Understanding the Law and Students With OCD

The federal government has established laws regulating the education of children who have disabilities. Although OCD is considered a disability under federal law, the process for providing children with OCD the most appropriate education is not always clear-cut. Both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 provide protections for children who have OCD. Parents may need the help of school personnel to determine the law under which it is most appropriate to seek services for their child. It is important for teachers and other educators to be familiar with the provisions of Section 504 and IDEA as they apply to OCD to collaborate most effectively with parents.

504 vs. IDEA

Section 504 provides a quicker and more flexible means for supporting students with OCD. It may also be considered by parents who do not want their child to be singled out or labeled as needing special education. Students may fear social alienation if it becomes evident to others that they need special education and related services. Learn more about Section 504 here.

IDEA provides for more rights and safeguards for students with OCD and their parents than Section 504. If a student is struggling with academic, social, behavioral, or emotional problems die to OCD, obtaining special education and related services for the student under IDEA may be preferable. Learn more about IDEA here.

Making the Best Choices

School personnel can play a critical role in helping a student with OCD get the best education in the least complicated manner. Schools do not have a uniform approach to working with students who have OCD. The way a student with OCD is treated depends on school personnel’s knowledge about OCD and experience in working with students who have the disorder. It can also depend on school personnel’s willingness to find a way to help along with individual school and school district policies.

Some students with OCD need easy-to-implement accommodations that can be put in place without additional cost or extra time for existing personnel. Individual schools differ on their approaches to making even simple accommodations but, in certain cases, students with OCD may receive simple accommodations and supports without going through the more formal processes associated with Section 504 and IDEA. It is important to note that many parents prefer having even simple accommodations documented under Section 504, rather than an informal verbal agreement with a teacher or other school staff member. A plan developed under Section 504 documents the decisions that have been made regarding a student's services.


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