IDEA laws and 504 Laws

IDEA Laws and 504 Laws

Two Legal options available at school

Section 504 law (commonly called a 504 Plan): If the child has a disability but does not need special education services, the child may be entitled to protections under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 was designed as a civil rights statute that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination for reasons related to their disabilities. However, most school districts use this law to allow certain students to have accommodations in their academic settings for children with ADHD.

IDEA – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which allows for an Individual Education Plan, commonly called an IEP. Disability does not automatically qualify a child for IDEA help. The key phrase is "who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services." To be eligible for a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA, the child must have a disability and must need special education and related services.

Students do not have to be failing in order to receive special education services. Children with passing grades may receive special education services. School personnel might say a child is not eligible because the child is "passing," this is incorrect. Children who receive passing grades and advance from grade to grade can be eligible for special education.

The IDEA regulations clarify that schools must offer a free appropriate public education to any child with a disability who needs special education, "even though the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade, and is advancing from grade to grade.“

Find an Advocate to help you with IDEA Law rights or 504 Law rights.

Possible Classroom Accommodations

  • Highlighted textbooks
  • Extended time on tests or assignments
  • Peer assistance with note taking
  • Frequent feedback
  • Extra set of textbooks for home use
  • Computer aided instruction
  • Enlarged print
  • Positive reinforcements
  • Behavior intervention plans
  • Rearranging class schedules
  • Visual aids
  • Preferred seating assignments
  • Oral tests
  • Individual contracts
  • Tests taken in small group settings or individually proctored

Detailed Information about IDEA and 504

Joint memo on ADD/ADHD and eligibility for IDEA

Robert R. Davila, Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Michael L. Williams, Assistant Secretary, Office for Civil Rights. John T. MacDonald, Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.


In order to be eligible under part B, a child must be evaluated in accordance with 34 CFR §§ 300.530-300.534 as having one or more specified physical or mental impairments, and must be found to require special education related services by reason of one of more of these impairments. 2 20 U.S.C. 1401(a)(1); 34 cfr § 300.5. SEAS and LEAS must ensure that children with ADD who are determined eligible for services under part B receive special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs, including special education and related services needs arising from the ADD. A full continuum of placement alternatives, including the regular classroom, must be available for providing special education and related services required in the IEP.

The legal definition of "Other Health Impairment means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that ... is due to chronic or acute health problems such as ... attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ..."
See regulation 300.8(c)(9)


SEAS and LEAS (state and local educational agencies) are required to have procedures for locating, identifying and evaluating all children who have a disability or are suspected of having a disability and are in need of special education and related services. 34 CFR §§ 300.128 and 300.220. This responsibility, known as “CHILD FIND,” is applicable to all children from birth through 21, regardless of the severity of their disability.


A summary of Section 504 is that Section 504 requires every recipient that operates a public elementary or secondary education program to address the needs of children who are considered "handicapped persons" under Section 504 as adequately as the needs of nonhandicapped persons are met. "Handicapped person" is defined in the Section 504 regulation as any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity (e.g., learning). 34 CFR § 104.3(j). Thus, depending on the severity of their condition, children with ADD may fit within that definition.
Section 504 has more general language than IDEA.

Please note: Although we do not like to use the term “handicapped,” the terms “handicapped” and other archaic terms referenced here are legal terms with definite legal meanings. For that reason, we have kept them to be consistent with existing special education law. Educere encourages the use of "people first" language.


Major life activities include, but are not limited to: self-care, manual tasks, walking, seeing, speaking, sitting, thinking, learning, breathing, concentrating, interacting with others and working. As of January 1, 2009 with the reauthorization of the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act, this list has been expanded to also include the life activities of reading, concentrating, standing, lifting, bending, etc. This may include individuals with AD/HD, dyslexia, cancer, diabetes, severe allergies, chronic asthma, Tourette ’s syndrome, digestive disorders, cardiovascular disorders, depression, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, HIV/AIDS, behavior disorders and temporary disabilities (e.g., broken writing arm, broken leg, etc.). Conditions that are episodic or in remission are also now covered if they create a substantial limitation in one or more major life activity while they are active. Students who are currently using illegal drugs or alcohol are not covered or eligible under Section 504.

What are substantial limitations? — In considering substantial limitations, students must be measured against their same age, non-disabledpeers in the general population and without benefit of medication or other mitigating measures such as learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications, assistive technology or accommodations.


"Providing a structured learning environment; repeating and simplifying instructions about in-class and homework assignments; supplementing verbal instructions with visual instructions; using behavioral management techniques; adjusting class schedules; modifying test delivery; using tape recorders, computer-aided instruction, and other audio-visual equipment; selecting modified textbooks or workbooks; and tailoring homework assignments."


