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Expert Q&A

My daughter receives accommodations for ADHD, but doesn’t have a formal 504 plan. What can I do to make sure she gets this documentation?

My 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ADD. She had a 504 last year, and it was the best year she’s ever had. When she changed to middle school this year, they pulled her 504, saying that she has only “time management” issues that don’t prevent her from achieving good grades. However, she does have misfiled papers everywhere, has forgotten deadlines, and has hours of homework. She has had to quit everything afterschool and has no extracurricular life. She comes home, does homework for 4-5 hours, eats and goes to bed every week night. She is getting depressed and now hates school.

The principal has said that she can just “limit herself” to a half hour per subject and take the grade she gets. I think she needs her 504 back. Is she being unfairly denied it because she can achieve good grades? They are already giving her extra time on projects and tests, overlooking her late assignments, and reminding her repeatedly to stay on task. Shouldn’t this be formalized in a 504? Help!

Your question concerns whether your child with ADHD should remain eligible for a Section 504 plan. First, it is inappropriate for a school to use passing grades as the primary or sole measure of whether a student’s disability is substantially limiting life functions at school. While learning is the most obvious school related life function, working, thinking, and concentrating are also specifically identified as life functions under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504.

As a result, your child should be assessed based on how her ADHD is impacting her functioning at school in a variety of ways, including but not limited to grades. In addition, it appears that both you and the school are providing her with various formal or informal accommodations. Under recent amendments to the ADA, the institution is not permitted to deny eligibility based on the person’s performance if their performance is dependent on the provision or use of mitigating measures, such as some of the accommodations you described. In other words, the decision about whether she has a disability must be based on how she would perform without these measures, rather than with the extra support.

You should also carefully document all the ways that her disability is affecting her, including those you describe in your question, as homework is also a school-related activity. If her difficulty with homework is disrupting her life, that is also a factor in determining whether her disability is substantially limiting major life activities.

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