“504” plans have been so much on the school landscape for many years that we forget that the “504” did not originate with schools. 504 is part of the ADA (Americans With Disability Act) federal legislation.
The guiding principle of 504 is that reasonable accommodations help to “level the playing field” for those with disabilities in the workplace or school.
Above all, the operative word is “reasonable.”
The vast majority of 504 Plans developed in the schools are primarily generated to address the child diagnosed with ADHD.
Extra time is the most common of the 504 accommodation provided. Is extra time really helpful for ADHD style kids? The answer is it may be, but it is case by case, child by child.
Sometimes extra time is one of those meaningless ADHD accommodations, providing no legitimate difference.
Case Study: A Useless 504 Plan for ADHD
For example, take Jenna, an impulsive 8 year old, who rushes through her work, with very little consideration as to the accuracy of what she produces. Rating scales completed on Jenna noted many of the features normally attributed to ADHD. Naturally, the parents wanted to get Jenna help in school. A 504 planning meeting was held and Jenna was offered a boiler plate check list of accommodations. Extended time was the chief one given.
Jenna blitzed through her work. Extended time was the last thing Jenna would take advantage of.
Useful 504 Plan Accommodations List
Ideally, create 504 accommodations in conference with the parents and key school staff members who meet to discuss what specific accommodations would help to level the playing field for the child.
Ask yourself, what reasonable classroom accommodations for ADHD would provide some support for the child?
- Perhaps sitting the child closer to the teacher would help.
- Maybe having the teacher preview and explain complex words would make a difference.
- Maybe the child needs directions clarified.
- Perhaps reducing the number of problems on the page would matter.
- Perhaps cut down homework by a certain percentage so as not to overwhelm the child.
- Maybe don’t penalize the child for spelling.
- Having someone write down the child’s answers after reading him questions on the sheet might be a good accommodation
- Extra time could help if the child is particularly slow in getting things done.
There are others that could be helpful. In other words, it all depends on each child and his/her needs.
My advice would be that you simplify things. Come up with two or three (at the most) really helpful things that you think your child’s teacher can do to help your child along. To clarify, “reasonable” accommodations will help to make the road a little smoother for your child. You may feel comforted by the report that you have that generated pages and pages of recommendations, but what teacher will be able to implement all of them?
Anything requested beyond a few accommodations, will likely lead to the school will just be checking off boxes on a 504 template that won’t be followed.
In short, when it comes to a 504 Plan, less is more.
(Parents can feel very confused about 504 Plans, especially how they differ from IEPs. If you want a basic explanation of the difference between them, I would direct you to this link: What’s the Difference between an IEP and an ADHD 504 Plan?)
To consult with Dr. Selznick, you can reach him through email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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