Advocating for Your Child's Special Needs Under Section 504


Many PI children have anxiety related to the abuse and neglect they suffered in the orphanage. This may be exacerbated by the stress of some classroom situations, and make learning extremely difficult for them. Even though they may not be eligible for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) because of learning disabilities or differences, they are eligible for one through Section 504.

Section 504 is the part of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which applies to persons with disabilities. It states that no person with a disability can be excluded from or denied benefits of any program receiving federal financial assistance, which includes education in public schools. Access to programs means more than physical access. A student may require special accommodations such as a modified assignment in order to benefit from their education.

Section 504 protects persons from discrimination based upon their disability status, which includes people who have a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more of a their major life activities. A diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Complex Trauma) - or a history of such - will qualify a student for Section 504. This is an important protection for our children. A letter from a pediatrician or therapist with the child's diagnosis will be sufficient to qualify her for Section 504.

Knowing that a student has a right to modifications through Section 504 can mean that school personnel will be more accommodating towards parents and students and take the parent more seriously when she is describing her child's special needs. One parent called the school guidance counselor before registering her daughter for kindergarten, and said "My daughter qualifies for Section 504 and I'd like to meet with you and the principal to make a plan." A meeting was set up where special accommodations were established, including the counselor meeting the student in an office before school instead of the noisy cafeteria, and half-days instead of full-days. Other accommodations may include:

  • No movies or books with themes of interpersonal violence without prior approval of the parents (for children who have nightmares from scary characters or situations)
  • Allow unlimited time for exams when being timed creates excessive anxiety (often children will finish on time or even early when the pressure of meeting a time restriction is removed
  • Find an ally in the school the child can use as a “secure base”. This may be someone in the guidance office, where the child can have an unrestricted pass to flee to when feeling unsafe.
  • Provide a one-on-one for children who are extremely dysregulated.
  • Modify assignments, and tests
  • Provide an extra set of textbooks for home
  • Adjust student seating
  • Use study guides, organizing tools
  • Provide a peer tutor/helper
  • Preferential seating
  • Modify recess/PE/transportation

It is recommended that all interactions with the school be recorded in a book, in case of future disagreements or mediation.

The following websites have excellent information on advocating for your child.

From Emotions to Advocacy

Go to and do a search for special education and Section 504


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