer, but I did use vacation and FMLA time (you are eligible because your son has a medical condition) to take time off work and visit his class room - a lot.  I called lots of conferences with the teacher and the principal if there were reports of bad behavior.  I asked "what are you going to do to fix/change/stop this?" a lot.  In other words, I was all over the unprofessional teacher like white on rice.  It got so acrimonious she was inviting her union steward to the meetings.  I didn't give a flying rat's ass, frankly, her poor teaching skills and job performance were the whole reason we were there.  Every time we met, I got the 504 updated and signed with what ever they said they'd do to fix the bad behavior, then I followed up at the next meeting.  Example:  "So you said you'd separate my child and bully, but they're in math group together.  Why is that?  Isn't that a violation of the 504?"  Because I was in their face so much, the bad behavior declined.  Downside:  The other parents in my child's class treated us both like pariahs.  Upside:  Ineffective teacher was gone a year later so at least she couldn't treat someone else's child so poorly.  What this experience taught me is that you are your child's best advocate at school.  As you have experienced, you will get the civil servant shrug unless you push, push and push.  My child is in eighth grade now and I still have at 504 meeting at the beginning of the year, one mid year and a month-before-school-ends check in.  I've also escalated up to principals or other administrators immediately if I felt the teacher was blowing me off.  Am I everybody's favorite PTA mom?  Heck no.  Is my son getting the education and accomodations he needs?  Heck yeah.  I'd rather be *that* mom with an educated kid than everybody's friend, I guess.  YMMV.

    I wouldn't worry about grades for a second grader.  When they get older it's more important.  Try to be nice about it.  If there is a bully, consider writing an email to the teacher with a copy to the principal and say something like:  "Thank you so much for placing him in this other class, he seems to doing much better, but he has told me about a kid in the class that is bothering him.  His name is X.  Not sure how to handle this, perhaps you guys can check in to this."

    You obviously have checked with a therapist and determined he has ADHD and maybe he is on medication now or not.  The therapist should be your guide.  When you have a meeting for your 504, bring the therapist along too.

    Good luck.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


504 for ADD and fair expectations for teacher communication

Feb 2011

I'm hoping other parents will help me form reasonable expectations for teacher communications in the context of a 504 plan for a child with learning problems in a public school.

I'm in the process of seeking a 504 plan for my middle- schooler, who has been diagnosed with ADD. The ADD manifests as extreme difficulty with organizing time, paper, tasks and information.

In a meeting with the classroom teachers, I expressed that what would be most helpful would be for me to have current information about upcoming tests and assignments, and to be told promptly when my child fails to turn in work or is unprepared. All the teachers acknowledge that my child's sole problem seems to be organization, and I've done my best to explain that despite trying hard, my child often cannot even tell me what the homework is for the next day, and constantly loses papers and worksheets despite real effort, making it very hard for me to help.

The school's position is that I am unreasonable in asking whether all teachers could post assignments, worksheets, and a calendar on-line, and that it is highly unreasonable to ask that individual teachers let me know quickly when work is not turned in. Meanwhile, this is what would help, and is the only thing I am asking for. I myself have taught, and acknowledge that this is a lot of work (but I did it!). I have a demanding job with long hours, and other children and family members to attend to, so really need the school's cooperation to effectively support my child's sincere effort to stay on top of things.

Is up-to-date, on-line, access to a current list of homework assignments and upcoming tests, and prompt notice (within two days, say) when a child fails to hand in work too much to ask for in a 504 plan? Sincere thanks for sharing your experiences and perspectives. Perplexed parent

I'm sorry that I don't have clear advice, but I've been banging my head against a wall dealing with a private school with this issue. Most of the teachers seem utterly incapable of timely posting assignments and it is like pulling teeth to get info/status from them. My daughter has the exact same issues (she is a few years older).

That being said, my understanding is that you have greater rights in public schools for accommodations. And there are plenty of schools where teachers are able to post assignments and provide timely updates to parents about missing assignments, etc. There are computer programs that I've seen implemented for both public and private schools, although they may not be used until middle school. (At my daughter's prior school, the teachers managed to post accurate assignment AND communicate with me if about missing homework. It CAN be done.)

If your child is 9, I assume she has one primary teacher. If she has an assignment book, have the teacher review it every day, initial the assignments for the next day, and note any missing homework. This is not an outrageous request. (If your daughter does not have an assignment book, she needs one.)

