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Experience with 504 denial?

socaldad2002socaldad2002 1602 replies30 threads Senior Member
My 13yo son who is diagnosed with ADHD, executive function issues, and moderate anxiety was recently denied a 504 plan by his middle school as we couldn't prove he is "substantially" impaired even though we conducted a battery of tests and have verification of his conditions from a psychiatrist and therapist. We believe that one of the reasons for the denial is that he has always been a "A" and "B" student with "exceed standards" scores on State tests.

Currently, some of his teachers have informally given him accommodations such as extra time to take in class tests and an extra day to turn in homework. He frequently is the last one in the class to complete his assignments and tests and needs additional time after class or at lunch hour to complete. He is a smart and bright kid but it takes him forever to get some things completed on time because of his condition. For example, on Monday he had 20 math problems that took him several hours to complete (he gets distracted easily and has a hard time concentrating on task). He is seeing a weekly educational therapist to help with executive function and organizational skills but its a process that will take months and years to see any meaningful results. We do not want to medicate him with stimulants because of the possible side effects.

The school psychologist and 504 coordinator were not helpful and they intimated that unless his grades slip to "C's" & "D's" he wouldn't be eligible. They also suggested we "dumb down" his curriculum, for example instead of taking Spanish 1B, he should use his elective for "study hall" to use for completing his homework assignments, make-up tests, etc.

We feel that he is a smart kid that wants to challenge himself and we are only asking for some formal accommodations to put him on a level playing field with his peers.

Any advice on what you would or have done would be helpful.
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Replies to: Experience with 504 denial?

  • elodyCOHelodyCOH 398 replies24 threads Member
    My oldest (now a freshman in college) sounds similar to your son. My son always had extremely high grades and top scores on assessments. He still had serious struggles coping. He had an IEP in grammar school for speech therapy and his ADHD. He moved out of IEP when his speech improved, but we did get the 504 for both middle and high school.

    I have some questions for you to see if I can help.

    Did your son get diagnosed recently? When you initially went for help, did you have to provide feedback from teachers about what was going on in class, or have you do questionnaires on how he does in various environments? Those may be helpful in demonstrating a need for accommodation. If you have any notes from teachers, report cards, etc., that back you up, use those. We had a ton of notes from teachers, coaches, etc., that mentioned my son's issues. Even though he wasn't failing (far from it), his ADHD impacted his daily life.

    Some examples from my son:

    He is an inattentive type ADHD, so he is easily distracted. Teachers noticed this and often commented on it. We asked for accommodations for him to sit close to the front of the room to reduce distractions.

    He frequently left materials he needed at school (or left books at home) and that made assignments late. His accommodation was always having an extra copy of books for home, or having access to online versions.

    His executive functioning took a long while to mature, so it was hard for him to manage longer term projects. His accommodation there was extra time to turn in assignments, and an extra checkpoint with the teacher to be sure he was on track.

    I would challenge the school on their assertion that he has to already be failing to get accommodations. He has the documented disability - they should have to provide appropriate accommodations for him to be successful.


    Over the years he has gotten better and better at managing - he is doing fine now.

    One more thing - I was like you and did not want my son to take medication and I resisted the doctor for a long while. Eventually, we decided to try it, and it made an enormous improvement for him.
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1602 replies30 threads Senior Member
    elodyCOH wrote: »
    My oldest (now a freshman in college) sounds similar to your son. My son always had extremely high grades and top scores on assessments. He still had serious struggles coping. He had an IEP in grammar school for speech therapy and his ADHD. He moved out of IEP when his speech improved, but we did get the 504 for both middle and high school.

    I have some questions for you to see if I can help.

    Did your son get diagnosed recently? When you initially went for help, did you have to provide feedback from teachers about what was going on in class, or have you do questionnaires on how he does in various environments? Those may be helpful in demonstrating a need for accommodation. If you have any notes from teachers, report cards, etc., that back you up, use those. We had a ton of notes from teachers, coaches, etc., that mentioned my son's issues. Even though he wasn't failing (far from it), his ADHD impacted his daily life.

    Some examples from my son:

    He is an inattentive type ADHD, so he is easily distracted. Teachers noticed this and often commented on it. We asked for accommodations for him to sit close to the front of the room to reduce distractions.

