Tag Archives: Advocacy

8 Tips to Help you be Your Child’s Advocate

By Mary Fowler

1. Be knowledgeable and stay informed.

  • Most teachers appreciate your clearheaded understanding of your child’s problems and any possible interventions you can suggest.
  • Read and keep up to date on new research.

2. Use knowledge to help, not to hammer.

  • Knowledge helps create solutions for problems. But sometimes knowledge can be used to beat up on people who “should know better.” That’s like calling someone a “stupid idiot.”
  • You want to help by sharing your knowledge.

3. Speak up, not out. Good communication skills are crucial for effective advocacy.

  • Always be polite and respectful, even of people who don’t seem to warrant your respect. Act as if they might rise to the occasion one day.
  • Be aware of your tone, volume, and body language. Don’t make accusations. If you feel you’re going to lose it, excuse yourself. Nothing gets solved during a shouting match.

4. Know your intention. Before meetings, have an agenda.

  • What are your child’s needs?
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Is there a specific problem that needs attention?
  • Put your energy there.

5. Stay focused on your intention.

  • Don’t get side-tracked by emotional issues that may come up in conferences or phone calls. Either you or the school personnel may have an agenda.
  • Stick to the agenda of solving problems and meeting needs. The meeting will move more smoothly.

6. Use conflict resolution skills. Don’t get too invested in the belief that your way is the only way.

  • Conflict resolution is a negotiation. Both parties have perspectives and issues that belong on the table.
  • Look for ways to solve the table topics that create wins for all. Avoid the
    “I win/you lose” agenda.

7. Bring a skilled advocate to meetings. It can be intimidating to deal with school staff on your own, especially when you’re first learning about ADHD and feel as though you are in over your head.

  • Parent/child advocates can help you. Look to your local disability support groups to
    find these names.
  • Find your local disability support groups by reading newspaper calendars, asking school personnel or your child’s treatment professionals, or by searching the Web.

8. Keep good records.

  • Get a large three-ring binder.
  • Fill it with records of anything pertaining to school: report cards, meetings, phone
    contacts, evaluations, intervention plans, and so on.

 

By Mary Fowler http://www.maryfowler.com

Mary trains educators and parents on ADHD, emotional challenges, and classroom management practices. An internationally recognized expert on ADHD, she is the author of four books, including the bestseller, Maybe You Know My Kid (3rd edition), Maybe you Know my Teen, the original CHADD Educators Manual,  and 20 Questions to Ask If Your Child has ADHD.

Reprinted, with permission of the author, from 20 Questions to Ask if Your Child Has ADHD© 2006 Mary Fowler. Published by Career Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ. All rights reserved.

 

 

“Think of this book as facts with personality. Answers are written in an easy-to-read, conversational style from a parent who’s been there”. Organized into four easily manageable categories:• General/Medical Information • Social/Emotional Well-being • Home Issues • School Issues. ($10 on Kindle – $13 for paperback)

 

 

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Celebrating ADHD

People with ADHD have tremendous vitality and enthusiasm. They are creative and fun to be with when they are in an environment which supports them.

I want to change my ADHD life. What can I do?

Life Styles for ADHD

Maintaining the ADHD Brain

ADHD Coaching Strategies

Celebrating ADHD

 

Celebrate

You may not feel much like celebrating if you are discouraged and frustrated with ADHD. Negative thinking, constantly focusing on what is wrong, and denying or ignoring what is good and right is characteristic of people with ADHD.

People with ADHD have tremendous vitality and enthusiasm. They are creative and fun to be with when they are in an environment which supports them. Get a job which thrills you and a partner who believes in you to find the sparkle and passion of life.

Believe it! and Celebrate!

 

Published by Sarah Jane Keyser, Copyright 2006, all rights reserved. Coaching Key to ADD 

 

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Self advocacy for ADHD: Know yourself

Tools for discovering your strengths. Live well with ADHD. Self-advocacy can give you the opportunity to speak for yourself regarding your needs and help to secure the necessary support at work or school and for your personal life. We don’t have to struggle so hard. Developing self-knowledge is the first stepADD Coach Dana Rayburn reminds us, that, “When properly treated, ADHD loses much of its power over our lives. As adults, we can paint a new picture of who we are and what we contribute to the world…” (1)

The goal is to develop your strengths and delegate your weaknesses.

Don’t go it alone, feeling you have to prove yourself over and over again that you CAN persevere! The truth is, delegating the things you aren’t good at, or just plain don’t like, is a good idea for anyone. If you have ADHD, however, it can make the difference between constant struggle and an enjoyable, successful life.

Negotiate with other workers/family member/friends/employees for help in areas where you struggle. (Hint: Ask them for help in areas where they shine – or at least don’t mind doing with the right incentive). What can you offer or trade to make their lives easier? Make it a point of honor to follow through with your end of the deal.

