IDEA and Section 504

Last week, I  posted a summary of some of the differences between the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  The focus of this post was on the Child Find requirements of these laws. We learned that both of these laws require school systems to locate, identify, and evaluate off students in their school system, including private schools, that are suspected of having disabilities.  After a school system has decided to identify a student for an evaluation, these two laws provide different requirements. Under the IDEA. the school system must conduct a comprehensive evaluation and, among other things,  assess the student in all areas of suspected disabilities. 34 C.F.R. 300.304(c)(4). Section 504, on the other hand, does not have this requirement. In fact, Section 504 does not have specific requirements for conducting an evaluation other than complying with certain due process procedures. 34 C.F.R. 104.30-36.  For example, a student suspected of having a dyslexia and ADHD may be assessed under the IDEA for not only specific learning disabilities but also occupational therapy, executive functioning, sensory disorders and other related areas.  Under Section 504, the school system may not broadly assess a student for all suspected disabilities. The school system may only assess the student in the specific area where the child may qualify as an individual with a disability. For example, a student with ADHD may be assessed to determine whether the student’s ADHD substantially impairs one or more major life activities and what accommodations may be necessary for the student to participate in regular education. The same student that is assessed under the IDEA, the evaluation must determine whether the student’s disability adversely affects their education performance and is in need of special education and related services. The inquiries into a student’s disability under the IDEA and Section 504 may be very different.  But we shall explore this difference in the next post.

Remember that it is critical for you to fully understand your parental rights so that you can differentiate between your child’s needs under the IDEA or Section 504.  You may want to seek the advise of a trained advocate or special education lawyer for this purpose.  I have spoken with perhaps more than a thousand parents over the years and found that they often find  it difficult to navigate through the special education maze without assistance.  For this reason, you may want to consider securing assistance to give you proper guidance and advise on the special educational needs of your child