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Section 504 Accommodation Plans for ADHD

There is a federal law that gives children with ADHD and other disabilities specific rights in school.  The 1973 Rehabilitation Act states that people with disabilities must not be discriminated against in public services.  For example, the law gives people in wheelchairs the right to have physical access to public offices (special parking, elevators and ramps, and bathrooms big enough to fit a wheelchair.)

For schools, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act says that if a child needs something in order to be able to learn in a public school, the school has to provide that thing.  These things are called “accommodations,” and the law gives every child with a disability the right to have an “accommodation plan.” Under this law, for example, if a child needs a special kind of hearing aid to be able to learn in the classroom, the public school has to pay for it.

A “504 Plan” is a legal document that spells out what the school has to provide.  Parents have the right to demand whatever they think is necessary. If the school agrees, fine. If not, the parents can demand a hearing in which an impartial official decides the case.  It’s best, of course, if the school and family agree without getting lawyers involved.  This is what happens most of the time.

Here’s a list of accommodations that often help with ADHD.  You can copy it, print it out, add any others you want; then go in and talk with the teacher or school psychologist, and see if you can’t all agree that these are what your child needs.

  1. Seating close to the front in academic classes, so teacher can give frequent feedback. 

  2.  Extra time for tests, or reduced numbers of questions, or both.

  3. Recess is "sacred" (not removed as a consequence of bad behavior, because child needs to move around)

  4. Specific plans to give student more opportunities to move around during the day (e.g. taking notes to office)

  5. Daily report sent home, so parents can respond with appropriate consequences (e.g. special treats for good days, or mild punishments like “No TV” for really bad days)

  6. In-school counselor or therapist.

  7. “Safe place” for student to go to, when needed to take a break from over-stimulation

  8. Specific organizational help, for example a ritual/routine in which student opens minder and hands in homework at the beginning of each class, and shows teacher ow homework assignments have been written into planner at the end of each class.

Here are some other accommodations to consider for children who are overactive:

  1. Build regular exercise into each day, 2 or 3 times every morning, and again every afternoon. This could be running in the gym, doing Jumping Jacks, or skipping rope, in a safe place, or running a chore that will require him to walk to the other end of the school (for example, bringing a note to a teacher at the other end of the building). These opportunities to exercise should be daily, and automatic.

  2. If the child appears antsy or is having a hard time keeping his/her body still, or using an "indoor" voice, suggest additional physical activity. These are not punishments, but there to help the child be "more in control of himself."

  3. Recess and gym should never be taken away as a punishment for misbehavior.

  4. Systematically acknowledge and record positive behaviors. Specifically, the child needs to learn to:

    1. follow a direction, when given face to face, calmly and specifically, such as "I need you to put away your book, now, so we can go on to our next activity".  Make up excuses for giving directions that he can follow.

    2. record and acknowledge: Each time the child complies, put a star (sticker, or just written) in a small notebook, so that he/she observes that you are doing it; then send a note home each day so that parents know how many times the child followed directions that day.  Aim for 5-10 successful “follows directions” every day.

    3. Avoid shaming. If the teacher needs to correct the child’s behavior, do it discreetly, taking the child aside, or using a “secret” signal. 

[this page was last updated by Robert Needlman, on 11-25-2018]