 

1st  Name your challenges both at home and at work. What are your weaknesses?  When and where do they cause you the most problems? For basic challenges of ADHD, refer to any ADHD symptom checklist. The official DSMV diagnostic criteria or any of the ADHD screeners we list are good choices. You need to separate your ADHD from yourself.  You are NOT the disorder. Your symptoms cause certain behaviors, like being late or missing deadlines, but they don’t define you.

It’s also important to identify the situations when problems are most likely to show up. Being in a hurry, under stress, and during times of transition between places or activities are common reasons. Certain environments can also bring out symptoms. Being unable to move about freely, noise levels and visual distractions are just a few. We often think of ADHD as involving “getting things done,” but don’t neglect to note emotional reactions and uncomfortable social interaction as challenging symptoms.

2nd  Know exactly what your strengths are. Your values, talents, and skills are all contributing factors. You probably have a general idea, but the more specific you can be, the better. According to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator practitioner, Nila Nealy,You don’t need someone else to tell you what your strengths are. Your heart knows them. Still, I believe that sometimes we take them for granted or are so sucked into the “you must be broken” viewpoint that using tools other people have created can be helpful.” (2) Don’t forget that you have friends and family that can also help you identify your strongest points. (After all, they know you, love you anyway and are probably your biggest fans)

“Give yourself permission to proceed with identifying, embracing and integrating your unique brain wiring into your life,” ~ ADD coach and trainer, David Giwerc. “The standardized ways of learning, processing information, and performing may not work for you…Your job is to discover the options that naturally work for you and integrate them into your daily life…Educating others in your life about what works best for you, can help you facilitate home, school and workplace environments that…serve you.” (3)

Another reason to utilize these tools is that self-esteem is a core issue of ADHD and you may not be comfortable “claiming” your strengths without outside verification. Don’t neglect to ask those who know you well what they think are your strongest points. Your friends and family are likely to be your biggest fans. Don’t let self-denigration get in the way of accepting their positive feedback

3rd  You can’t wait until you ‘get over’ your ADHD before you start your life. Develop strategies that reshape how you approach life. Leading with your strengths rather than your weakness allows you to fully express yourself in new ways.  It’s about accepting yourself and making good decisions based on what you do naturally, without the struggle. It is based on getting the help that you need to highlight your ability rather than simply shoring up your weaknesses.

As an adult with ADHD, focusing on what you can’t do may come so naturally that you cannot see the positive aspects of who you are and what you have managed to achieve.  These few simple questions from Nancy Ratey’s The Disorganized Mind: COACHING YOUR ADHD BRAIN TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR TASKS, TIME, AND TALENTS may help get you started.

  • What are my strengths?
  • What seems to come naturally to me?
  • I enjoy doing ________________________ most in life.
  • What special skills or attributes do people notice about me?
  • What kinds of positive feedback do I receive from others?

You can also reflect on these points from the ADDitude Magazine article by ADD Coach Robert Pal, “What are my Strengths? Repairing Self-Esteem after an ADHD Diagnosis.”

  1. What do people say you are really good at?
  2. What activity gives you energy?
  3. What’s working in your life?
  4. What do you think you’re good at?
  5. What do you enjoy doing?
  6. What’s important to you?
  7. What are you looking forward to in the next two to three weeks?
  8. What are you proud of?

 

There are also many Tools for Discovering your Strengths. 

Discover your Strengths by assessing your values. – In recent years, some people have proposed that ADHD itself conveys certain strengths. In 2015, the VIA Institute on Character, in conjunction with the ADD Coach Academy,  conducted a research study to identify whether there are indeed specific strengths of people who have been diagnosed with ADHD. (5) Instead, but not surprisingly, the study found that most people with ADHD had shared difficulties in areas related to impulsivity and sustaining attention. Their weakest ”Strengths” were Prudence, Self-regulation [self-control] and Perseverance. Although the qualities of Creativity, Humor, Kindness, and Teamwork did rank slightly higher in people with ADHD, their highest “Character Strengths” were uniquely individual.

What was a revelation, however, was that when individuals worked in accordance with their highest values, their weaknesses proved to be situational. That is, they were far less of a factor in getting things done when interest inspired action. As David Giwerc explains, “When you focus on what ignites your heart and your positive energy, you will always be able to self-regulate.” (6) That is why a “Strength-based” approach works so well. You can continue to struggle to “will” yourself to do work which does not inspire you, or create an environment where your interest and urgency based nervous system works with you to achieve what you desire. The eight-minute video at the bottom of the page explains more about character strengths and their place in creating a meaningful life.

VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire – FREE Well researched test (VIA stands for Values in Action -120 questions in 15 minutes

VIA Youth Survey (Also FREE, but for ages 10-17) Takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

VIA Reports – Take the VIA survey, but receive more in-depth reports of your personalized profile. Learn what your strengths mean and how they can help you reach a more optimal, positively fulfilled life, whether you are using for yourself or with others. ($10 for youth, $20 to $40 for adults)

The VIA survey is also available for free at Authentic Happiness at Penn State. Results are not as complete.

 

Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Tests

MBTI is what it says it is, an indicator. It points you to the general area of preferences you have for interacting with the world, taking in information and making decisions. Some ways just may feel more natural than others. The MBTI assesses how you get energized as well as the ways you perceive and express yourself.

Official MBTI assessment with certified professionals  ($50 or $150 with person-to-person feedback from a certified MBTI practitioner.

The Open Extended Jungian Type Scales was developed as an open source alternative to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. A statistical comparison of the OEJTS with three other on-line MBTI alternatives found that the OEJTS was the most accurate. 50 questions. 5 to 7  minutes.

16 Personalities – FREE Informal assessment of Types

If you want to investigate even further, I recommend the Gallup book and Strengths Finder 2.0 – Buy the book. ($12 to $16  (+ S&H) Use the code within to take the online test. *One use only.   Your Goal? Identify your top 5 talents. (You can buy a version of the test only through another site, but the book provides great personal stories  and ideas for using your strengths at work and in your social life.)

 

Remember, the first step towards advocating for yourself, for getting the help that you need, is getting to know yourself.  Explore those areas where you struggle as well as those where you have competency and shine. You are so much more than your symptoms. Don’t battle endlessly with your challenges. Ask for help. Discover your strengths, your best self.  Create a more positive future for yourself. You deserve it.

 

Another article that helps you define your strengths. Be the Best Version of Yourself: Explore your Strengths by Marla Cummins

The Science of Character – Values in Action – VIA Character Srengths

Sources

1) “What ADHD Awareness Really Means” by Dana Rayburn  http://www.danarayburn.com/add-adhd-coaching-2/what-adhd-awareness-really-means/   (Harvested 9-12-2013) No longer online.

2) “On Self-Awareness” – Excerpt from the “Human Condition”- Blog by Nila Nealy –http://www.nilanealy.com/  Saturday, January 10, 2009  (Harvested 9/14/2010)

3) Excerpt from Permission to Proceed: Creating a Life of Passion, Purpose and Possibility for Adults with ADHD (pages 76-77) by David Giwerc, MCC, Founder and President, ADD Coach Academy (2011)

4) The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents by Nancy A. Ratey (2008)

(5) Character Strengths Classification http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/VIA-Classification

(6) Podcast from the 2015 ADHD Awareness Expo – The Best Things about Adults with ADHD with David Giwerc

 

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Encouraging Self Advocacy in Teens

Tools to help students with ADHD discover their strengths and learn to ask for help to overcome their difficulties.
During their younger years, it is the parents responsibility to speak up for his or her child to get their needs met at school. However, as  therapist Louise Levine writes,

Doing everything for your children may make you feel like a successful parent but it may not let your child be a successful person.”

“Before children leave the protective shelter of home and zealous parenting, we need to help them practice basic techniques and instill competencies that will enable them to:

Feel comfortable conversing about their disability,…

Identify their warning signs,…

Advocate for themselves,…

(Have systems in place that)… will help them…manage their lives, and

Have a sense of humor about ADHD….and their own particular foibles.” (1)

For all children, the ability to view the future with hope is central to their future success. According to the Gallup Student Poll, hope, engagement and well-being are all factors that have been shown to drive students’ grades, achievement scores, retention, and future employment. (2) For students with ADHD, knowing that they have areas of competence and strengths that can help them overcome their difficulties gives them hope.

Realizing that many of your weaknesses are not personal but symptomatic of the disorder and exploring strategies to address specific problem areas provides a sense of power and competence they may not have felt before. Knowing that asking for help is often met positively builds social trust. Being skilled in requesting options to standard requirements at school can also help students to re-engage with learning. The ability to affect their environment and how people react to them increases self-esteem and, in turn, affects their sense of well-being.

For those with ADHD, knowing there are ways around your difficulties that don’t involve constant struggle is truly liberating.

We have found a few strength assessments and self-advocacy programs that can help your teen through this process.

