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Why do you need to know about these changes?
While the ADAAA is already in effect, don’t assume your school district fully understands how it applies to Section 504. To advocate effectively for your child, you’ll want to understand:
By Kristin Stanberry , Laura Kaloi, MPA
Now that you have a sense of how the ADAAA affects the interpretation of Section 504, you’re probably eager to know how these changes might help your child. While every situation -– and every child -– is unique, we’ll provide answers and action steps for some of the most common questions here.
Question: My child receives informal accommodations that his teacher or other school personnel (for example, a counselor or nurse) provides. Should I request these accommodations be formalized through a 504 plan?
Answer: Yes. By documenting that your child has a disability that substantially limits a major life activity (for example, learning or concentrating), you are ensuring the legal protections provided by federal law. You’re also providing documentation that will be important in the case of transitioning to a new school or setting, a new teacher, or some other life event.
Question: My child was previously found ineligible for services under IDEA, but a 504 plan was not discussed at that time. Since the ADAAA has broadened eligibility requirements, should we reapply?
Answer: Yes, you should request a 504 evaluation if you believe your child could benefit from a 504 plan. Because of the similarities between the IDEA and Section 504 “child find” requirement to provide a free, appropriate public education, schools should begin paying particular attention to students found ineligible for services under IDEA and be willing to discuss whether accommodations under a 504 plan are appropriate for the child.
Question: My child was previously found ineligible for a 504 plan. Should we reapply?
Answer: Yes, especially if you believe the denial was directly related to the old interpretation of the law, such as finding that there was no substantial limitation of a major life activity or denial due to use of a mitigating measure such as medication.
Question: My child already has a Section 504 plan. Should I ask if he is allowed additional (or different) accommodations under the ADAAA?
Answer: Yes, if you believe that your child will benefit from additional or different reasonable accommodations, auxiliary aids, supports or services. Once your child has a 504 plan, the school should be willing to have regular discussions about the effectiveness of the plan and whether adjustments need to be made to support your child’s success.
Question: My child has been eligible for services under IDEA, and now the school is proposing to end that eligibility. Should there be a discussion about a 504 plan?
Answer: Yes. Every year about 66,000 students in special education (3%) are declassified, which means their eligibility for services and supports under IDEA is terminated. It’s very likely that many of these children need accommodations for both classroom instruction and testing in order to succeed in general education. In those cases, a Section 504 plan might provide such accommodations.
Question: My teenager has a 504 plan and will soon be taking Advanced Placement tests and/or college entrance exams. What accommodations might she be allowed to use during those exams?
Answer: This is where the ADAAA and Section 504 intersect. National testing services are required under the ADAAA to provide reasonable accommodations, and most have information on their Web sites about how to document a disability and request accommodations. However, all documentation must be prepared well in advance. You and your teen will want to talk to her high school counselor about the required paperwork and the timeline for submission to the College Board, the ACT or Education Testing Service.
Question: My teenager has a 504 plan and is applying to college. What are the most important steps in assuring she gets what she needs in the college setting?
Answer: The most important thing to teach your teenager is to advocate for herself -– to communicate what her disability is and what accommodations she needs to succeed. Because each college establishes its own procedures based on its interpretation of the ADAAA and Section 504, it’s important to check with the college about its policies.
Reprinted with permission from the National Center for Learning Disabilities. All rights reserved.
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