If you have a child who has certain learning and attention needs, you have likely heard of IEP (Individualized Education Program). But you’d be surprised to find that even if your child does not qualify for an IEP, he or she may still qualify for a 504 Plan for students.
What is a 504 plan for students?
This plan is included in section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This falls among the civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination against students with disabilities in public schools, including learning and attention.
Similar to an IEP, the 504 sets forth a plan that helps assure that students who qualify are included in the general education system. This plan outlines what accommodations and modifications are needed for this inclusion.
This plan acknowledges the uniqueness of students and works to remove “barriers” to that child’s learning. Unlike an IEP, which often includes time during the day spent in a class designed for those with similar needs, a child with a 504 is in all classes with the general population of students.
Does my child qualify for a 504 Plan?
In order to qualify, the student must be in K-12 and have a “disability”. Disability in terms of 504 has a very broad definition, which allows students who do not qualify for IEP to qualify for a 504. A disability under this definition means that:
- One or more of the student’s activities (e.g. reading, concentrating) is substantially impacted by a physical or mental impairment.
- The impairment has been documented.
- The impairment is not temporary. A broken leg is temporary. A food allergy, Type I Diabetes, ADHD, etc. are not.
How do I obtain a 504 Plan?
Simply having a disability does not qualify a student. An evaluation must be conducted that shows the student would be significantly impaired in the general classroom.
The school or the parent may request this evaluation.
But if requested by the school, they must have the parent’s permission. Moving forward without parental consent would require a due process hearing.
The evaluation will be very thorough and will include the gathering of information from several sources, including:
- Documentation of the child’s disability (such as the family doctor’s diagnosis)
- Any previous evaluation results (for IEP, etc)
- Observations by the student’s parents and teachers
- Academic record
- Independent evaluations (if available by a doctor, therapist, psychologist, etc.)
Who writes the Plan?
A committee of people who understand the evaluation and the student’s needs will design a plan with specific guidelines. This can include speech or occupational therapy or counseling to help the student learn well in class. You, as the parent, will most likely be a part of the committee.
What Happens Next?
If for some reason you do not agree with the plan, you will have the opportunity to dispute it. When the plan is implemented, progress is documented.
The 504 Plan is designed to meet the unique needs of students. Even if the school is providing informal accommodations, it’s a good idea to get a 504 so that the law supports you and your child. It is incredibly important that you as the parent stay involved throughout the process so that your child gets the assistance that he or she needs to do well in school.