Evaluate Strengths

FREE – VIA Strength Survey for Children (VIA stands for Values in Action) Measures 24 Character Strengths for Children – Well researched

FREE – Interest Profiler – Discover what your interests are and how they relate to the world of work. The Interest Profiler helps you decide what kinds of occupations and jobs you might want to explore based on your interests.

strengths explorer $ – The Strengths Explorer For Ages 10 – 14 – Package includes: Youth workbook, a parent guide, and one online access code. ($29)

Self-advocacy

Going to College.org– Designed for high school students, their My Place section offers a good selection of activities and on-line resources for identifying learning styles and personal strengths as well as exploring interests. They present basic information about why knowing your personal style is important and recommend self-evaluation as well as talking with friends,  parents, and teachers about what they perceive as your strong points.

 

EBook

BUILDING A BRIDGE From School To Adult Life – A Handbook for Students and Family Members to Help with Preparation for Life After High School (92 page Workbook – Includes strengths and interests survey as well as self-advocacy tips)

 

1) Kids with ADHD are Natural Born Leaders by Louise Levin, Marriage and Family therapist – SmartKidswithLD.org – http://www.smartkidswithld.org/getting-help/adhd/kids-adhd-natural-born-leaders/ – Harvested March 19, 2015 (Copy and paste URL to link to article)

2) Gallup Student Poll – Hope, Engagement, and Wellbeing http://www.gallupstudentpoll.com/home.aspx – Harvested March 19, 2015

 

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You’re Not Doing Life Wrong

1 You're notBy Leo Babauta

There’s an ever-present underlying feeling that most of us have that we could be doing things better. That we’re not sure how to live life. That we’re doing things wrong.

This leads us to try to optimize, to try to improve, but also to feel bad, to seek comfort and distraction, to procrastinate while we seek the answers. This is normal and there’s nothing wrong with it.

But I’d like to assure you that you’re doing nothing wrong. That you don’t need to optimize or do things better.

Try this:

For just a moment, pause where you are, and soak in the current state of the room around you, and your own state. Just notice what this is like.

Now see how this moment is enough. Just as it is. Without any need for improvement. It is a wonder, and there’s no need for more.

Now see how you are enough. Just as you are. Without any need for improvement. You are also a wonder, exactly enough.

You can go about your day, pausing every now and then to do a check: is this moment enough? Are you enough? And try answering, “Yes, absolutely and wonderfully.”

 

 

Originally published on ZenHabits by Leo Babauta, who allows others to freely use his work. Thank you, Leo

Editors note: Start from enough. Better may or may not follow. Live with that for awhile. Let that be enough too.

 

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Casting a Wider Net: Section 504 Revisions

Casting a Wider Net:  Section 504 Under the 2008 ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA)

©  Lisa M. LaVardera, Esq.

In 2008, Congress amended the Americans with Disabilities Act, significantly broadening the definition of disability, beginning in 2009.  That change impacted the definition of disability under Section 504, one of two statutes from which children  receive special education services in school, (the other being The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.).  The major changes as they pertain to students with disabilities, including children with ADHD, 2e children, and other bright children who may not have qualified for special education services or accommodations are significant, and are summarized herein.

What’s Section 504 got to do with the ADA?

Both are civil rights laws that protect individuals with disabilities from being discriminated against in our public schools.   Section 504 was enacted in 1973 and applies to all programs and activities that receive federal money.  This includes public schools, colleges, and universities as well as certain employers, state and local government programs, and places of public accommodation, such as a public library, courthouse or Federal office building.  (It’s hard to find any school, including private school that does not receive some financial assistance from the government.)   The ADAAA includes a “conforming amendment” to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; meaning that the newly expanded coverage under ADAAA also applies to Section 504.  Since both statutes are interpreted in parallel, the ADA impacts Section 504. While the wording of Section 504 did not change, because of the ADAAA, it’s interpretation has.  The main key to understanding Section 504 is that it is essentially a civil rights anti-discrimination statute, designed to level the playing field between a person with a disability and his non-disabled peers, when it comes to equal access to governmental sponsored activities, venues and rights.   It confers no federal funding upon the states, it is an unfunded mandate.

Today, the key difference between Section 504 and IDEA is that under 504, the level of restriction is the determining factor, not the severity of the impairment, or adverse educational impact.   Further, a substantial limitation in one major life activity need not be limiting in other major life activities in order to be considered a disability, and consideration must be made on a case-by-case basis, according to the “reasonable person” standard.  (If a reasonable person/ average person would consider that disability to be materially restricting.)

These changes are especially important if your child:

  1. Was previously evaluated under IDEA and was found ineligible.
  2. Was previously evaluated under Section 504 and was found ineligible.
  3. Already has a 504 plan.
  4. Is already receiving informal accommodations.
  5. Needs accommodations from the College Boards.
  6. Is applying to college.

