Reviewed by Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Anyone familiar with having a child with disabilities likely knows the ins and outs of special accommodations in school and work. For someone new to seeking help, however, the process can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to know where to start on your journey to requesting accommodations for students with ADHD. Happily, there are numerous resources available to you to educate you on your rights, inform you of possible outcomes, and encourage you to get actively involved in the process. Asking for accommodations for ADHD can be overwhelming to tackle. Using the steps identified below to ask for accommodations—whether those include an IEP for ADHD or a 504 Plan—ADHD parents and family members can rest assured that their requests will be heard and taken seriously, and their child will be given the help they need.
How To Ask For 504 Accommodations
Before you walk into your child’s school to ask for 504 accommodations, you need to take a few preparatory steps. These steps are partly to inform you of all of your rights and entitlements and partly to make sure you are prepared to ask for help for your child or loved one. Asking for help can feel foreign to some. It can feel downright pointless to others, so walking into the situation with a cool, clear head and a thorough understanding of the accommodation process can make a world of difference. The steps include:
Step 1: Know Your Rights
Stepping into a new, unknown situation can be frightening, but one of the best ways to prepare is to be certain of you and your child's rights. ADHD is a legitimate, even debilitating disorder, and as such, it is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, IDEA, and Rehabilitation Act. These protections are important, as they mean that you are well within your rights to request that your child be given additional tools and sources of support in any public school, whether that be sitting in a certain part of the classroom, receiving additional time to complete exams, or being given therapies and interventions during school hours. 504 accommodation for ADHD is one of the many possible ways your child can receive help in school and is one of the options afforded to your child through government mandate.
Although you do not need to take a printout or any sort of formal acknowledgment of these government acts into your child’s accommodation meeting (or your meeting to request accommodations), familiarizing yourself with the contents of these documents can give you the confidence and courage you may need to ensure your child receives all of the help they are entitled to.
Step 2: Know Your Child’s Needs
This can be difficult to do, as you may not know exactly what is offered or exactly how your child will best thrive in a school setting. Making observations, taking notes, and researching different types of ADHD needs can all help you create a solid list of needs your child might have in an academic setting. If your child has difficulty sitting at the table for meals at home, you can reasonably conclude that your child may need additional help staying on task at school and may need a separate desk or a teaching aid. If your child frequently exhibits trouble with impulse control and is often in trouble for hitting other students or throwing items during class time, you can reasonably conclude that your child would benefit from additional one-on-one teaching time and could use occupational therapy through the school.
Step 3: Research Possible Accommodations
The possible accommodations available with an IEP for ADHD and a 504 for ADHD differ. Knowing which best suits your child is an important part of taking your first step toward receiving ADHD accommodations. An IEP is an education plan in the IDE Act or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. At the same time, 504 accommodations were identified in a 1973 act called the Rehabilitation Act, which was put in place to prevent discriminatory behavior toward people with disabilities. The exact availabilities will depend on your child’s needs and their teacher’s observations. Children who have a demonstrated history of difficulty, for instance, might be given an IEP to implement stricter practices—which could include switching to a special education class. Children with 504 accommodations are less likely to move to a specialized classroom. Still, they are more likely to be given specific help and accommodations to maintain good standing in a traditional classroom.
Step 4: Speak With Your Child’s Teacher—And Take Notes
Speak with your child’s teacher to determine whether or not they, too, have seen your child struggling in the classroom. During this meeting, be sure to take notes. If your child’s teacher acknowledges that your child is experiencing difficulty, make a note. If they say that your child behaves aggressively in the classroom, make a note. Speaking to your child’s teacher before outright asking for accommodations—or asking about specific difficulties just before asking for accommodations—will ensure that, should you come up against difficulty, you have your child’s teacher’s admission that your child is struggling in the classroom.
Far less nefarious is the likelihood that your child’s teacher will have noticed some areas of difficulty that you will not have caught at home. The structure of school and home is so drastically different that children may be struggling substantially without parents realizing the scope of their difficulty. Making sure that you have as much information about your child’s needs as possible will help make the process of making accommodations far easier.
Step 5: Contact School Administrators To Follow Up
Although speaking with our child’s teacher is the appropriate first step to secure an accommodation meeting, the process involves more than just your child’s teacher; your child’s school psychologist, administrator, and special education teacher are all liable to be present, in addition to any other teachers, administrators, or therapists the accommodation team feels are necessary. You, too, can bring someone with you, such as a partner, spouse, sibling, or even your child’s outside therapists or practitioners. Following up with administrators can help ensure that all information has been received and your request has been processed properly.
(If Necessary) Step 6: Follow Up Until You Have A Meeting
Although schools are supposed to provide accommodations for students in need, and these rights are protected for individuals with disabilities, some schools may be reticent to provide services or be adequately equipped to do so. In these cases, it can feel scary to keep pushing for help, but you are well within your rights to call and visit the school to ensure your child’s needs are being evaluated and assistance needs are being met.
Asking For 504 Accommodations
If you are unsure of some of your rights or needs, do not fret: navigating the complicated world of disabilities and special needs can be overwhelming at first. Happily, families now have far more resources at their disposal than families in the not-too-distant past. The internet alone has a wealth of knowledge about asking for help, what resources to expect to enlist, and what exactly your rights are. These needs cannot be met in some cases, and a child may be transferred to another school. In others, teachers and administrators are wholly equipped and can quickly and easily implement the requisite needs for a child with ADHD. In either case, it is up to the parent to advocate for their child and continually check on and follow up with educators to ensure new needs are met and existing aids are adequately maintained.
Recognizing your child’s needs can also be difficult; older children may be able to verbalize what they need with ease, but younger children might struggle to identify exactly what it is that makes their time in the classroom so difficult. Speaking to your child’s teacher, simulating a school environment at home, and researching common academic issues are all effective and useful methods to determine how to approach your child’s 504 accommodation meeting and can equip you with the determination and dedication you need to advocate for your child’s needs—even in the face of pushback or uncertainty. If you are uncertain about some of the symptoms of ADHD, or you think you may also experience symptoms of ADHD, our ADHD test can help you identify any ways that you, too, might experience difficulty with ADHD symptoms.
Whether your road ahead is an easy one, or one fraught with obstacles, you are your child’s best cheerleader—and you are the person who knows your child best. 504 accommodations can be the difference between academic success and academic difficulty, and it all begins with a simple inquiry with your child’s teacher and the school administration. From there, your child may require additional evaluation and observation to determine the best possible interventions available to them, and you may need to regularly follow up with and speak to your child’s educators to get them the help they need.