Do we need a 504?

Several parents of children with ADHD or other sensory and attention disorders have urged me to get a Section 504 plan for Javi.

If you're not "in the know," the Americans with Disabilities Act contains a provision (Section 504) which requires schools that receive federal funds to create special provisions for children with disabilities so to ensure that they have equal access to an education. If I pursued a 504 for Javi, he would be guaranteed preferential seating in the classroom, smaller testing groups, and more time to complete his work. He'd also get help with his planning and organizational skills.

But does he really need one? Javi is highly distractible and really can't tolerate sitting next to a chatty or fidgety classmate, but I usually discuss his seating with his teacher at the end of the second week of class (which gives him time to settle into the rhythm of things). His teachers have always been willing to work with me to place him next to a child less likely to distract him.

Javi also hyperfocuses on those around him. When he's reading in groups, he can't focus on the text because he's worried about what page his peers are on or whether he's reading the fastest. He'll skip whole sections just to make sure he stays ahead. This comes back to bite him on comprehension tests.

The same problem occurs during testing. He wants to be the first one finished so he watches the other children to guage who's moving fastest -- and then he beats that child's pace. But, I try to alert the teachers to his tendencies and they work with him on slowing down. (I'm hopeful that he's grown out of this problem because his art teacher was very proud of his ability to hone in on his projects in camp this summer and take his time despite what the kids around him were doing.)

These are his two main classroom problems. With close coordination between his teachers and us, as well as some well-implemented management strategies, Javi seems to do just fine in a regular classroom following standard rules. In fact, he consistently scores at the top of his class in both reading and math. He is -- by all measures and metrics -- a high achiever.

So do we need a 504? I think we have a tendency to push Javi to be "the best he can be." That means we push him to excel at every task, which taxes his little system. If we allowed him to be a middle-of-the-road child, I doubt he'd need any special management strategies at all. Of course, that isn't an option for a child like Javi who craves information, loves to learn, and gets quickly bored with that middle-of-the-road path.

I think I'm going to consider the 504 as an option that's out there if (when?) we determine that we need it. Yes, we expect his teacher to channel more of her resources his way than she does for other children, but I don't think we're asking too much from a person tasked with teaching him. I'll definitely be watching him closely this year since third grade is so much more intense than the grades leading up to it, but I'm confident that -- with our help -- Javi will do just fine.


  • Katie Jones

    As a teacher who has done many a 504 as well as had a 504 herself...

    The only reason I would do a 504 in that situation is if you think he needs testing modifications in the spring. With 3rd grade being "high stakes" in Georgia, I would be concerned about him passing the test while in the regular classroom setting. I don't know if third is high stakes in your state, but kids in Ga can't pass the grade if they don't pass the test (reading and math), even if they've passed their classes. If you think small group or extended time would benefit him, then you have to do a 504 and the teacher must implement these mods into testing in the regular ed setting BEFORE standardized testing begins. My personal goal is to get all 504's in place by end of Jan/beginning of Feb so I'm all set for April testing.

    **Oh, I would also do a 504 if I ever had a teacher who wouldn't work with Javi. I doubt you will, but I had a professor in college who would.not.modify for my hyperhydrosis (even though all I asked for was to use a pen on tests and wear latex gloves if needed), and it was a BIG deal. So, hi ho, hi ho, its 504 I go!

    **And, btw, I totally got all my mods plus some, and UGA was terrified that I'd sue over that jerky professor! I didn't - so magnanimous is this SPED girl. :)

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