 

Why The Change?:

Previously, the definition of disability was described in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Under Section 504, a person was considered to be a person with a disability if he: (1) had a physical or mental impairment which substantially limited a major life activity and; 2) had a record of such impairment; or (3) was regarded as having such an impairment. Once a person met that standard, they could receive a “reasonable accommodation.” Over the years a few landmark employment law cases made it to the Supreme Court, which decisions tightened the requirements by which a person could be considered disabled for purposes of employment and disability law. Congress thought that those Supreme Court decisions contradicted their congressional intent of protecting people with disabilities, and so Congress revised the Americans with Disabilities Act (The ADAAA), to re- clarify and broaden the interpretation of disability and realign it with the original Congressional intent (which was whether the school, entity or facility met its obligations under the law, not whether the claimant met the definition of disability.)

What’s New?:

The Definition of Major Life Activity:

The definition of “major life activities” was expanded to include learning, reading, concentrating, thinking and even sleeping.  And the definition of “major bodily functions” was expanded to include neurological, digestive, reproductive and brain functions.

The Definition of Disability:

The definition of “disability” is to be broadly, rather than narrowly interpreted. And a limitation in one major life activity need not impact other major life activities.  Eg., a reading disability need not impact all subject areas to be considered a “disability.”

The Definition of Substantial Limitation:

The ADA as revised by Congress has now clarified “substantially limits” with a lower standard of “materially restricts.” While the wording of Section 504 did not change, because of the ADAAA, it’s interpretation has.  Today, the level of restriction is the determining factor, not the severity of the impairment.  Further, a substantial limitation in one major life activity need not be limiting in other major life activities in order to be considered a disability, and must be made on a case-by-case basis.  This change significantly broadened the definition of what constitutes a “disability.”

No Requirement of Educational Need:

Accordingly, the threshold for “educational need” is now more flexible under 504 than it is under IDEA.  Under 504, educational need or adverse educational impact is not the threshold for evaluation; the disability is. (Think disability plus some level of restriction in some area regarding learning, thinking, communicating, and so on, versus the requirement of “adverse educational impact” under IDEA.)  The threshold is not the same.

No Requirement to Fail:

As for twice exceptional children, or bright children who did not previously qualify for special education services; under the new interpretation under 504, a district may not use a child’s superior or adequate grades as a reason to refuse to evaluate him.  A 504 plan may still be appropriate even in cases where the disability does not impact learning. Nothing in the ADA or Section 504, or IDEA for that matter, limits eligibility to students who suffer academically.  Therefore a district may not refuse to evaluate a child whose disability has no educational impact if the child meets the new definition of disability under the ADAAA and thus 504.  Thus, schools can no longer tell parents that their child doesn’t qualify for an evaluation or a 504 plan solely because he is “doing okay without any intervention.” To say this is now a violation, says the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Other information about the disability must still be considered. The child may, after a full evaluation, still not qualify for a particular accommodation or service, but he must still be evaluated, if he has a physical or mental impairment that materially restricts one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment, regardless of good grades.

 

Definition of Reasonable Accommodation:

A “reasonable accommodation” has no definition in educational law and no limit at the moment, other than undue hardship on the part of the district.  And, the accommodation requested does not need to be directly related to the specific disability. (That does not mean however, that the sky is the limit in requesting accommodations from the school district.  The accommodation request can still be denied if the school district feels it is unreasonable, and then it is up to the hearing officer, or judge to decide.)

No Consideration of Mitigating Measures:

Mitigating measures cannot be considered in determining substantial limitation (except for contacts and eyeglasses), and if mitigating measures create an additional impact, there must also be an accommodation for that issue caused by the mitigating measure. A student must be able to use a mitigating measure independently; if the school personnel has to do something, then the disability is not mitigated. When determining whether the disability materially restricts a major life function, school districts must do a “look back” evaluation to determine what the child is like when off medication or without the mitigating measure. That is a very difficult task, but good news for kids with ADHD who take medications to help them focus.  They must be evaluated based on what their behavior would be when un-medicated.

No Penalty for Self-Accommodations:

And perhaps the most important change: kids who have learned to “self-accommodate,”  adapt—or compensate, as we like to call it—now cannot be penalized for learning to manage the disability on their own. Learned adaptive skills are a mitigation that may not be taken into consideration when determining substantial limitation. A child with a reading disability who can still learn in other ways is still disabled for the purposes of the new interpretation under Section 504, perhaps even if he is an honor roll student.  This change significantly benefits children with ADHD, and other children who were bright enough, or had enough compensatory skills to slip under the classification radar.

What Conditions Are Covered?:

In addition to disorders of learning, reading, concentrating, thinking and sleeping, other biological conditions are now covered. Diseases in remission are now considered as if they were active.  (Yes, you can get a 504 plan for cancer in remission, if it materially restricts you in some way.)  Alcohol problems are covered, although drug addiction is not. Other biological conditions such as gastro disease, neurological, brain, and reproductive disorders also fall under 504 protection.  Medical needs, if they trigger 504 services are now a burden that the district must bear.  And service dogs are now covered and may be allowed in schools.

