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Ask the Attorney with John Brower, J.D.   [Back to Ask the Attorney]

Question: Our child currently has a §504 Plan. We feel that our child requires Occupational Therapy (OT) and Speech-Language (S/L) services. Can these services be provided to our daughter under her 504 Plan?

Answer:  A school district can provide any services they and the parents agree to their students, including OT and Speech services. The real question is - will they and to that question is generally NO. The reason for their position is that §504, as a federal non-discrimination civil rights law has no funding associated with it to pay for extra services. On the other hand, if a student is found eligible for “specialized services” under IDEA, then the school district will receive some (but frequently not enough) extra funds to provide these services.

For Michigan parents, I recommend that any parent who has a child who they (or preferably the experts they are working with) feel requires a special education program (small specialized classes) OR related services (OT, PT, Speech-Language, Social Word, etc.) write a letter to their school’s director of special education. (See for some excellent letter writing tips). In that letter, they should detail their child’s disabilities and how it is negatively affecting their school performance (low grades, inappropriate behaviors, etc.). They should also include any medical diagnosis or written recommendations from outside experts familiar with the child. The letter should clearly state: I am making a referral for a comprehensive evaluation for eligibility for special education and related services under IDEA. Please consider my signature below as my “permission to evaluate” our child. They may or may not accept this letter as a “referral” and may require you to use their forms. Once the evaluation process starts, the special education staff has 30 school days to fully evaluate your child in ALL areas of suspected disabilities, generate a set of written reports that should be shared with you and then present those reports to an Individual Education Planning Team, of which you are a key member. The Team will likely accept the evaluators’ recommendation regarding eligibility, and if found eligible, make a determination as to appropriate special education and related services.

As is detailed in the Notice of Procedural Safeguards that IDEA requires the parents be provided when they make the initial “referral”, if the parent disagrees with any IEP Team decision they can ask for a mediator to step in to assist in resolving the dispute, or turn the dispute over to a third party (e.g. an administrative hearing officer) to resolve the dispute via an evidentiary administrative hearing (e.g. due process hearing).

You may also wish to review a number of the earlier Ask the Attorney postings, as they contain extensive discussions of §504 v IDEA.

Hope you find these generalized comments helpful.

John F. Brower, JD
Education Law Center, PLLC
Law Office of John F. Brower
Brighton, MI

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