    He frequently left materials he needed at school (or left books at home) and that made assignments late. His accommodation was always having an extra copy of books for home, or having access to online versions.

    His executive functioning took a long while to mature, so it was hard for him to manage longer term projects. His accommodation there was extra time to turn in assignments, and an extra checkpoint with the teacher to be sure he was on track.

    I would challenge the school on their assertion that he has to already be failing to get accommodations. He has the documented disability - they should have to provide appropriate accommodations for him to be successful.


    Over the years he has gotten better and better at managing - he is doing fine now.

    One more thing - I was like you and did not want my son to take medication and I resisted the doctor for a long while. Eventually, we decided to try it, and it made an enormous improvement for him.

    Thanks for the response!

    Yes, he was diagnosed recently (Summer, 2019) for his ADHD, anxiety, executive function issues.

    Yes, we asked his 8th grade teachers to complete the questionnaires about my son's performance, behavior in his classes. Some of the teacher's survey results showed mixed descriptions but I think he was able to "fake it" up through 7th grade but 8th grade is a little more challenging with a couple of honors classes and foreign language. Having enough time for math quizzes/tests is a challenge as he seems to never be able to complete them within the class time period and frequently has to complete them at lunch break or the next day.

    This week he took the PSAT8/9 and while he completed all of the math questions, he only completed 50% of the English/Reading section, and left the rest blank. We won't know the scores for awhile but it doesn't look like he will "exceed standards" like previous standardized tests.

    We have come to the conclusion that we will appeal the denial of a 504 plan and will likely have to get an expert/attorney involved if we have any chance to get a plan in place. We also have scheduled meetings with some of his teachers to give them an update and to request "informal" accommodations until if/when we get him his 504.

    It seems that to get anything done, you have to play hard ball with the school district. We also have not ruled about private high school which might be more equipped to handle his special requests/needs?

    I'm glad the medicine is working for your son, we are going to try to exhaust every avenue before going down that road...
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  • MAandMEmomMAandMEmom 1671 replies10 threads Senior Member
    At least in our state I believe the school must pay for an outside neuropsych prior to denying you services. Have you requested that in writing?
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  • runnersmomrunnersmom 2222 replies36 threads Senior Member
    My experience is many, many years old (decades, to be honest), but my D (when she was in middle/high school) sounds like your S. She did reasonably well in school despite her disability but was being negatively impacted by her ADHD - she couldn't do as well as she was capable of because of it and it took her hours to accomplish what other students could do in far less time. Her executive function skills were quite nonexistent and she was very distractible. She had an IEP in elementary school because of other issues, but when she transitioned to middle school they denied the IEP (no longer substantially impaired) but did approve her for 504 accommodations based on her ADHD/Other Health Issues (which was the ADHD!). Our district used that more expansive criteria to confirm her eligibility. She was given extra time, access to a computer for written in-class assignments and exams, and others I can't remember. I haven't looked at the specific language of the requirements in years but I would think arguing that the purpose of accommodations is to put him on an equal playing field and allow him to achieve what he is capable of achieving should be enough. The 504 language is, if I remember correctly, quite expansive.
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  • ECmotherx2ECmotherx2 2223 replies8 threads Senior Member
    You may wish to contact your regional office of civil rights. I was able to get quite a bit of free legal advice when I needed it. See if there is a local chapter of CH.A.D.D. (Children and Adult with Attention Deficit Disorder), they should be able to offer some valuable insight regarding IEP vs. 504, etc., as well as names of good, local education attorneys. Sometimes chapters will have guest speakers- child psychologists, MD's, nutritionists, psychologists, attorneys, etc.
    May I suggest that you see if there is a professional in your area that specializes in ADHD as there is a very wide range of medications and combination approaches, (meds, biofeedback, organizational skills, etc.) that may help. It is usually a multi-pronged approach that will be effective and you will feel most comfortable if your son is followed by an expert in the field. The medication will help to level the playing field and allow a child to be more receptive to feedback, organizational and behavior training. Learn as much as possible from experts in the various areas so you can make the most informed decision for your son. In our case, we found medication, therapy, and organizational skill training to be effective. I kept extensive records and notes on meds, side effectives, duration of effectiveness, etc. Our beginning interactions with school was a disaster. They did not accept the psychiatrist's evaluation or recommendations, (he was director of a major research university program for ADHD), or the neuropsych eval that I paid for out of pocket. In the end, I went the attorney route, (I did not want to do this, but they left me no choice). Very bright kids will be able to cope and get good grades until the volume of work increases.
    Wishing you and your son the very best. Follow your instincts.
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  • CorralenoCorraleno 151 replies1 threads Junior Member
    edited November 17
    Who diagnosed the ADHD? Was it by a psychiatrist/MD or based on neuropsych testing? If you have not had a full neuropsych work-up, I would do that ASAP. The key to getting accommodations for a smart kid with LDs is to have testing that explicitly shows a large gap between his *potential* and his *performance*, and the summary of the test results must explicitly state that (1) there is a large *quantifiable* gap there, (2) the LDs prevent him from achieving at the level he is capable of, and (3) he needs XYZ accommodations (these need to be spelled out explicitly).