Children Who Are Bullied:

Another interesting wrinkle, children who are bullied may fall under the “regarded as” prong if they are bullied as a result of their perceived disability.  And, according to Congress in revising the ADA, that discrimination provides them protection under 504, whether the disability is “substantially limiting” or not. This is a very interesting new wrinkle. Conceivably, a child may be entitled to an accommodation for being bullied if he is discriminated against (bullied because he had a disability), whether or not his disability is materially restricting enough to otherwise qualify for Section 504 protections or accommodations.

Evaluations Under Section 504:

Evaluations under the new interpretation of Section 504 must be comprehensive and look at all areas of learning: thinking, concentration, communicating, and so on.  School Districts must meet 504’s evaluation and placement procedural requirements when developing the plan.  For children with medical conditions who previously had an IHP (health response plan), the IHP may no longer be sufficient to meet 504 procedural requirements and they may need to be upgraded to a 504 plan.

Clinicians who do private evaluations and recommend a 504 plan should be aware that their evaluations:  must clearly show how the disability materially restricts a major life activityhow it impacts learning; (thinking, concentrating, communicating, and so on); also address any deficits masked by mitigating or self-accommodation measures, (what the child looks like off medications); and list any accommodation required for any effect of a mitigating measure.  This is especially important for children who are high functioning and have no adverse educational impact.

What Is The New Standard of Education under Section 504?

That’s a really good question.  The standard of FAPE, (Free Appropriate Public Education) is not the same as under IDEA.  Section 504 regulations define appropriate education as “the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that (i) are designed to meet individual educational needs of handicapped persons as adequately as the needs of non-handicapped persons are met and (ii) are based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the requirements” of the additional regulations governing educational setting, evaluation and placement, and procedural safeguards.

Two notable cases, Lyons and Mark H., establish that the 504 “appropriate education” standard is enforceable, and that the standard it imposes on public schools is different from the IDEA appropriate education standard, maybe lower, maybe higher, depending on the circumstances of your particular school district.  For example, a wealthy district that offers multiple programs and activities for nondisabled children, would be held to a higher standard of education for children covered by 504, a standard well above what IDEA calls for.  Poorer school districts that offer a barely decent level of services and instruction to children without disabilities, might be able to get away with providing lesser services to their children with disabilities, which may fall far below the expectations of IDEA.   How this will play out especially in wealthier districts whose kids have more positive outcomes, remains to be seen.  At this point in time, remember there is no definitive limit to 504 services, as long as they provide an equal opportunity for FAPE as that enjoyed by the non-disabled peers.

Remember, under IDEA, the IEP compares the child to his own best capacities, (more person-centered) while Section 504, when looking at the impact of the disability, compares him to his same age peers across the nation.  But, the obligations of school districts and other entities are measured by how equally they provide access and services to the disabled versus non-disabled, and that is a local standard.  And, when assessing violations of the ADA and 504, the focus is on the school or entity, not the disability, or the person with the disability.  This is an entirely different paradigm than under IDEA.

All services, accommodations and modifications must level the playing field in order to be 504 compliant.  Not all actually do what they are intended to do.  A level playing field means an equal opportunity to succeed in school.  It does not mean maximization of your child’s potential.

By now all school districts must have updated their 504 evaluation criteria, procedural requirements, manuals, materials, parent letters, prior written notice letters, etc., and trained personnel not to make statements or policy that violates Section 504.  The Office of Civil Rights has said it will enforce Section 504 in a manner consistent with the ADA Amendments Act. Because school districts must create their own evaluation procedures under Section 504, this is particularly challenging.    Also, Section 504 does and has always included the provision of services, as well as accommodations and modifications.  There is nothing in the statute that limits 504 in that regard, but for some reason school districts forget that.  But, perhaps the most challenging issue facing school districts is understanding that even children who are doing adequately in school may still qualify for Section 504 accommodations and services, if they have a disability that materially restricts a major life activity.

What Should Parents Do?:

Clearly, these changes suggest that any child previously refused services under the old interpretation of Section 504 should promptly request an evaluation under the new interpretation of Section 504.  This is especially important for children who did not meet threshold criteria before or who may have had a discipline involvement (or both) and who are now otherwise protected under the “regarded as” prong of 504 (for example, already receiving informal accommodations).  It is also important for college-bound teens and those seeking accommodations on college boards to be promptly re-evaluated under Section 504. (However, the college board makes it’s own decisions under Section 504, independent of the school.)

