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National Center for Learning Disablities

Section 504 updated: Greater eligibility and accommodations for students with LD, AD/HD

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By Kristin Stanberry , Laura Kaloi, MPA

How things have changed with the ADAAA

Because of the ADAAA, more students may now qualify as persons with disabilities entitled to protection from discrimination based on their disabilities. They also may be eligible to receive special education or general education with related services and reasonable accommodations, including auxiliary aids and services in school, under Section 504.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 includes several significant changes, which also apply to Section 504:

  • The definition of “major life activities” was expanded to include learning, reading, concentrating and thinking. Also, the definition of “major bodily functions” has been expanded to include neurological and brain functions. This change makes it much easier for individuals with LD and/or AD/HD to qualify for protections under the ADAAA.
  • The ADAAA requires that the limitation on a major life activity be broadly, rather than narrowly, interpreted.
  • Conditions that are episodic or in remission are covered when they are active. For example, a student with AD/HD may be affected by his symptoms differently and at different times and under different conditions. The ADAAA does not disqualify him from protection on that basis alone.
  • Under the ADAAA a person cannot be denied protection simply because he uses a mitigating measure, such as taking medication for AD/HD or being allowed extra time when taking tests to accommodate for an LD. (The only exception to this is corrective lenses that fully correct a vision problem.)
  • Limitation in one major life activity need not impact other major life activities in order to trigger ADAAA protection. Some students with disabilities struggle in just one academic area, such as reading or writing, but excel in other skills or subjects and shine in extracurricular activities. Such students might now qualify for ADAAA protection, whereas before 2009 they would have been found ineligible because they struggled in only one major life activity.

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.


Laura Kaloi is Director of Public Policy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities. She has spearheaded legislative initiatives focused on every major education and disability law. Laura serves on several boards and task forces for disability groups. She works extensively with the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Education to ensure students with learning disabilities are fully considered in legislation and regulations.


Reprinted with permission from the National Center for Learning Disabilities. All rights reserved.