    ETA: For example, the test results might show that while IQ is in the 98th percentile, processing speed and working memory are 10th percentile, so the student needs accommodations for those deficits (generally extra time) in order for testing to *accurately reflect his abilities.* That is what determines the right to accommodations, not whether they scan squeak by with a B or C, or get As in courses that are far below their level.
    edited November 17
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  • runnersmomrunnersmom 2222 replies36 threads Senior Member
    What @Corraleno said - that was exactly the situation we were in with my D. She was initially diagnosed after extensive testing by a neuropsychologist and we updated the testing when she was transitioned from an IEP to a 504 in middle school. The disparity between her IQ testing and her processing ability was significant.
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  • HippobirdyHippobirdy 472 replies1 threads Member
    edited November 18
    Here is another resource,
    https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/neuropsychological-evaluations-what-you-need-to-know

    Agree with CHADD recommendation.

    If teachers willing to continue informal accommodations, may be best outcome.

    There are 2E learning disabled kids- talented and gifted yet having learning disability. There are groups for 2E issues.

    Also may be some threads on CC learning difference subforum.
    edited November 18
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  • txstellatxstella 1118 replies6 threads Senior Member
    Did the neuropsych testing include screening for learning disabilities? When I had concerns about my son, the initial testing indicated ADHD but I felt there was more going on. I took in school work to show the psychologist who took one look at it and said that my son was dyslexic. He then administered educational testing. The SAT testing you mention where your son finished the math but only 50% of the reading is a potential red flag for dyslexia. Gifted children with dyslexia often learn to read and hit reading benchmarks, but they make mistakes by skipping words and inserting words which leads to poor comprehension. They are often inattentive because they have to work so very hard all of the time. It is exhausting. This testing costs a lot of money. I believe insurance covered the ADHD testing, but the educational testing was out of pocket.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3103 replies39 threads Senior Member
    Taking several hours to complete 20 math problems is not going to work in high school. The speed at which material is presented and the volume of work in all subjects will increase substantially. Extended deadlines are not going to help that.
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  • thumper1thumper1 75477 replies3310 threads Senior Member
    At least in our state I believe the school must pay for an outside neuropsych prior to denying you services

    This decision is made on an individual student basis. It is not, nor should it be something that is done for every student.
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  • elodyCOHelodyCOH 398 replies24 threads Member
    @Corraleno Agreed on the need for very explicit accommodation asks. My son's diagnosis came from an MD who also did a neuro/psych work-up. We had this done when he was in elementary school. This was very helpful, as my son had issues with fine motor skills as well as a speech disorder. His reading and processing speed was very fast, but his motor skills caused him to have problems writing legibly, especially if he needed to do it quickly. One of his accommodations was the use of a keyboard for any written work he needed to do at school, and extra time when he needed to do work for pencil and paper.
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  • HippobirdyHippobirdy 472 replies1 threads Member
    I agree screening for dyslexia would be helpful, which is phonics based. How is his spelling? In middle school, my S18 benefitted from weekly speech language sessions to get his spelling, writing up to grade level.
    See chart describing difference between IEP and 504,

    https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/504-plan/the-difference-between-ieps-and-504-plans

    Also this is another good resource
    https://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/adhd/

    If ADHD and anxiety are "Other Health Impaired" conditions, not " Specific Learning Disabilities" there may be some confusion about what school must do.

