Mental Health Blogs

Draft 504 Plan Insufficient for Bipolar/ADHD Child

Like an errant child avoiding homework, I’ve been putting off something important for almost a week: writing Bob’s 504 Plan.

Wait–isn’t someone affiliated with the school district supposed to do that?

One would think.

failing-grades1During the last week of school prior to winter break, I met with the “team” to discuss my 10-year-old son, Bob (now in 4th grade), his diagnoses (bipolar disorder and ADHD, possible high-functioning Asperger’s), and his eligibility for services under an IEP or 504 Plan (blogged about here). As I mentioned in my prior post, I was less than happy with the results of that meeting, and the conclusion Bob’s learning deficits aren’t great enough to warrant implementing an IEP. We did, however, make a list of some basic accommodations that might, at least, help him get through a school day without boiling over and, hopefully, allow him to spend more time in the classroom learning. The counselor told me she would put the plan together and email it to me after the break.

Last Wednesday (the day school resumed), I received her plan. One page, titled “Accommodations,” with eight such accommodations listed. No specific reasoning for any of them. No goals to be met. There was no description of the behaviors necessitating the plan, nor any objectives. In short, it was about as far from any sample 504 plan I’ve seen.

I was, of course, annoyed. This “plan” says nothing to teachers or administrators about Bob, nothing to give them any reason to actually implement the accommodations listed. It doesn’t communicate this is a serious issue and should not be ignored.

imagesI wondered–was Bob’s the first 504 Plan she’s ever written? Surely not. And if not, did all the other 504 plans in our district look like this? I checked our school district’s website for a blank/sample 504 or IEP–and came up empty-handed. (I obtained several samples from school district websites across the country.) This discouraged me even more–is our school district trying to discourage parents from seeking help for their kids? If not, why isn’t this information available on their website? (I found no information regarding IEP/504 anywhere on our district’s website.)

So, sample plans in hand, I determined to just rewrite the thing myself and email it back to her with a copy to the district superintendent.

Yet, here we are, almost one week later, and I have yet to begin. I don’t know why, exactly. I think part of it is my own being pissed about having to do it at all. My taxes help pay for public education. My taxes helped pay for the legislation that brought IDEA into being. Why aren’t my taxes there to help me when my child needs help? I’m also angry at the assumption I would simply accept the draft as-is, sign it, and move along (which, I’m afraid, is what most parents likely do).

That said, I suppose it’s time to get over myself and start writing.

This entry was posted in About Angela, Bipolar Child, Parenting Child with Mental Illness, School Issues and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Draft 504 Plan Insufficient for Bipolar/ADHD Child

  1. Leslie says:

    I’m so sorry Angela. From what I know about Bob, I’m shocked that it has taken this long to work on a 504, given his school difficulties. The school should have done one a long time ago, and it should be an IEP, not a 504. And the extra layer of ridiculousness is you having to write it to ensure that Bob gets what he needs. What about writing it in letter form and requesting that THEY convert it into whatever form they need to?

  2. Jeff says:

    Hi Angela,

    I have to agree with your friend Leslie. Based on what you wrote, Bob should also qualify for an IEP, which is most often superior to a Section 504 Plan. The differences between the two are many, but in a nutshell, the protections extended to both you and Bob under an IEP are significantly greater than under a 504 Plan.

    Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which among other things, prohibits discrimination based on disability. Generally, The law provides for accommodations for students with disabilities, but stops far short of the protections provided under an IEP. I am not aware of any specific format for the plan and your description of the plan and the process is reasonably typical. If you choose to stay with the 504 Plan, you have certain rights, which include an impartial hearing at the district level, filing a complaint with the school district’s Section 504 Coordinator (in a small district, that could be the Superintendent), or filing a complaint with the regional Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education (Washington, D.C.).

    An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is the document prescribed by a separate law, the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), which is enforced by an entirely different office in the U.S. Department of Education – the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). Unlike Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, IDEA was enacted specifically to fund special education programs.

    The IEP is much more comprehensive than the accommodations included in a typical 504 Plan. In addition to accommodations, the IEP requires that measurable goals and objectives, individualized for each student, be developed and documented. The IEP also documents special services to be provided, if any, such as counseling, speech therapy, physical therapy, etc. The IEP is updated regularly to assess progress toward the student’s academic goals and objectives.

    The IEP is developed by a team, including the student’s parents or guardians, who are considered essential, integral and equal members of the team.

    In general, school districts would prefer not to classify a student under IDEA, because the additional supports and services required make it more costly than providing “regular” education. However, the law was created to provide full legal rights and services for students with disabilities, including a “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE) through the age of 21. The bottom line is that, although they may not like it, all states and school districts have to adhere to it.

    Perhaps most importantly, IDEA makes various rights available to parents of students with disabilities. In general, you can initiate a request for an evaluation of your son and request consideration for special education services. This request, which should be made at the district level, may initiate the process and ultimately resolve the problem. If not, the law provides for additional rights and remedies.

    With respect to a dispute over special education services, i.e. any matter relating to a proposal or refusal to initiate or change the identification, evaluation or educational placement of your child, additional rights are available to parents, including, without limitation, an informal hearing, filing a “due process complaint” with your State Department of Education, a resolution period, a negotiated settlement agreement between parent and district, a formal “due process” hearing, mediation, and other remedies.

    Unfortunately, the administrative procedures involved in the dispute process are complex and burdensome. If you are unfamiliar with these procedures, as are most parents, you should consult with a special education advocate or engage a special education attorney, if the dispute proceeds that far. Should a dispute arise, it is vitally important that you understand the applicable federal and state laws, the options available to you, the procedural safeguards provided by the law, available remedies, other agencies that can assist you, and, ultimately, how to proceed. The best place to begin is with your State Department of Education’s Division of Special Education to find out what resources are available to you at no cost. Some states make a helpline available to parents of disabled students to provide guidance and identify other resources. It is important that you document all of your conversations, including the office you contacted, the individual’s name, the date, time, and any related notes.

    I do hope my thoughts are helpful to you. I wish you and Bob the best of luck navigating a most difficult and often frustrating process.

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