I'm looking forward to hearing other posters' input. In the meantime, best of luck. I feel your pain! Frustrated mom

Yes it is unreasonable because most of the teachers probably don't organize the work that way. You need to talk to them/email them as individuals (maybe choosing the most problematic subjects) and find out how they organize the work, and how you can get feedback on how your son is doing. For example, I hand out a chapter homework sheet, and parents can look at the sheet each day, and check that their child has done the homework. I also make arrangements for types of notebooks for children with organizational troubles to help them organize their work, and me to find that work. My main suggestion is that you (or someone else -- your partner, a tutor) sit down with your child every day, supervise the homework, and help him put it in the notebook/folder for the next day. There are tutors that specialize in teaching students how to organize their work.

Remember about 6 hours a day is spent in direct contact with students, and meetings (like 504s). Then another couple of hours are spent preparing materials for the next day. The paperwork part of teaching comes after all the rest of the work, so by asking teachers to add more paperwork to their days you are going to make it more difficult for them to do what is needed to help your child and the other children learn. anon

I think you are demanding WAY WAY too much of your child's teachers. I would never even consider asking so much of a teacher. Never. Your child is one of over a hundred kids (if this is a typical middle-school) that each of these teachers is responsible for educating. Your unreasonable request will impact the amount of attention the teacher can equitably give to all the students that deserve his/her time. Please - no one child is so ''special'' as to deserve so much particular attention. You clearly have resources and time to spare. I believe it is incumbent upon YOU to make sure that your child is learning. I totally support your school administration and teachers in refusing your request. Perhaps your family is better suited for a private school. my two cents

Yes. Its alot. You are not taking into account how many students these teachers have, and as PROFESSIONALS all the other things they have to do, it is ALOT to ask. BUT I do think sending you a quick email about if work was turned in or not is appropriate.that's something that could maybe happen every day. been teaching for 11 years

What may be new information for you is that the job of teaching has become much more demanding over the last five years. I rather suspect that what you want from teacher's may be more than they can reasonably do. So I was wondering how you could accomplish your goal without daily teacher feedback. Am wondering if you could create a structure for your son using pictures of each step he is to follow to get the homework home. That might take feedback from the individual teacher of how and when their homework is assigned. Perhaps checking to see that each teacher has a routine or is willing to establish one would work? I rather suspect the routines are in place. This might shift the focus from more work for teachers, who are probably overwhelmed already, to helping your child learn to function better in the world.

In addition, have seen changes to a child's diet and organic supplements make a huge difference in a child's attention span. I would always know the day the routine hadn't been followed from the child's behavior. Also, know from first hand experience, that there are patches and meds available to help with the problem that may be very beneficial without side effects. anon

As a parent of a child with a learning disability I have been in your shoes, and this is what I learned, the hard way... it doesn't matter how reasonable your demands are or how well they will help your child, when teachers don't agree to making an accommodation they aren't going to make it. Even if they are legally required to accommodate they will not really do it and it is very hard to prove that they haven't. Meanwhile your child is the one who suffers. Eventually I realized that it was more important for my child's self esteem to be in a setting that was supportive and where his needs would be met than it was to fight for his right to stay in a traditional setting with teachers who were narrow minded and judgemental. Maybe you will get further with your son's school than I did with mine... I hope you do. I found it better for my family to bite the bullet and pay for a private school that specialized in learning disabilities so that I wouldn't have to fight for my son to receive the mediocre/half-hearted accommodations that were the best I could hope for from a resistant school. in a better place now

Hi! I am a middle school teacher at a school east of the tunnel. I'll share with you our school/district policies regarding communication.

At our school we currently use an online forum (schoolnotes) to post homework and assignments. I post the assignments there daily. Others have a calendar for the month. We have an online grading program in our district and we are expected to update our gradebook at least every two weeks. Most at our school update weekly. Two days for an assignment seems like very quick turnaround (especially for more in-depth assignments that require greater time to analyze and grade, such as essays or lab reports). It seems reasonable to ask if your child turned in a lab report (via a quick email on your part, ''Just checking that Johnny turned in his Plant lab!'') but that wouldn't be practical for a daily math homework assignment. Without knowing more about the school set-up and teachers/subject matter that is a particular problem , I can't comment more on this. I can tell you, though, that if you have a specific question about the status of an assignment, your best bet is to send a quick, friendly email.

We don't have any policy on posting worksheets online. Many new textbook adoptions have an online component and students can log in and access the student worksheets there. I, personally, post directions to projects online, but not teacher created worksheets for each day. That could be a problem for many teachers due to scanning and uploading ablities.