    My son was in private school. If he had been in public school, we were told there were waitlists for screening and services and he would not be viewed as needy since there were more kids with more severe or obvious learning problems.(located in Maryland)
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  • elodyCOHelodyCOH 398 replies24 threads Member
    @roycroftmom I wouldn't assume that it will always take hours to complete the homework because it's that way now. It takes time to learn ways to cope with ADHD and learning disabilities. My son started with getting an extra week to turn in papers. He didn't use an extra week every time, or even most times. Knowing that he HAD an extra week took some of that pressure off of him that helped him focus on just doing the work without worrying about missing the deadline. He learned how to stay on track over time.

    If a child is having some issues with ADHD and anxiety - just knowing they have the extra time may be enough to take the pressure off and allow them to do better.
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  • jym626jym626 56021 replies2917 threads Senior Member
    edited November 18
    Where I live, while we do talk about discrepancy scores, the “potential vs performance” language went the way of the dinosaurs.

    Yes, you probably need to get an educational advocate and/or an education/special needs attorney involved, and an independent evaluation paid for by the school system can be requested. Don’t believe it is an automatic guarantee. If they deny you can file a compliance complaint, but just because you ask for an independent evaluation at the school system’s expense doesn’t guarantee they will automatically do it.
    edited November 18
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 39020 replies2141 threads Super Moderator
    I haven't read the entire thread, but I suggest that you call your state chapter of NAMI. I was at a NAMI Maine Board meeting this past weekend, and the Executive Director happened to mention that she will get involved if parents have this type of problem.
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4585 replies18 threads Senior Member
    First off.. It sucks being a parent sometimes.....

    We were in a similar situation years ago. If your high achieving son is getting A and Bs they think nothing is wrong. So we asked them. What scores do you think he would get if he wasn't struggling? We had neuropsych tests also. But we learned that Add and Executive Functioning are almost like catch phrases. The test showed two things when we dug deeper. Slow brain processing beyond his age group and very low reading comprehension scores. He was a slow reader at that time. Early Sat scored showed top like 99% but reading comp was like 30 %. Irk lower
    Big discrepancy.

    So it came apparent that he was working extremely harder just to get those scores but these two things stuck out like sore thumbs. Like off the charts.

    So we learned like they have to cover slower brain processing. He was the kid that you didn't want the teacher to ask questions to since he really "needed" the time to process plus he didn't like to be wrong either.

    The end accommodations were extra time when needed. Mostly reading things. He was great in math. Graphs were an issue or anything that had "a lot" of things on one page. They would just separate out the pages. It was too busy to look at everything at once.

    I bet your son has brain processing issues if taking that long to complete the task . Executive functioning goes more with ADD issues if you will.

    Biofeedback and Developmental Optometry works great and quick for the above. If you live in the Chicagoland area I have some recommendations. We were shocked at the results for both our kids and never medicated them. OK, my daughter tried Ritalin and didn't like it after a few days. She is extremely self aware.

    I had to use it to pass my surgical boards and it was the first time in my life I could sit and read from like 9am-to 3:00 with just getting a break for lunch. School was very much a struggle for me and ADD runs rampant in my family. Didn't want that for my kids since I lived it. It's sorta like an educational hell.
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  • mom2andmom2and 2929 replies19 threads Senior Member
    What does your doctor say about medication? Yes, there are potential side effects but for kids with ADHD they can really help. Unfortunately, they do not work as well for kids with the inattentive type. For most kids with ADHD, medication is part of the treatment plan.

    In order to qualify for services, the impairment caused by the disability must be great enough to impact performance. It can be hard to make that case for a kid that is getting As and Bs. It is unfortunate that some schools (ours as well) require kids to fail or at least do poorly before they will agree there is a disability. OTOH, there are times when the LD is there, but it is not "bad enough" to impact learning. Have you tried behavior modification especially for homework?
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  • thumper1thumper1 75477 replies3310 threads Senior Member
    edited November 18
    @Hippobirdy
    If he had been in public school, we were told there were waitlists for screening and services

    This is not allowed per special education legislation. If a family or staff member requests a screening, or child NEEDS services, they can not be placed on a “waitlist” because there are other more needy kids.

    This is a piece of misinformation that needs to be ignored...because it is not allowed....and is not true.
    edited November 18
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