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Attention Deficit Disorder Accommodations within School

A Guide to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act

What is Attention Deficit Disorder?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder. Many students with ADD or ADD display behavior that may seem inappropriate such as: impulsiveness, lack of attention, and hyperactivity. In most occurrences these symptoms appear by age seven. While the exact cause of this disorder is not known, several treatment options are available. Medication, behavior modification, counseling, specific diets, and accommodations are often used to assist people with ADD and ADD. Click here to go to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 is an equal rights law for people with disabilities. Section 504 pertains to public institutions that receive federal funding, such as public school systems. To qualify for services under Section 504 an individual must have a disability that interferes with one or more life functions such as: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. Section 504 is focused on providing accommodations to ensure equal access to school related programs and activities.

Many students with ADD or ADD require accommodations to allow for equal access to school related programs and activities, both academic and non-academic. To find out if the student meets eligibility for Section 504, contact the school’s Section 504 representative and request an evaluation. Make requests in writing and keep a copy for family records.

What is a 504 plan for accommodation?
A 504 plan for accommodation is developed and written if the student meets eligibility criteria under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The plan is a written document describing the types of accommodations and who will execute them so the student will have equal access to school related programs and activities. The accommodations within the plan are developed for the individual student and his or her specific needs. When writing a 504 plan discuss in-classroom accommodations, and non-academic accommodations if necessary. Behavior plans can be included in a Section 504 plan and are sometimes necessary for students with ADD/ADD.

Accommodating ADD/ADD
Eligible students with ADD/ADD require accommodations which allow equal participation in learning environments and school related activities (both academic and non-academic). Accommodations may include:

  • Adjustments in seating: the student may need to be seated closer to the teacher
  • Uncomplicated directions, or repetition of directions
  • Dispense medication, if prescribed by a doctor, while in school
  • Regulate stress levels-opportunities for stress reduction activities or low stimulus environments
  • Modify assignments for competency v. quantity
  • Increase supervision during transition times if the student has difficulty getting from class to class
  • Modify test procedures-give oral exams, short answers v. multiple choice, do not use scantron test formats
  • Assist students with the development and use of study guides into increase organization
  • Provide counseling
  • Use of an assignment notebook or student organizer with teacher checks to verify accuracy
  • Develop an agreed upon cue between student and teacher-for staying on task
  • Promote an environment with reduced distractions
  • Use a high lighter to draw attention to directions and significant information
  • Use a checklist between parents, students, and teachers to keep track of tasks
  • A timer may be used to give the student a specific amount of time they must stay focused on one item
  • Have the student repeat instructions or have the teacher write them down for the student
  • The student may want the opportunity to stand or move about during work time
  • Use a reward system for good behavior-positive behavior plans
  • Get the student’s attention before beginning a lesson
  • Allow student to take breaks
  • Praise the student’s strengths regularly
  • Use assistive technology as needed to aid students with organization, writing skills, reading, etc.
  • Help the student “get started”

Behavior Plans
As mentioned earlier some students with ADD/ADD need to have behavior plans. Behavior plans are written to identity and extinguish a negatively perceived behavior and replace it with a positively perceived behavior. If a student has a certain behavior that is preventing him or her from participating in school activities, then a behavior plan may be necessary as an accommodation to allow the student equal access to that activity.

Not only do behavior plans help extinguish a negatively perceived behavior they can protect the student from certain punishments. Students with ADD maybe subject to a modified alternate punishment to breaking school rules than their non-disabled peers. For example, a student with ADD may exhibit impulsive behaviors which may at times create a disturbance in class. A behavior plan may call for the student to be redirected back on task rather than removing him or her from the classroom. Behavior plans should take a positive rather than a punishment approach. Use positive reinforcement when the student behaves in appropriate ways. A behavior plan as an accommodation for a student with a disability must be determined on an individual basis.

Non-Academic Activities
As mentioned earlier, 504 plans are to provide equal access to programs funded with federal dollars to people with disabilities, this includes ALL school-sponsored activities and events such as:

  • assemblies
  • plays
  • talent shows
  • student government
  • clubs
  • the lunchroom
  • playgrounds
  • the library
  • career exploration and planning activities
  • school to work programs
  • in school job opportunities

504 plans should look at all aspects of student life. They should address any non-classroom activity with which the student may want to be involved. An accommodation maybe very simple or maybe more complex based on individual need, but are necessary to provide access as guaranteed by law.

Prepared for Parents & Guardians
by Jacqueline M. Wells

This document was funded in part from a grant from WisTech to the Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy through the National Institute of Disability Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR); U.S. Dept. of Education. Fall 1998