Developing 504 Classroom Accommodation Plans

Article excerpt

What Is Section 504?

Over the past several years, educators have focused much effort on the role of classroom accommodations in addressing the special needs of students with attentional difficulties. Concerned parents were instrumental in getting the U.S. Department of Education to issue a joint policy memorandum clarifying that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and anti-discrimination law, obliges public schools to provide accommodations to students with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) (U.S. Department of education, 1991) even if they do not qualify for special services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (DEA).

Although both 504 and IDEA legislation address students with attention, learning, and other difficulties, 504 has become the more global vehicle for accommodating children with unique needs, including ADHD or other health impairments. In contrast, IDEA is based on well-defined criteria that include a statistical discrepancy between aptitude and achievement, and require a Child Study Team to determine eligibility before developing an individualized education program (IEP). Thus, the joint policy memorandum using Section 504 has become pivotal in providing classroom supports to students who are not otherwise eligible for special education services under IDEA.

"Teachers Tips" Form a Framework for Developing Classroom Adjustments

As a trainer of teachers, I have conducted more than 100 workshops on classroom accommodations to meet the special needs of students with attention and learning differences. As part of these workshops, teachers share strategies they use to help students with ADHD feel more successful in school. The teachers generally form small groups and write down their favorite strategy on an index card, to be later compiled and presented to the large group. The "Teacher Tips" presented in this article are the compilation of the hundreds of strategies teachers have so generously and enthusiastically shared during these workshops. By simple processes of sorting, counting, and grouping, three categories of classroom accommodations emerged as distinctive: physical, instructional, and behavioral (see Figure 1).

A Three-Step Process for Creating a Classroom Accommodation Plan

Step 1. Parent and Student Education, Collaboration, and Agreement

As an educational therapist, I begin to develop an accommodation plan by discussing options with parents and the student. I explain to both the parents and student the role of classroom modifications in creating positive school and learning experiences. I find that students as young as 5 years old can participate in conversations about "making school easier."

To start the process, I often use a compiled list of strategies providing examples of possible classroom adjustments (see Figure 1). The goal of this initial collaboration is to present a framework and process for developing a personalized accommodation plan. Specifically, I first meet with parents, then with the student, with two goals in mind:

To educate them about the relationship of classroom accommodations to positive academic and social outcomes.

To help them choose adjustments that they believe will help classroom performance.

With students of all ages, I use a variety of hands-on activities such as comic strips, webs, letters, poems, posters, charts and before-and-after drawings. I start with a blank piece of drawing paper entitled "What my teacher can do to help me learn" and ask the student to draw something that might help him or her in the classroom (see Figures 2 and 3).

After this activity, the student then lists the classroom accommodations that may be helpful, on the first draft of a "Certificate of Accommodations" (see Figure 4). This activity provides a quick and easy tool to initiate the classroom accommodation planning process with the student. …