Educational Rights

In the United States, three federal laws provide for public school services and/or accommodations for eligible students.  A number of states also provide additional services for students with dyslexia.

Response to Intervention

Response to intervention was designed to provide children educational support before placement in special education or other special services.  This law allows teachers to provide additional assistance above and beyond the regular classroom curriculum for a short period of time.  An important part of this process is regular curriculum-based monitoring to see if the child is making progress.   Additional information for parents about Response to Intervention is available in this fact sheet from the National Center on Learning Disabilities.

Special Education

Children and teens with ADHD, anxiety, or mood disorders may qualify under the special education category “Other Health Impairment” (OHI).  Children with learning disorders including dyslexia, may qualify for services under the “Learning Disability” category.

To receive services, the child must (1) qualify for services and (2) demonstrate educational need that adversely affects his school work or school behavior.  The definition of “educational need” varies from state to state and district to district, so parents are urged to ask their child’s principal for their district’s definition.

If a student is eligible for special education, his or her Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee prepares an individualized education plan (IEP) that includes opportunity for additional teaching, help in the resource classroom, content mastery support, classroom accommodations and/or testing accommodations.  Parents are important members of their child’s ARD committee, and the IEP is developed with the participation of the parents.  Once the IEP is complete, parents or the school can request changes, but no changes can be made without a child’s parents being informed.

For additional information about special education, read this information from the US Department of Education.

Section 504

Section 504 is a civil rights law that requires schools not discriminate against children with disabilities by providing reasonable accommodations.  Eligibility for Section 504 is based on the existence of an identified condition that substantially limits a major life activity.  In the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, Congress provided additional examples of general activities that are major life activities, including concentrating, reading, thinking, and communicating.

If a child or teen is eligible, his or her Section 504 Committee must develop a Section 504 plan that includes reasonable accommodations or adjustments for his attention challenges. Section 504 procedures may be different from state to state or district to district. To find out about district or state procedures, parents should contact their public school principal.

For additional information about section 504 read this FAQ article from the US Department of Education.

More information about section 504 is available from the National Center on Learning Disabilities.

State Dyslexia Laws

In Texas, children or teens with dyslexia have qualified for research-based remediation and accommodations since 1985. To learn how your child might qualify, see the criteria outlined on the Texas Dyslexia Coordinator’s webpage: download the Dyslexia Handbook at the bottom of this page and talk with your student’s principal to request an evaluation for dyslexia.

A number of other states have followed Texas’ example and now provide services for students with dyslexia.  If you suspect your student has dyslexia, talk with his or her principal or look for information on the internet using search terms that include the name of your city, state and “public school help for dyslexia” or “dyslexia coordinator.”

The Scottish Rite RiteCare Language Centers may be another good source of information about dyslexia services in your state and community.

Which One is Right for Your Child or Teen?

If a child or teen has challenges that significantly hamper his learning, special education offers a wider range of service options.  Response to Intervention may provide quicker access to additional services.  In contrast, Section 504 provides more flexibility for obtaining accommodations and this is often a more efficient way to obtain needed adjustments for the child who does not need additional teaching in the resource classroom.

Parents are urged to ask your public school principal to consider if your child’s needs are best addressed through either Special Education or Section 504.  Ask for any paperwork you need to sign in order to start their evaluation process.  Also ask for any paperwork your child’s regular physician may need to sign.

For additional information about educational rights for children or teens with ADHD, dyslexia, learning, anxiety, or mood disorders, consider the links listed on our resources page “Websites about Educational Rights.”

Need Additional Help?

Contact us at 817.421.8780 to set up an appointment for an educational consultation.



This post is written to briefly summarize the laws affecting the education of children with ADHD, dyslexia, learning, anxiety, and mood disorders who attend public school, and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion.  Specific criteria and procedures may be different from state to state, district to district, or school to school .  Private schools are not required to meet these criteria.  Readers with specific questions should talk to their child’s public school principal.


Originally posted 9/21/2009.  Updated 3/21/2010, 3/15/2015,  (c) 2009 – 2015, Monte W. Davenport, Ph.D.