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Section 504, ADA and IDEA: What’s the Difference?

School Support Available for Students with ADHD and Other Special Needs

U.S. law requires public schools to make reasonable accommodations so students with disabilities can learn in positive environments. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are three laws that allow students with disabilities to have a better learning environment. Learn a bit about how Section 504, IDEA and ADA apply to students with special needs to make sure your students are getting the attention they deserve.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Most children with ADHD can get the services they need through Section 504. Section 504 states that any school receiving federal money must provide equal educational opportunities to children with disabilities.

ADHD is often addressed by a 504 plan because schools can usually satisfy the needs of these students with simple, low-cost accommodations. Some of the most effective options include:

  • Providing extra time to complete work
  • Breaking large projects into smaller tasks
  • Offering a place for ADHD students to take breaks without interrupting others
  • Using verbal and written instructions

Effective interventions depend on the student's unique needs. A little patience and creative thinking can go a long way.

Individual with Disabilities Education Act

There is some confusion regarding whether IDEA addresses the educational needs of students with ADHD. ADHD is not listed as a qualifying disability within IDEA, though it can be considered part of the "other health impaired" category of disabilities covered by the law.

Parents should know that they need to prove that their children have ADHD to an extent that they cannot thrive in school without special assistance. This requires three things:

  1. Documented problems meeting scholastic challenges
  2. An evaluation performed by the school district
  3. An independent evaluation to determine whether the child has a serious learning disability

IDEA definitely supports the rights of students with ADHD, but only when the problem is so severe that it requires an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This can make it more difficult for children with ADHD to qualify. If it's possible to meet the child's needs through Section 504, that's usually the faster option.

Americans with Disabilities Act

ADA assures that people with disabilities have access to the same public services as everyone else. That includes the services offered by public schools. The issue gets a little more complicated when students attend private or religious schools, but it still applies.

Realistically, most students can get the services that they need through Section 504. ADA exists to provide additional protections, but Section 504 satisfies most concerns as long as students don't require expensive educational interventions.

Students with ADHD have significant protection in the United States, especially when they attend public schools. Each case, however, can have its own details that affect how laws apply to the school and student. The school's budget and the severity of the disability both play into the care the student gets.

To schedule an assessment for your child, or to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help your child reach their full potential, contact us online or find a center near you.

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