Do not expect your school district to fully understand the ramifications of these changes.  Parents must be proactive and vigilant in protecting their children’s Section 504 rights, even if their school is not.

Ask, ask, ask for a new evaluation.  Be prepared with data and information about your child’s disability, and include examples of how your child functions without their medications or self-accommodations in ALL areas of learning, thinking, communicating, etc.  If your child has another type of disease or disability that is now covered, including gastro-intestinal, immunological, or cancer remission, remember to ask for a 504 plan for any issues arising out of that disease or it’s treatment.  Use your knowledge about your child to paint a picture for the committee.

Be specific about what services and/or accommodations you think they need to level the playing field in school.  Services are included under 504, do not be afraid to ask for “504 Services” by name.  Services that your child may have been denied under IDEA may be appropriate and more easily accessible under the new interpretation of Section 504.

Be a very attentive listener.  If you hear a comment from your school district that violates Section 504, as indicated above, report it to OCR, you can file an OCR complaint online.

Conclusion:

For many years the focus was on IDEA and the IEP and obtaining IEP services.  Children who had a 504 plan in school rarely got the same level of services or procedural protections as those given to children under IDEA.  In fact, the 504 plan was regarded as the “ugly stepchild” of special education.  Today, the ADA Amendments Act has created a paradigm shift in the way we look at children with disabilities, assess them and service them.  There seems to be no end in sight to the possibilities and potential ramifications of the new interpretation of Section 504.  But more importantly, it has opened a world of new possibilities for more students, and especially higher achieving students with disabilities to receive appropriate services and accommodations for disabilities that went un-noticed, un-validated, and un-serviced under IDEA.

 

Disclaimer: Please be advised that this information is not intended to take the place of legal advice.  For specific legal questions seek the advice of a licensed attorney.

©  Lisa M. LaVardera, Esq. – All rights reserved.  Articles may be reproduced or electronically distributed as long as attribution to Lisa M. LaVardera, Esq. is maintained.

Find the original article at: PTS Coaching –  Casting a Wider Net 

 

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Become an Effective Advocate for your Child with ADHD

Successfully advocating for your child can be a daunting task. This is an area where finding local resources, organizations or parents who have already gone through the process and will “teach you the ropes” can be invaluable.Articles           Discover Strengths          Advocacy Training        Downloadable e-Books         Support and Websites

Does your ADHD child qualify for an IEP plan or section 504? Maybe yes, but the school must agree. The law has left a large gray area open for interpretation. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers students who qualify for special education. Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Generally, IDEA plans are more restrictive and more apt to apply to students with Learning Disabilities than those with ADHD.

Section 504 covers students who don’t meet the criteria for special education but who still require some accommodations in the regular classroom. According to attorney Lisa M. LaVardera, Esq., “Section  504 is essentially a civil rights anti-discrimination statute, designed to level the playing field between a person with a disability and his non-disabled peers.”  Another major difference is that Section 504, as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act is, not funded. (1)

In either case, eligibility for accommodations and/or modifications is based on an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. These life activities include, among a variety of other things, concentrating, learning, sitting, working, thinking, and interacting/cooperating with others. Since many of these are often affected by ADHD, your child may be included. A diagnosis alone, however, is not enough. AD/HD symptoms must be documented as significantly impacting learning or behavior through a specific evaluation process. The school may provide the service at no cost, but it is more likely that you will have to pay for it yourself. Plans ar currently underway to curtail Medicaid funding that has help pay for evaluations in the past.

Your goal is to advocate for the needs of your child – to speak up and to ensure they have the help they need to learn.  Remember this: Know your child – his strengths as well as weaknesses.  Build a good relationship with the teacher and other staff members.  Help them identify possible accommodations and put them into practice. Examples of possible accommodations are seating students closer to the teacher, providing note taker, allowing more time on tests, requiring less homework, using daily report cards to monitor behavior or weekly planners to keep school work on schedule.  A few simple changes may make a huge difference. Beyond that, know your rights, bring someone with you to official meetings and document everything!

Successfully advocating for your child can be a daunting task. This is an area where finding local resources, organizations or parents who have already gone through the process and will “teach you the ropes” can be invaluable. Find a parent who has “gone before you”, locate a support group or parent advocacy organization and get ready to work. Although, you may ultimately decide you need to hire a professional advocate to negotiate for the help your child needs, there are a number of resources available to help you learn to navigate the system.

Articles:

Chart of the difference between IEP and 504 Plans – Understood.org

Individualized Education Plans Quick and easy article, but covers most of the bases- from Nemour’s Kids Health

Guidance on 504 Plans: Know your Rights  2 page overview  (Updated in 2016 by the U.S. Department of Education)

Accommodating your child’s needs through a 504 Plan by Terry Illes, Ph.D. – Attention Magazine, published by CHADD – August 2007 – Restricted screen makes the article difficult to read but it includes a number of recommended accommodations.