I hope that your son is able to work with a resource teacher or academic counselor at school to help find an organizational system that works for him. One strategy that works well with (most) of our 6th graders is to have ONE special folder for all homework/notes home (not by subject matter). Completed work comes back in the same folder. (Theoretically this folder does not accumulate papers). Best of luck! Mrs. Teacher

You have my empathy. I'm a middle school teacher who has dealt both personally and professionally with ADHD and I know how frustrating it can be. Kudos to you for getting the 504 and for trying to work with the school.

My own perspective is that while it may technically sound reasonable to ask teachers for up-to-the minute, daily updates about homework or work completion, it is extremely difficult for most teachers to provide this. Given that many middle (and high school) teachers have up to 100 students (and therefore papers) per day, the grading and data entry hours alone are enormous. You are thinking of one child and his papers, but the teacher is seeing 30+ students at a time, choreographing activities, presenting information, dealing with passing periods and collecting papers, often all at the same time.

As for future tests and plans, this, too, is difficult. I've been teaching for over 10 years, and I plan week to week, and sometimes I must review/reteach or alter lesson plans from day to day. Some activities end up taking longer than others, and some material must be retaught. This is why it is very difficult to provide long-term input to parents.

What *can* you ask for? Ask for your child to carry an organizer or daily planner and to use it for daily communication with the teacher. Your child needs to ask the teacher for his/her signature. Have your child stop by after school for a two-minute check in, to review the homework or to show him/her your child's binder. Have your child pair up with a friend to do homework with after school.

Also, is there an academic support class available? Some schools offer study skills or other classes for students to do homework or to work on organizational skills, but I'm not sure this would apply to your child. Can your child be placed in a collaborative class where there are assistants available to help him with organization?

Find someone - perhaps another parent or a sympathetic staff member - who can offer some out-of-the-box alternatives. It's not easy, but it can be done. Good luck and best wishes to you. Johanna

Should I request an IEP for 7 year old with ADHD?

Sept 2004

Is an IEP appropriate for a 7 year old child just diagnoised with AD/HD? Should I request an IEP from the school? We have not yet tried drugs, but I want to get more information before we try them. I wonder if the school/teacher would give him more attention if he has an IEP in place, or if this would lable him. ANy help is really appreciated. Thanks. Mom

How is your child doing in school? Is the ADHD adversely affecting his academics, behavior, or social emotional well being? Ask the teacher how he is doing. Ask her/him if you can have a Student Study Team regarding this current diagnosis. A Student Study Team (SST) is (hopefully) made up of a school psychologist, the principal, the Resource Specialist, the classroom teacher, the parents, and possibly others. Here is where you talk about the childs strengths, get/give some information, discuss the concerns, what are some modifications/ accommodations, and make a plan. It may come up that he is showing some significant learning issues that may warrent further testing for an IEP. If not, and you still think you want something more that lists accommodations given in the classroom you can then request a 504 Plan.This is an Accommodation Plan for all students having (usually) health issues that are interfering with their learning. It is not special education but under the Office of Civil Rights. Let me know if you have any problems or more questions. Liz

ADHD itself is not a sufficient reason for an IEP. It is generally not considered to be a qualifier for special education unless it is impacting your child's learning significantly. Generally this is defined as being at least two years below grade level in one or more subject areas. Also, there has to be a discrepancy between ability and performance i.e. if the child is demonstrating an average or above average IQ and has standardized test scores significantly lower than what they should be then he or she might qualify for special education. You can request testing for an IEP but be aware that you are requesting testing for your child to be placed in special education and that you may not want to do that unless your child really has a learning disability. However, if you feel that your child does have a learning disability along with the ADHD and is not getting the necessary help in class then looking into testing would be the thing to do. Many schools will hesitate to test a child who is in first grade or below, but if the parent requests testing they have to comply. However, you can't request that your child have an IEP- only that he be tested for the school to determine whether or not he will qualify for one. Hope this helps and good luck!

A diagnosis of ADHD does not make your child eligible for an IEP. Only students with one (or more) of the 13 disabilities recognized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act may receive special education services. So, unless your child has another disability (such as a learning disability, which often occurs concomitantly with ADHD), an IEP is out of the question.

