I first talked about the gray area regulated in the IEP for ADHD in an earlier blog post titled: How to Educate a Child with ADHD. It was there I first mentioned that there is gray area when discussing with the team the eligibility factor. Now, let’s go deeper… This happens especially when there is no documented specified learning disability that is co-existing with ADHD. In these instances, school administrators many times take the stand that the child has a disability that can be controlled by him with hard work, dedication, and a better work ethic. Because they cannot see this medical disability and are unable to see a disability perspective, they sweep it under the rug and call it bad behavior that can be controlled.
The IDEA law (or special-ed law) states that ADHD falls in the category of “Other Health Impaired.” The gray area comes into play because the individual school district must decide if the impairments shown by the child do indeed impact his access to education. Which leads to the question: 504 or IEP? The 504 is a civil rights law and only levels the playing field with accommodations within the confines of general education. Disabilities, whether they are physical or mental, cannot be discriminated against ever in school or in the work place. The IEP is part of special education that encompasses goals and very specified legal rights. If a child needs special education services and/or related services in order to receive FAPE, they are covered under the IDEA and necessitates an IEP.
I had a family in an IEP eligibility meeting ask the difference between an IEP and 504. They conveniently did not answer. I later discussed it with the family.
In that gray area, if you can substantiate the impairments with documentation, then the child will benefit much more with an IEP. Why? Unlike the 504 with a list of accommodations, the IEP allows for individualized goals that must be measurable. This document allows for specific modifications and special-ed services that are written to allow for the success of the goals. By focusing on needs by writing goals, it becomes clearer that the modifications in place may or may not be effective.