Casting a Wider Net: Section 504 Revisions – An extensive article by Lisa M. LaVardera, Esq.

FREE Guide to Education Law for Students with ADHD from ADDitude Magazine

Are you ready to retain a lawyer to settle an IEP issue with your child’s school district? If so, this article and the attached worksheet will walk you through the process.

 
Coffee Klatch Special Needs Radio – Choose from a number of interviews on a wide variety of topics. See: Jen Laviano – Special Education Attorney  – Dec 21, 2010

Explore your Child’s Strengths

VIA Strength Survey for Children for Youth ages 10 to 17 
Measures 24 Character Strengths for Children

For more on Character Strengths, see this article from Hands on Scotland: How to help children recognize and develop their strengths.

Parent Advocacy Training

Exceptional Children Assistance Center – Technical Assistance for Parent Centers
Information about the approximately 100 government funded parent centers in the U.S. that teach parents of children with ADHD (or any other disabling condition) how to advocate for the services their children require. Every state has at least one center.

Find a Parent Center near you.

Request for an Independent Evaluation at public expense – Sample letter (Only applies to IEPs)

More Sample letters from The Parent Information Center of New Hampshire

Note: A school psychologist once contacted our non-profit when I was manning the phones. She trying to find affordable treatment for a low-income student who was struggling in class. When asked why the school wasn’t stepping forward to provide the funding, she replied, “…Regarding the school district paying for an evaluation, I can see the smoke going up from our administrators—at even the suggestion. We are instructed to be ever-so-careful when we “encourage” that a child be evaluated. If we sound like we are recommending or insisting, the school district could be held liable to pay for it. In other words, that is an absolute no-no.”  

eBooks to Download

Guidance on 504 Plans Issued by U.S. Department of Education (2016 )- Clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools. – “Regardless of how well he or she performs in school, a student who has trouble concentrating, reading, thinking, organizing or prioritizing projects, among other important tasks because of ADHD may have a
disability and be protected under Section 504.” 42 page document Know your Rights 2 page overview

An easy to read, step by step Guide to the Individualized Education Program. Provided by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. 2000. Now in the Archives, but available as a PDF as well as in audio.

Bringing Knowledge to the Table – How to be an Effective Advocate for your Child –   42-page e-book complete with active links on the Special Education process. From IEPs to 504 accommodations it covers both the law and practical application. Includes valuable links.

Websites

CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD) specializes in in-depth information about ADHD and Educational Services in Public Schools – Basic articles are from the National Resources Center for ADHD and available for all, but many articles, especially those about advocacy, are reserved for members. (Families- $53 a year)

National Center for Learning Disabilities – For more than 35 years, NCLD has committed itself to empowering parents, transforming public schools and advocating for families and children challenged by learning and attention issues.

 Understood – For learning and Attention issues – 15 nonprofit organizations have joined forces to support parents of the one in five children with learning and attention issues throughout their journey. Help children unlock their strengths and reach their full potential. Includes a secure online community, practical tips and more.

LD Online has a great introduction to LD/ADHD symptoms and accommodations. Copy and paste this URL: http://www.ldonline.org/educators – The official site of the National Joint Committees on Learning Disabilities, LD online provides pertinent information for parents, educators, even kids. the basics, expert advice, and personal stories.

Wrightslaw.com Complete and accurate, Wright’s Law offers a wealth of information about disability law and how it may pertain to school – Applies to all disabilities, but ADHD has its own section.

Also see Wrightslaw’s Yellow Pages for Kids.com – Directory – Find Disability Specialists and the Organizations that may help your family (Free Listings). Not specific to ADHD concerns, but a great resource!They list a wide variety of service: educational consultants, psychologists, educational diagnosticians,  academic therapists, tutors, coaches, advocates, and attorneys for children with disabilities. You will also find special education schools, learning centers, parent groups, community centers, grassroots organizations, and government programs for children with disabilities

Smart Kids with LD   A great little site offering targeted information with a gentle touch.

Understanding Special Education provides help navigating the special education system as well as how to work collaboratively within your school district.  The site provides parent-friendly information on all aspects of the process as well as a Q & A section and a parent-to-parent forum. (Host: Michele Hancock, M.A., P.P.S)

1) Casting a Wider Net: Section 504 Under the 2008 ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) © Lisa M. LaVardera, Esq. http://addfreesources.net/casting-a-wider-net-section-504-revisions/

Resources compiled by Joan Jager – All sources link as of March 17, 2015

“Image courtesy of Ambro/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva.com

 

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