He is, however, eligible for services under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (which is a Civil Rights act that deals with access). Called a 504 Plan, this plan is a program of instructional services to assists students with special needs (who don't qualify for special education) in the regular education classroom. The plan should detail strategies for helping you child be more successful in his classroom setting. It may include things like: quiet room for testing, seating close to the teacher or away from distractions, assignment modification, etc. Since anyone can begin the referral process for a 504 Plan, I suggest you make a request in writing to the school district/school asking for a 504 Plan referral. In your request, mention the ADHD diagnosis and include a written record from the physician, neurologist, psychologist or other expert who made the diagnosis. Hopefully, the school will comply and ask you to be a part of the process. At the 504 Plan meeting, you would offer your suggestions for what would help your child be more successful. Here's a link with some more information about 504 Plans.

Medication should ALWAYS be a last resort- something you try when you've tried everything else and your child is still not meeting with success. Many teachers and administrators will suggest medication because it's easier than trying to implement behavior plans and educational plans and doesn't cost the school district anything. As a special educator, I know how important and therapeutic meds are for some kids. But it's important to explore all other options.

Finally, I understand your concern about labels. Our culture is very quick to identify someone with a label. Some labels are good, though. Your reaction to your child's ADHD will have the most impact on how it is perceived. It is important to get your child the help he needs so that he can be a success - that's the label you want for him. Be honest, open and loving about his ADHD and help him understand how it makes him unique. Begin to teach him now how to advocate for himself. And by all means, don't let a thing like a label prevent you from getting him what he needs. You're his voice until he's able to have one himself. Good luck! shari

As a parent of a teenager who also was told in Kindergarden that he needed an IEP, I would say to hold off as long as possible. Schools often try to insist on an IEP to put your child in Special Educ. classes, which he probably doesn't need, and where, unless he is extremely slow, he won't learn much. The reason they do this is because they get much additional funding for everyone they put into Special Educ. Putting my son, at the teacher's recommendation, into a special educ. class, even though it was only for a semester, was the worst thing I ever did to him, and put him behind. He is now a h.s. sophomore and doing fine with the regular curriculum because I worked with him at home every evening (he has ADD & is dyslexic, etc.) and kept him out of special educ. They are still requesting an IEP for him, but at this point, I think it would do more harm than good. Don't do it! a former teacher

I would like to comment on previous responses to this request for advice. They all had useful information and good advice, but there were also things that weren't quite right or partly right. I'm not disputing anyone's personal experience, but adding clarification about the law.

''Schools often try to insist on an IEP to put your child in Special Educ. classes, which he probably doesn't need, and where, unless he is extremely slow, he won't learn much. The reason they do this is because they get much additional funding for everyone they put into Special Educ.''

It is true that districts receive money for each special education student, however, the grants for special education don't begin to approach the costs; districts and general ed parents complain that special education ''encroaches'' (the word makes me cringe) on the general fund.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] requires that students be educated in the ''least restrictive environment,'' which is the general ed classroom for the large majority. The school is not likely to place a student in a ''special day class'' unless he or she really belongs there. A kid of average intelligence with ADHD, with or without learning disabilities, would not be placed in SDC without some severe behavioral problems, for example.

''Only students with one (or more) of the 13 disabilities recognized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act may receive special education services. So, unless your child has another disability (such as a learning disability, which often occurs concomitantly with ADHD), an IEP is out of the question.''

ADHD is expressly considered a qualifying condition, usually as Other Health Impaired without other problems. It was added to IDEA in 1999 because a lot of IEP teams didn't realize that it could fit the definition of OHI without being named. A couple of people noted that ADHD has to adversely affect the student's educational performance (which is more than grades) to be a qualifying condition for special education, and that is exactly true. All the other eligibility categories require the same criterion, that to benefit from school, the condition has to adversely affect the child's performance *and* the child needs special education to address the problem. OHI students do not have to demonstrate a discrepancy, though students with learning disabilities must, but California does not require a student be two years behind, as someone suggested. Absent needing special education remediation and support, 504 accommodations may cover what the student needs, and either family or school may request evaluation for special ed or 504.

Regarding medication, one person wrote that "Medication should ALWAYS be a last resort - something you try when you've tried everything else and your child is still not meeting with success."

That's one opinion. I have seen many, many families grapple with the difficult issue of medication. Another view might say that parents may not want their child to have met failure in everything they've tried before trying medication, which after all, is not an irrevocable decision. That's between the doctor and the family. The school can never demand that a child be medicated, though in my opinion it's not out of line for a caring teacher to say something like, "Have you thought of consulting your doctor about medication?" Other people might say that a teacher should never mention medication because they aren't professionally qualified to diagnose and treat, and that they'd be seen to be doing it for their own ends, in order to have a compliant student.

Sorry this was so long, and I hope it made some things clearer. Dana