Comments from readers

"This site has been a great resource. Before reading all of the comments, I really felt like it was just 1moms fight for education. I have 2 boys both with A.D.H.D. The oldest graduated he is 23. School was not always easy for him. He was able to be active in sports and was able to fit in. Our youngest son, 13 has struggled since his early years in childcare, as young as 2 years old. I do feel that it is me against the school system. I want to have positive relationships with my child's teachers, and this can be a challenge when you are telling them that they are not meeting your child's needs and their 504 plan. I get mad, I get sad, I have jumped through all of the hoops that the system has asked me to do. It is still the same, empty promises. I feel that they say what you need to hear and notheing ever changes. My son has failed his core classes (math, lang. arts, and social studies) and still gets moved along, it has been that way since first grade. I feel ! that Act 60 No Child Left Behind, also should state No Child Pushed Ahead. Form 1mom to others, dont give up."
" My question is ,If anyone can help me, is can you sue the school district for civil right violations if they denied a 504 for my disabled children with chonic nerological lyme disease after Jan. 1,2009. and are still doing so. Even with doctors that specialize in the care of my children and just disregard them. Thanks, for any imput. Class action law suites anyone in florida we would be interrested."
"My child has ADHD and has had continued behavior problems in school. I was never told about the 504, IEP or the RTI that are available. Now he has been suspened facing expulsion. I want to know if these interventions are in place then why are the schools not offering them to children that are at risk. I would have never known about this had my child not been in counseling with an outside source. How is this providing a equal education opportunity for children with ADHD if the parents are not informed that these options are available?"
"My grandson is in the Pennridge school district, Perkasie PA and they say they are helping her to read, but will not implement a 504 or IEP. How can they be made to act, find a lawyer? Please, need comments!!!"
"My 12 yr old daughter currently has had a 504 plan for a year. Now all of the sudden I am told by the school principle that they (teachers) are doing to much for my daughter. Who has now became a A/B student since the 504 plan went into effect. Our county coordinator is new and did not even know what a 504 plan was before she was given the job. I need help no one can tell me what my daughter qualifies for under a 504 plan. I need a sample outline to present ."
"My son went to a very rich school, highly know for its acdemics in New York state. He did graduate, but not before having a very hard time. He was diagnosed with ADD at the age of 11,he is now 20. He was elligible for special ed, (ie. help and more time on tests and such) but was NEVER given it! I had NO support from the school what so ever! The papers from the doctors were thrown back in my face. He was repetedly suspended, and in trouble, and it was always his fault, not the other students. But he somehow got through, because I cared enough to help him. I know of other people in my situation in this and ended up pulling their kids out of the school district and paying to take them to another school district. Now my 14 yr old is having problems (but she dosent have a disability). She is currently suspended of the bus for a whole week, for not crossing the road right. In this school, it all depends on who you are, and who your sibiling are, on how you fair in school. Beleive! me, the whol town is that way. I dont want to be petty, but I have no idea where to go for help. My daughter now has no way to school, and need to know my rights. This is an ongoing problem, and I am sick of it!!!! The bus driver disobeys all the rules of driving the bus in front of the kids, but when the school is confronted with this, they pretty much say the kids are lying, or as it was put to me 'I wouldnt take much stock in what the other kids say' Could some one pleas tell me where to go for info?? Sincerly, and Thank You..."
"my child is on the 504 Plan - is the school required to perform tests WISC and others - a college wants them and the high school says they don't have to do them?"
"I found this article to be bittersweet. Disclaimer first-I do work for a school district in the area. I think it is important for parents to continue advocating for children to receive accommodations and special education if it is adversely impacting their education. However, much of this article seemed misinformed. The truth of the matter is, those students who are LD and have IEPs are automatically covered by section 504 protections...and always have been. This is not anything new. To my understanding-only one major life activity needs be affected and learning has been there well before this change was enacted-one only needs to research prior versions of this statute. IDEA and IEPs are mostly about providing specialized instruction as the result of a student being identified with one of 13 educationally disabling conditions in the Part 200 regulations and under IDEA. 504 is a civil rights statute passed in 1973 that provided that accommodations must be in place if an individual has an impairment that manifests a significant life limitation (such as learning) and that limitation would be manifest unless reasonable accommodations are presented (such as extended time to take tests, reducing distractions for ADHD students, etc.) The biggest change that the recent passage has brought on is the mitigating measures-the author here is correct. I also agree with the author that parents who think a disability or impairment is affecting a child, regardless of prior determination, should ask for a reevaluation of their child. IDEA and 504 can be very confusing laws for those not specifically schooled in them. If you have questions-check the Wrightslaw page at and you will likely find many answers that you are looking for."
"School wants to declassify 8th grade son from 504 & dyslexic to just dyslexic. Said the district has reviewed their guidelines & doesn't feel he is impaired enough to warrant 504 anymore. Sd the district routinely classified dyslexic & 504 together so there are supposedly LOTS & LOTS of students who w/b declassified this yr. (as if that will make me feel better!!??) Also my son passed the TAKS & his grades were decent A's, B's & C's so the counselor doesn't see the 'need' for the 504.This def affects his learning although his grades in math/eng are 77/84. He receives private tutoring in reading/Math since the summer of 2nd grade. He passed the TAKS reading OK & math barely. Was also told that he does not benefit from 504 anyway so why have the extra label on him..also was told all his accomodations w/b provided to him under his dyslexic label anyways. Please advise what I need to do if anything? How will being or not being 504 in High school/college affect him? "
"my son has dyslexia and ADD at low level and i worked for three years for him help. he was special ed tested every year and passed but they dont test for this disability. why i dont understand. after getting him on a list for months he was tested from a outside source we found it. after 3 years of struggle and him repeating 2nd grade ( that he would have not had to if school would have tested for this when i asked in 1st grade. also after he had several friends make fun of him and still will not talk to him.) at the end of this past year he recieved help in time to pass. we are about to start a new year and i'm greatful for all the staff at his school for putting up with me and my driven ways. just goes to show never give up on a child and maybe others in our area will recieve help he is the first in his school. the school and i will continue to work hand and hand. "
"My daughter has been on a 504 for 4 years. The school (new school/new district) has requested that we have her re-tested at Children's Hospital Learning Services department to confirm that she still has a LD. Since this is something my insurance only covered once, I hesitate to follow through with this. Is re-evaluation by a medical facility something a school can request? Would they be responsible for the testing fees? It is time for us to review my daughters 504, what, if anything should I tell thethe school? Her original diagnosis is Dyslexia, slow processing speed and low phonemic awareness. Even though we have had remedial intervention (at our expense) and she has shown improvement, she is not cured and still struggles, especially with spelling and writing. I have also been told that once a student is on a 504, that it can never be taken away. The school seems to believe that it can. What is correct? Thank you for your input and advice. Janet Malerich"
"While 504 plans are very helpful and necessary, parents should also be aware that accommodations are not a sufficient substitute for actual skills. Some students are given accommodations but not instruction in basic skills which would support their learning and become so wedded to those accommodations that they are in fact hampered by dependence on them. A balance between appropriate instruction and accommodations which allow LD students to fully participate in an intellectual life is a worthwhile goal. "
"my son was a classified infant and pre-schooler with a disability...adhd, speech, o/t, p/t... upon entering kindergarten he was declassified in third grade he was found to need accomodations and granted a 504 plan my school distric claims this entitles him o test mods and classroom accomodations but not related services true????????????????????"