Should it be determined that the child with ADD is handicapped for purposes of Section 504 and needs only adjustments in the regular classroom, rather than special education, those adjustments are required by Section 504.

A range of strategies is available to meet the educational needs of children with ADD. Regular classroom teachers are important in identifying the appropriate educational adaptations and interventions for many children with ADD.


Provide a written, dated letter addressed to AT LEAST the principal of the school. In the letter you must write the following points:

  • You are requesting a special education evaluation for your child and
  • with this letter you “consent” to evaluation for your child.

IDEA – According to the federal regulations: "…placement decisions are to be made by a group of persons who are knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, placement options, least restrictive environment requirements, and comparable facilities" 34 C.F.R. §104.35(C)(3)). (More details are available for this answer.)

Unlike IDEA, the federal regulations for Section 504 do not require or even mention that parents are to be a part of the decision-making committee. The decision to include parents in the decision-making committee is a determination that is made by each school district and should be spelled out in the district’s procedures for implementing section 504. Parents should at least be asked and encouraged to contribute any information that they may have (e.g., doctor’s reports, outside testing reports, etc.) that would be helpful to the section 504 committee in making their determination of what the child may need. Schools are expected to make sound educational decisions as to what the child needs in order to receive an appropriate education.


Under Section 504, no formalized testing is required.

The 504 committee should look at grades over the past several years, teacher’s reports, information from parents or other agencies, state assessment scores or other school administered tests, observations, discipline reports, attendance records, health records and adaptive behavior information.

Schools must consider a variety of sources. A single source of information (such as a doctor’s report) cannot be the only information considered. Schools must be able to assure that all information submitted is documented and considered.



Yes. Children under Section 504 are still expected to follow the district’s student code of conduct. However, when disciplining a child under Section 504, schools must consider the relationship between the disability and the misbehavior if the child is going to be removed from the regular setting for longer than 10 days. This does not mean that a student with a disability cannot be sent to a discipline center or that they cannot go to in-school suspension, or be suspended from school for three days. Very strict guidelines exist for schools in discipline issues with students who have a disability under Section 504. Your campus or district 504 coordinator can assist you in this area should you have additional questions concerning the discipline of students with disabilities. Children having disabilities with behavioral components should have individual discipline plans as well as behavior intervention plans.

What are my Parent's Rights as a parent under Section 504?

  • Receive notice regarding the identification, evaluation and/or placement of your child;
  • Examine relevant records pertaining to your child;
  • Request an impartial hearing with respect to the district’s actions regarding the identification evaluation, or placement of your child, with an opportunity for the parent/guardian to participate in the hearing, to have representation by an attorney, and have a review procedure;
  • File a complaint with your school District Section 504 Coordinator, who will investigate the allegations regarding Section 504 matters other than your child’s identification, evaluation and placement.
  • File a complaint with the appropriate regional Office for Civil Rights. For additional information, contact:
    U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. 20202-1100
    (800) 421-3481

504 Plan Complaints — Do I contact the State Education Agency (TEA) if I have a complaint concerning Section 504?

No. The State Education Agency has no direct jurisdiction over Section 504 implementation. Complaints may be addressed to your local District 504 Coordinator or to the Office for Civil Rights.

IDEA complaints


Texas Education Agency



Schools often tell parents that they are not required to provide special education services to children who have dyslexia.


Under (30) Specific Learning Disability is (B) Disorders Included. Do you see "dyslexia" listed?


It's right after minimal brain dysfunction, the term used in the 1970's term for what we now refer to as "Attention Deficit Disorder." In fact, "dyslexia" has always been listed as a specific learning disability in the law.

What can individual tutoring do for my child?

  • A one-on-one tutoring environment allows for fewer distractions from the environment and from others in the room,
  • An experienced tutor can recognize when a student with ADD/ADHD needs a short break and can allow for that at reasonable intervals, then redirect the student back to the work,
  • A one-on-one tutor modifies the curriculum, and uses the student’s own interests to make the lesson more relevant and interesting,
  • An individual tutor can change the style of instruction to fit that student’s learning style
  • A tutor can assist the parents and student with monitoring a homework journal
  • A tutor can teach the student time management strategies
  • Work with the student on how to break large projects into manageable parts
  • A tutor can aid in setting intermediate deadlines Provide immediate positive encouragement and individual praise for accomplished tasks.

Regular appointments provide routine and structure for ADD/ADHD kids. Educere has special education, gifted and talented teachers, and regular education teachers in all subjects who can help kids get past their challenges.

Do you want some help using Idea Law or 504 Law for your child? Talk with a Special Education Advocate.

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