Understanding your child’s rights under Section 504

Section 504

ADHD testing may be the first step in making the system work for you

Section 504 has opened the doors to a good education to countless children who the system might otherwise have failed.

As the U.S. Department of Education explains, “Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).”

Specifically, Section 504 says that, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

It is up to the Office of Civil Rights to enforce Section 504 in the many programs and activities that receive financial assistance from the education department, including public school districts and institutions of higher education.

The Department of Education goes on to say that, “Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a ‘free appropriate public education’ (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Under Section 504, FAPE consists of the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.”

Many parents find their introduction to the world of Section 504 to be confusing, if not downright overwhelming.  Don’t worry, though. An experienced ADHD doctor, like George Sachs, PsyD, understands the ins and outs of Section 504 and can help you navigate the system.

There are also a number of good online resources. As GoodSchools.org explains in plain English, “Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability. Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met.”

The law clearly states that mental as well as physical disabilities are covered under Section 504. The exact wording says: “An individual with a disability means any person who: (i) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment” [34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)].

learning disability is a disorder that affects the psychological processes involved in understanding language in one way or another. For example, a student may have difficulty understanding what a teacher says to the class because of a hearing impairment, because of ADHD or because of a range of other disabilities. If your child has a learning disability, it means that his or her brain processes information differently than the majority of students in the classroom.  While some learning disabilities affect the ability to listen, others affect the way a child speaks, thinks, reads, writes, spells or does mathematical calculations.

According to the nonprofit resource Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), “A student is eligible for Section 504 if the child has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a ‘major life activity.’ Major life activities for a child in school include learning and/or activities in addition to walking, talking, breathing, caring for oneself, etc. Additional major life activities added by the 2008 reauthorization of the Americans with Disabilities Act (and now called the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act [ADAAA]) include such things as reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating with others, and major bodily functions.”

CHADD further explains that, “To qualify under Section 504, a child’s disability must be serious enough, or ‘substantially limiting,’ that the child needs specialized services or accommodations.  All determinations of substantial limitation must be made without regard to the ‘ameliorative effects of mitigating measures.’  This means that the question of whether or not a child has a ‘substantial limitation’ in a particular area is answered before, and not after, any intervention for that limitation is implemented. ‘Mitigating measures’ includes such things as medication, assistive technology, learned behavioral modifications, psychotherapy, and/or reasonable accommodations. Children covered under Section 504 are usually children with less serious disabilities, or children who do not otherwise qualify for services under IDEA [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] but still have a disability that is substantially limiting in the educational setting.”

Section 504 benefits combined with the Sachs Center’s holistic ADHD treatment in NYC, which can include social skills groups along with therapy, can help your child achieve his or her true potential.  ADHD/ADD testing in NYC may be the first step toward ensuring that your child gets the education he or she is entitled to.  For more information, call us at 686-807-8900.